| Definition -
A punctuation mark (:) that is normally used to indicate a pause greater than a semicolon, but less than a period.
1. Purportedly, it was invented by Aristophanes of Byzantium.
1. Use colons to join two independent clauses when you want to emphasize the second clause.
I am a housewife: I am alone.
2. Use a colon after an independent clause that is followed by a list.
I went to the market to buy a few necessities: cigarettes, coffee, sugar, and milk.
3. Use a colon to introduce explanatory information.
I'm bad: I smoke, drink, and cuss.
4. Use a colon after an independent clause that is followed by quote. The quote should begin with a capital letter.
Whitehead said this about writing style: "Style is the ultimate morality of the mind."
5. Use a colon after an independent clause that is followed by a directly related idea.
I know the perfect woman for the job: Carol.
6. Use colons to separate hours and minutes.
7. Use colons to separate chapters and verses in Biblical references.
8. Use colons to terminate business letter greetings.
To Whom It May Concern:
9. Use colons to designate speakers either in a play or in court testimony.
Mom: Why didn't you close the door?
Teenaged son: Am I supposed to close doors?
10. If a brief introductory term precedes the colon and the clause following the colon presents the main information, start the latter with a capital letter.
Remember: Don't eat yellow snow.
11. Do not place a colon between a verb and its objects.
His buddy gave him: a hammer, a nail, and a bandage. (bad)
His buddy gave him a hammer, a nail, and a bandage. (good)
12. Do not place a colon between a verb and its subject complement.
His two goals are: to improve his income and to increase his height. (bad)
His two goals are to improve his income and to increase his height. (good)
13. Do not place a colon between a preposition and its object.
We drove to: Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Surrey. (bad)
We drove to Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Surrey. (good)
Etymology - The word colon derives from the Greek kolon, part of a sentence (it literally means "limb").
Note: the word initially denoted an independent clause, then it evolved to denote the punctuation mark that was used to set off independent clauses.
Oxford English Dictionary - The term's first citation in its punctuation-mark sense is from 1589: "The auncient reformers of language, invented, three manner of pauses … The second they called colon, not a peece but as it were a member for his larger length, because it occupied twise as much time as the comma."
(Puttenham Eng. Poesie ii. iv. [v.] (Arb.) 88 )