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.