Is finding the right spot in your copy for colons driving you dotty?
Or are you one of those people who ignores them and hopes they’ll go away so you’ll never have to deal with them?
Well using colons in your copy doesn’t have to be a gut-wrenching process; it doesn’t really even require any intestinal fortitude.
Well maybe a little!
Believe it or not, colons can be very useful to add emphasis or to signify degrees of connectedness in everyday copy.
Without going into some of the more obscure and specialized uses they have, here’s a few easy tips on using colons in everyday copy for you to digest:
Use them to introduce a word or phrase that amplifies, summarizes or contrasts a phrase that comes before it. Note that the preceding phrase must make sense as a stand-alone phrase:
I was concerned: I held a party for a thousand of my closest friends and no-one had arrived yet.
There was only one word for the navy blue team: dishonest.
There were only four beers left: so Johnny would have to miss out.
Use colons to introduce an explanatory list of items:
Three families were represented: the Jacksons, the Corrs and the Gibbs.
The instructions were as follows: write a Hollywood blockbuster, win an Oscar and make millions of dollars.
Note, a colon is not needed when preceded by expressions that flow naturally in a sentence (e.g. such as, including and namely).
Use colons for block quotations set apart from other text:
The Prime Minister said:
While I fully intend to answer your question, the fact remains that this Government has been at the forefront of providing evasive answers that do not really address any substantive issue and that the Opposition and the media have been negligent in holding us to account for this. Next question!
A colon can also be used to introduce a direct question when it gives emphasis or modifies a preceding phrase:
The question is this: who knows the question?
We ask you: what is there to ask?
While some other specialized uses for colons exist, hopefully the above tips will flush away any blockages in your mind so you can be regularly using them in your everyday copy!