- Books, Literature, and Writing
Correct Use of Semi-colons and Colons
The Colon (:)
When to use a colon:
- When a list follows an independent clause
Ex. We visited some beautiful cities on our road trip: San Antonio, New Orleans, and San Francisco.
- When an independent clause is followed by an example, explanation, or conclusion.
Ex. I thought long and I thought hard: things would never be the same again.
- After a Salutation (formal letter usually)
Ex. To Whom it May Concern:
- In a business memo or E-mail headers
- In a title separating a clause from a explanation, statement, or elaboration.
Ex) Angela's Ashes: A Memoir
- In a bibliography between the city of publication and the publishing house
Ex. London: Oxford Press
The Semi-Colon (;)
When to use a Semi-colon;
- To Join independent clauses (usually) without using conjunctions such as and, or, but, or so.
Ex. The North won the Civil War; therefore the union was preserved
- To separate items in a list that is already using commas.
Ex. Every talking head on every station was covering the government shutdown; Chris Matthews, MSNBC, Bill O'Reilly, Fox "News", and Anderson Cooper, CNN.
- In place of a coma to avoid confusion in separating two independent clauses joined by a conjunction.
Ex. The Achaean heroes were Odysseus, Achilles, and Agamemnon; and together they would find a way to conquer Troy.
Hope this helps
Of all grammatical mistake the most common ones involve the usage of colons and semi-colons. The above is a fairly exhaustive list of when the use of each is appropriate. I hope this quick reference is found useful by someone. Please leave any further questions in the comments section. Happy writing!!