The UVic Writer's Guide: Grammar


The colon's function is introductory. The presence of a colon at the end of a sentence points forward to further information, often in the form of a list:

26 There are three ways to write: the right way, the wrong way, and my way.

The colon can only be used if the statement preceding it is grammatically complete. If it is not (for example, if an object is needed for the verb ), then you should resist the temptation to add a colon:

27 I saw Brent, Darby, Noel and Lara today.

In this case, the names can act as the object of "saw" without a colon. The colon is often preceded by "as follows" or "the following":

28 The runners will be starting as follows: Leonard, Charles, Jones,

Nesmith and Nash.

Examples and illustrative details appended to sentences are preceded by colons (note the use of colons to introduce all of our examples in this Guide):

29 There is only one solution left: we shall have to sell the yacht.

30 Ilsa's return to Casablanca could mean only one thing: trouble.

A sentence after a colon may be capitalized if it seems to stand on its own as a statement, as when it is long or needs emphasis:

31 There was one thing, he said, which we must never forget: No one has a right to happiness that deprives someone else of deserved happiness.

In literary and research essays, colons are used to introduce long quotations.

Topics About Grammar
Table of Contents
Start Over

Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated Sept 24, 1995