ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Writing Tips: How to Use Colons

Updated on July 18, 2018
Faceless39 profile image

I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, vegetarian, world traveler, and many other things!

Colons are the most badly named punctuation marks in existence. If you don't believe me, do an image search. On the other hand, take my advice and don't do it; I'm pretty sure I've been scarred for life. (I'm only half-kidding!)

I was curious to find out how the colon got such an unfortunate name. Here's the etymology in case you're interested: 1540s, from L. colon "part of a poem," from Gk. kolon (with a long initial -o- ) "part of a verse," lit. "limb," from PIE base *(s)kel- "to bend, crooked" (see scalene). Meaning evolved from "independent clause" to punctuation mark that sets it off.

Poor, unfunny colon. *Sigh* Nobody in the world thinks you can be funny but me. Maybe I can convince others of your true worth! Maybe you have some fun and laughter hidden in that vacant stare!

I admit I don't use colons often, but when the time comes they're indispensable. As punctuation marks go they're not the most popular, or the coolest, but they have hidden talents that every writer should learn to harness. Let's go!


Proper Usage

Colons inform the reader that what is to come either further explains, proves, or lists what was mentioned previously. It's a little difficult at first, but don't worry; you'll get it.

Colons should only be used after a full sentence that ends in a noun (person, place, or thing). There is no space after the noun, and one space after the colon. A good indication of whether you should use a colon is to replace it with the word namely.

Try this:

  • Learning grammar takes three things, namely, time, patience, and repetition.
  • There was only one thing Kate could think of, namely, helping people improve their writing.


  • Learning grammar takes three things: time, patience, and repetition.
  • There was only one thing Kate could think of: helping people improve their writing.


  • Learning grammar takes: Time, patience, and insanity.
  • Kate seemed focused on: Making colons moderately interesting.


There's some argument about capitalizing the word following a colon. I'll spare you the petty details as it's a pretty boring debate and I have an easy solution. Only capitalize the word following a colon if it's a proper noun (name of a person, place, or thing). This will satisfy nearly all grammarians, including yours truly!


  • Right now I have two responsibilities: finish this hub and fly South for the winter.
  • I know what you're thinking: Kate must dream about grammar at night.


  • I need to buy some things at the store: Orange juice, toothpaste, and I can't remember what else.
  • You're doing well: You're starting to understand this colon thing, aren't you?

As with semicolons, colons go outside of parentheses and quotation marks.


  • "This is an ugly grammar rule": colons outside of quotation marks look dumb.
  • (Kate can't think of many examples): it's not often you need to use a colon at the end of parentheses or a quote.


Logical Consequence ("Syntactical Deductive")

Colons can introduce the logical consequence of the sentence that came before it.


  • Kate didn't want to go on a walk: it was snowing outside.
  • Colons are awesome: they're super useful!

Description ("Syntactical Descriptive")

Colons can also introduce a description of like things in a grouping. This includes the keeping of time and reference to particular passages in popular texts like epic poetry, works of Shakespeare, or religious texts.


  • Kate has three rules: work hard, do your best, and make fun of yourself whenever possible.
  • Learning about colons is fun: they're useful, minimalistic, and don't overstay their welcome.
  • The really bad Hollywood remake of a classic movie starts at 4:30 pm.
  • Matthew 5:5-14 is a pretty good read, especially if you need an excuse for being meek.

Introduction ("Segmental")

Colons are also used to introduce speech.


  • The readers proclaimed the benefits of colons: their use is endless.
  • Remember this, young Skywalker: "I am your father!"


© 2011 Kate P


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Thanks! This will still be easier to remember then comma ussage. I'll just remember lists for now with a complete sentence and come back later to study the other ways it's used.

      After he got in he faced me silently for a moment. Scanning his uniform his name tag read, Roland. Well, I think that last comma is right, please correct me if I'm wrong.

    • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate P 

      7 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      It takes a lot of practice, but hopefully some of these rules will be helpful.

      Thanks for all the wonderful comments!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      7 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Very helpful. I use colons all the time in Titles, and not so infrequently in my sentences. But you have once again given me some clarity. You have saved me lot of money on a remedial grammar class.

    • htodd profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Great writing tips ..Thanks

    • billchucks profile image


      7 years ago

      excellent hub;my writing should improve by this

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 

      7 years ago from California

      Thank you for writing this review. I need to pay more attention to how I use colons!

    • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate P 

      8 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      You're all very welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

    • profile image

      V Qisya 

      8 years ago

      thank you so much ;D

    • clara kish@yahoo. profile image

      Clara Kish 

      8 years ago from Mt. Perry. Ohio

      Thanks,I will try to practice on this when I am not so pressed for time ,I will keep this in mind .

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks kate for sending the link . Its so kind of you.

      Look forward to more Hubs from you and all my wishes for your success


      Today's Quote: "An inche of gold cannot buy an inche of time " ---------[Ancient Chinese proverb]

    • Lateral3 profile image


      8 years ago

      Increasingly I have found myself using colons and semicolons over recent months. In fact the more I write the more I feel the need to refine the punctuation. I'll take a look at your other tutorials.

    • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate P 

      8 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Thank you all very, very much. However, I am a mere mortal just trying to make grammar fun. I appreciate your feedback and look forward to adding more grammar hubs soon. Thanks a lot! :)

      Waqxi, it's good to see you here again! Thanks so much for your praise; wow! I'm glad you found it so helpful. Hey, here's a great explanation of [sic]: :)

    • AUPADHYAY profile image



      The most essential part of writing is explained beautifully by you, in this hub. Appreciated and voted it as an awesome.

    • Kamalesh050 profile image


      8 years ago from Sahaganj, Dist. Hooghly, West Bengal, India

      A very beautiful, useful and interesting hub. And of course educative and nicely presented. Thank you very much for sharing. Voted Up.

      Best Wishes, Kamalesh

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Dear Kate no pretentious glorifications for you a simple statement that rides on fact : you are the prettist face on which the sun shines .Your discourses on Grammer has a consecrated air that will pay handsomely to thoes who read and make use of them . They will be a great guide for my students to help them brush up their English skills.

      I beg of you to help me understand what Sic means

      Bless you wonderful Kate

      your fan : Waqxi

    • wanzulfikri profile image


      8 years ago from Malaysia

      You've been helping me a lot with the use of colons. Thanks for the grammar tips!

    • sweethearts2 profile image


      8 years ago from Northwest Indiana

      Voted up - really useful, interesting and amusing. I need all the help I can get: I like getting it here.

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 

      8 years ago from new jersey

      I love your pictures! Great hub!

    • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate P 

      8 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      @Mary615, as always I appreciate your feedback. To be honest colons are my least favorite punctuation mark. I'm pretty sure they're the least used (other than for writing time and smiley faces!) I literally used to rewrite sentences to avoid them, but I've been trying to embrace them more lately. :)

      @Jo_Goldsmith11, I'm so glad I could help you out! Yeah, I use (*) in informal settings and sometimes when I want to express something like a *cough.* Instead, if you italicize or use boldface, it'll be more professional. I have lots of other hubs on grammar if you check my profile page. For now, here's the one on semicolons: :)

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      8 years ago from Florida

      I try and avoid using a colon, because I'm never quite sure of how it should be used, so this was very helpful to me (as are your other Hubs) Maybe now I'll be brave enought to use a colon every now and again.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      8 years ago

      thank you so much! I was in real need of being careful about my colon use. This is so very helpful! You are the best! I voted up! quick question tho, I use (*) to emphasize a word, instead of caps. I as well thought, that when we use (;) too much, in our writing it isn't good either. I know, I need some english help! (lol)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)