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October 23, 2009


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Mike Consol


It seems that people have gotten pretty comfortable with the colon, especially since the use of bulletpoints became so common.

I would argue that the semicolon is sorely underused. Many people write run-on sentences rather than creating a fluid transition between two complete sentences with the help of the semicolon.



I am glad to see your encouraging the use of the colon. Too often, writers replace a colon with more lazy marks of punctuation: the dash or (worse) a comma.

Murray Moman

"It's the drumroll..."

I love that! I might just "borrow" it when discussing colons with my students...


Mike, you are right that the semicolon is underused. I have written about it on this blog.

I find that once people understand that the semicolon connects two closely related sentences that the reader should read together, they can use it correctly. With the colon, though, there is the question of where it belongs. It seems trickier--not when introducing a list of bullet points, but within a sentence.


Alfredo, I agree the dash often appears in the rightful place of the colon. Thanks for that reminder.


Murray, borrow on!

Cookie Biggs

Hi, Lynn. Just catching up on past posts. I notice that in all your examples the colon serves as "final punctuation" for an independent clause, and I agree with that. But what do you think about (mis)using the colon after a dependent clause just because it is followed by bullets or a list? For example, "For Christmas Kelli has asked for: a North Face jacket, an iPod gift card and the last book in the Twilight series." Some of my clients seem to believe that a colon must mark the end of the line ("The boy's classmates are:") or that the word "includes" automatically gets the colon ("This list includes:"). How do you feel about that?

Business Writing Blog

Hi, Cookie. The use you describe is incorrect unless what follows the colon is set off visually. Below are two correct examples.

For Christmas Kelli has asked for:
--A North Face jacket
--An iPod Gift card
--The last book in the Twilight series

The cities on her itinerary include:
--Seattle, Washington
--Portland, Oregon
--Vancouver, British Columbia
--Calgary, Alberta

Ask your clients which style guide they are following. None of my guides recommends that usage.

Thanks for asking that question. I am sure other readers were wondering about it.


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