Colon Usage

One of the most common errors that I find is with colon use. The rule is that which left of the colon must be an independent clause – or a complete thought – like a sentence.

You can never have a colon after words like is or are – example of the error-

The things I am bring to Austria are: maps, a German dictionary and my laptop.

You would correct the error this way:

I am bringing the following to Austria: maps, a German dictionary and my laptop.

You can not have a colon after the word include – example of the error –

The items I wish to purchase include: a new computer, a new car and a new house. You can not have an incomplete thought before the colon!

You would correct the error in this way:

The items I wish to purchase include the following: a new computer, a new car and a New house.

You can sometimes show a comparison using a colon – when two thoughts are equally important – example –

I watched every movie in the series: a Star Trek  marathon. Notice that still the rule applies – left of the colon MUST be an independent clause.

Remember – that which is left of the colon MUST be an independent clause – a complete sentence.

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