Punctuality Rules!

MM: Colonoscopy

MM: Colonoscopy


I’ve covered many of the other punctuation marks, but not yet the Colon, otherwise known as the pair of eyes (:) in a classic emoticon smiley<:)>. Other than looking at you, though, it has other uses:

Primarily, it alerts the reader to the fact that a list or explanation is following.

  • We need from the store: milk, bread, eggs.”
  • Here is a list of primary colors: red, blue, yellow.”
  • Please choose one: paper or plastic?
  • My greatest wish for the world: peace.”

    It has other uses too, of course. It divides subtitles from main titles, “The West Wing: Season One.” It is used in telling time (1:45) or in separating chapters and verses in religious writings or epic poems (John 3:14–16). It is used after the salutation in a business letter (“Dear sir:“) It’s also used for notting ratios and such in mathematics. But, mostly, its primary use is to introduce something.

    One thing that is important to note, though, is that you never put a colon after a verb. You would not write, for example, “My favorite foods are: chocolate, pie, and brussels sprouts.” The colon is redundant because it’s more or less filling the same function as the verb “are.” However, you could write, “The teacher asked me to list my favorite foods: chocolate, pie, and brussels sprouts.”

    There is some debate as to whether or not use a capital letter following the colon. British English says no (unless it’s a word that would normally be capitalized), and American English seems to waffle a bit, saying it depends on context, but the general rule of thumb seems to be that if the colon is introducing an independent clause, the first word should be capitalized.

    10 thoughts on “MM: Colonoscopy

    1. --Deb Post author

      That’s Because Nobody does It consistently Any More so noBody is Sure What should Be Capitalized….

    2. Ellen Wilson

      Deb, I need to go over your website thoroughly and refresh myself on all this good grammatical stuff. It’s a lot more fun than reading a grammar text!

      I wish American English would not waffle about this…it is better to have strict rules regarding capitalization. Actually, couldn’t you say, “My favorite foods are chocolate, pie, and brussel sprouts.” That would be technically correct. Right? Because, like you said the “are” makes the colon redundant.

      Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..With Love from E: Britishisms

    3. --Deb Post author

      You could absolutely say, “My favorite foods are chocolate, pie, and brussels sprouts,” and, in fact, you probably SHOULD. It’s just that you don’t need the colon, and every now and again, you’ll see people putting colons right after verbs (when it’s a little less obvious than this example) without ever realizing that it’s incorrect.

    4. Melissa Donovan

      Deb, yours is the second blog I’ve visited today that seems to have eaten my earlier comment. I’m certain I left one for this post on Monday and mentioned something about semicolons. A comment I left on Ellen’s blog seems have gotten devoured by the comment monster as well. Hmm, it’s not even a full moon.

      Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..June Announcements

    5. --Deb Post author

      Oh sure, give away the secret for next week’s Mangled Monday topic….

    6. Jeanine Satterwhite

      Would you use a colon or a semi colon when shortening “regarding” to “re”? Would it be re: or re;?

    7. --Deb Post author

      Colon. Although, technically, it’s not doing the abbreviating–what it’s doing is saying, “what this is regarding is _____.” To be really precise, you’d need a period to mark the abbreviation, followed by the colon’s announcement. “Re.:” but nobody ever bothers with the period to abbreviate “regarding.”

      Semi-colons connect things. Colons announce them.