- Use colons mainly to introduce quoted passages of text, explanations, examples or summations and long or complex lists.
- A colon is nearly always preceded by a complete sentence; what follows it may or may not be a complete sentence, and may be a list or even a single word.
University orientation provides a range of activities for new students: tours, workshops and social events.
Research centres are facing a troubling situation: budgets are shrinking.
They proposed the creation of a new post: unit coordinator.
- Do not use a colon to substitute a comma.
*To complete your admission application: send the required documents by the end of the month.
To complete your admission application, send the required documents by the end of the month.
- Do not use colons with for example or such as, which serve the same purpose as a colon.
*You must provide an outline of your research proposal, for example: objectives, methods, related research and expected outcomes.
You must provide an outline of your research proposal, for example objectives, methods, related research and expected outcomes.
- Do not use colons between a preposition and its complement.
*The Council announced cutbacks in: research funding, international cooperation and staff development.
The Council announced cutbacks in research funding, international cooperation and staff development.
- Never use more than one colon in a sentence.
*The Council's priorities are controversial: they have been praised and criticised by all groups: PDI, PAS and students.
- Note, however, that you can use a semi-colon and a colon together in the same sentence.
The Government cutbacks have been devastating; protests are planned by many people working in the most affected areas: education, healthcare and social services.
- When citing the name of a book which has both a title and a subtitle, separate the two with a colon. Do this even though no colon may appear on the cover or the title page of the book itself.
Human Towers: A Catalan Tradition
- Use colons to write ratios.
Among students in the programme, women outnumbered men by more than 2:1.
- However, in more formal contexts write out ratios in words.
Among students in the programme, women outnumbered men by more than two to one.