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.

[From Blanche Ellsworth, English Simplified

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