Letter from a Colon

Dear Students,

My name is Collin Colon. Not the biological organ, also known as the large intestine, nor the Costa Rican currency known as the colón, but the famed punctuation mark that makes the writing world go round. My use in writing is gravely important. I even consider myself as valuable as the period and the comma in the exciting realm of punctuation. Unfortunately, some of you do not quite understand my primary purpose, which is greatly upsetting to me. I’m often included in sentences where I have no business being. Other times, I’m even neglected altogether, creating a colon catastrophe. I’m nearly as misused as my poor comrade, Sam Semicolon. Instead of sulking about your horrendous misuse and atrocious avoidance of me, I’ve decided to enlighten you with ways to utilize me in your writing endeavors. Then, all of you will be able to fill your papers with captivating colons.

By definition, a colon is meant to tell readers the information which follows is closely related to the preceding clause. I am the go-to player for this move. So, when you plan to relate two similar clauses, choose me as the playmaker, and I will not disappoint. In fact, I am more effective at this skill than any other punctuation teammate of mine. Also, I typically follow an independent clause (or complete idea) and should not separate a verb from its complement or a preposition from its objective.

Here’s an example of the wrong way to use me: Living in apartments, I eat: sandwiches, fish sticks, and chocolate chips.

While I agree that this person’s diet is rather strange, the real horror here is the way I am used. I am inserted in between the verb (eat) and its complement (sandwiches, etc.). It is unnecessary to the flow of the sentence and just downright offensive to my kind.

Here’s the proper way to write this sentence: Living in apartments, I eat the following: sandwiches, fish sticks, and chocolate chips.

Both clauses are closely related. One addresses the concept of eating in an apartment while the other lists specific foods consumed in this space. In this particular sentence, my primary purpose is to list the specific dietary choices made in apartment-living. Although there are methods to specify these food choices without me, adding my punctuation talents throws in some punctuation pizzazz.

I can also be used in an appositive sentence like this one: There is one food I refuse to eat: olives.

In this circumstance, I am an indicator of what food the writer is referencing. Once again, you could write a sentence about your least favorite foods and avoid using me altogether, but you would lose the dramatic effect that I provide. I serve as a suspenseful pause that instills tension within all readers before dropping the name of the food that is your biggest nemesis: olives (dun dun dun dun). In this way, I enhance sentences, making them belong on a Broadway stage and exciting college professors lucky enough to read your skilled prose.

Additionally, I can amplify or interpret clauses in order to draw out more meaning from them. For instance, desserts can add to a healthy diet: fresh fruits, yogurt, and nuts have nutritional qualities. This sentence needs interpretation; otherwise, readers would get an entirely false idea. Without the second clause added after me, people might think that any dessert can add to a healthy diet. They might even begin eating heavy portions of cake, pie, and other unhealthy desserts thinking that they are partaking in a beneficial diet. By utilizing me, I interpret this clause to mean a specific food that some might not even consider to be a dessert at all.

I serve many other purposes in writing, all of which are valuable to know. I introduce illustrative quotes that are taken from other sources. For example, In the words of Dwight K. Shrute, Assistant to the Regional Manager: “Bears, beets, Battle Star Galactica.” Also, I am used for formal letter salutations (To Whom It May Concern: ). I am used to separate the hour from minutes in a time notation (12:30). Also, I separate a title from a subtitle and separating (Collin Colon: A Punctuation Memoir). Finally, I separate a Bible chapter from its verse (Job 12:3).

I hope that I no longer see calamitous colon creations in sentences where I do not belong. However, I do hope that you will use me more for your benefit in writing. I am a convivial punctuation mark, and I will surely jazz up your writing.


Collin Colon

Written by Jack

For more information on how to properly use colons and other punctuation marks, check out our Colons handout and the Quick Reference Flyer page of our website!