HUNTER COLLEGE READING/WRITING CENTER
GRAMMAR AND MECHANICS
Punctuation and Captialization:
Using the Colon and the Semicolon
1. Use the colon to introduce:
- a. A list: Campers are expected to provide the following: sheets, blankets, and towels.
- b. A long quotation of one or more paragraphs (block quotations which are indented from the body of the rest of the text).
- c. A formal question or quotation:
- The question is: what is to be done?
- He opened the meeting with the words: "War is upon us!"
- d. A clause following a sentence which explains the sentence:
- His motives are clear: he intends to become a dictator.
- e. Additional material after a word or phrase:
- For sale: mountain cabin
2. Use a colon to emphasize a following appositive:
- King Midas cared for only one thing: gold.
3. Use a colon after the salutation of a business letter:
- Dear Ms. Weiner:
4. Use a colon to separate parts of titles, references, and numerals:
- Title: Principles of Mathematics: An Introduction
- Reference: Luke 3:4-13
- Numerals: 8:15 P.M.
5. Use a colon to separate the name of a character from his/her lines in a play script:
- Macbeth: She should have died hereafter;
- There would have been a time for such a word.
6. In footnotes and bibliographies to separate the place of publication from the publisher, use a colon:
- Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill
1. Use a semicolon between two independent clauses (sentences) which are not joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet).
- People are usually willing to give advice; they are much less inclined to take it.
- In the sentence above, the semicolon is interchangeable with a period. When you use a semicolon this way, you should be sure that the relationship between the two sentences is clear.
2. Use a semicolon between two independent clauses (sentences) which are joined by a conjunctive adverb (however, nevertheless, furthermore, then, therefore, moreover, thus, etc.)
- Every culture has its own ways of indicating politeness; however, a person from a different culture may fail to recognize such indicators.
3. Use a semicolon to join independent clauses (sentences) with a coordinating conjunction if each clause contains commas.
- Today people can buy what they want from supermarkets, department stores, and discount stores; but in Colonial days, when such conveniences did not exist, people depended on general stores and peddlers. (The semicolon marks the break between the clauses more clearly than a comma would in this instance.)
4. Use a semicolon between items in a series when the items contain commas.
- The newly elected officers of the group are Thomas Mann, president; Emily Dickinson, vice-president; James Joyce, secretary; and Leo Tolstoy, treasurer.
Back to on-line resource file
[From Blanche Ellsworth, English Simplified
Back to RWC home