Here, students will learn the rules governing colons and semicolons, used mainly for separating two independent clauses [semicolon] and for relating independent clauses and their explanation [colon].
1. UNIVERSITY of WEST FLORIDA Semicolons & Colons Adapted from Real Good Grammar, Too by Mamie Webb Hixon
2. Use a semicolon between two complete sentences. Each sentence on either side of the semicolon must be complete with its own subject and verb. Keep in mind that a semicolon functions the same way as a period and a capital letter. Not all poetry is serious and difficult to read and interpret. The poetry of Maya Angelou, for instance, is rhythmic, folksy, and _ easy to read. In these two sentences, the content is closely related, so we can tie them together by substituting a semicolon for the period and the capital letter. Not all poetry is serious and difficult to read and interpret:the poetry of Maya Angelou, for instance, is rhythmic, folksy, and _ easy to read. es YN VERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change
3. Use a semicolon between two complete sentences connected by words such as however, therefore, consequently, nevertheless, and then.
Dr. Jones created an information sheet to help her patients use their medication properly; however, her patients’ blood tests did not reflect improvement. “Dr. Jones created an information sheet to help her patients use their medication properly” is a complete sentence. “However, her patients’ blood tests did not reflect improvement” is also a complete sentence. The introductory element “however” doesn’t change anything; we can still use a semicolon to tie the two sentences together. es YN VERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change
4. Semicolons with Items in a List
Use a semicolon between items in a series when the items have internal | bought an old, dilapidated chair; a mahogany table, which was in beautiful condition; and an ugly rug. There are three items in the sentence above: the chair, the table, and the rug. Because there are commas between adjectives describing the items, commas between the items themselves might get lost in a sea of commas, obscuring the number of items in the list. In this situation, semicolons are super-commas, providing next-level punctuation to help us sort out our furniture purchases.
We are thinking about moving to Omaha, Nebraska; Gainesville, Florida; or Memphis, Tennessee. If we had used commas to separate the three locations in this sentence, the internal commas separating the cities from the states would have made it difficult to tell if there were three locations or six. es YN VERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change
5. — SemicolonNo-No’s | independent clause anda phrase ora dependent clause.
You should not make such _ inflammatory statements; although they are correct. “Although they are correct” is not a complete sentence. es YN VERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change
6. ~ Semicolon No-No’s
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7. Do not use a semicolon to substitute for a colon.
The military expects one thing from its rank and file; obedience. “Obedience” is not a complete es NV ERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change
8. explanation. Note that a complete sentence must precede ss the colon The players came from all over the world: Germany, _ ss Russia, Japan, Canada, andAustralia.
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9. Colons with Items in a List
Use a colon with a list even if the positions of the list and the complete sentence are reversed. These are all words that describe my first few days in college: impressive, overwhelming, exciting, Impressive, overwhelming, exciting, surprising: these are all words that describe my first few days in Sometimes, reversing the order of the introductory statement and the list creates a rhetorically effective es YN VERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change
10. Colons with “the Following”
Use a colon after “the following” and “as follows”: The workshop will include the following _ topics: anger management, stress management, communication skills, and sexual harassment The portion of this sentence that comes before the colon is a complete sentence. The portion that comes after the colon is a parallel list. es NV ERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change
11. Use a colon to separate two closely related sentences without a conjunction.
lan was dissatisfied with the photos he had taken: all of them were out of focus. “lan was dissatisfied with the photos he had taken” is a complete sentence. “All of them were out of focus” is a complete sentence that explains something important about the first sentence. We use a colon instead of a semicolon here because the second sentence does more than just continue the thought as it would with a semicolon: the second sentence offers anecessary explanation that completes the thought. es YN VERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change
12. Use a colon preceding a formal quotation that is a complete sentence.
David always offered the same response to questions about his relationship with Gracie: “It’s nunya business.” Note that there are complete sentences on both sides of the colon. es NV ERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change
13. Do not place a colon before or after “namely,” or “for example.”
We agreed to the plan, namely, to give Josepha surprise party. Acolon is shorthand for words like “namely” and “for example,” so using a colon with those words would be redundant. A colon would also effectively end the sentence at “namely,” making the first portion of the sentence a fragment. es YN VERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change
14. Do not place a colon after a verb (are, include, etc.) unless the sentence ends with a verb.
The components of this history course are lecture, recitation, and “Lecture,” “recitation,” and “laboratory” are the objects of this sentence; a colon would effectively end the sentence at “are,” making the first portion of the sentence a fragment. There are two things that make us what we are: our heredity and our environment. The part of the sentence before the colon is a complete sentence that ends with the verb “are.” In this case, the colon does not create a fragment. es NV ERSITY of WEST FLORIDA | sea change