Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Grammatically Yours - The Colon Loves Lists (1/3)

Back in December, I did a weeklong series of posts about the semicolon. The natural extension of that (at least in my own mind *grin*) is the colon. So for the next three days, I am going to do an easy-to-understand (I hope) breakdown of the most common colon rules. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments, and I will do my best to answer.

Rule #1

Use a colon before a list of items, particularly when that list is formally introduced by words such as the following or as follows (these introductory words aren’t necessary; however, they serve as an in-your-face indicator that a colon will be used).

Examples:

We decided to add the following ingredients to the cake recipe: cloves, ginger, and cinnamon. (Note the use of the following in the sentence.)

The states we will be visiting are as follows: Washington, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. (Note the use of as follows in the sentence.)

Five-year-old Kyra equipped her younger brother with what she considered the Five All-Important Things: a spy kit, a Star Wars lightsaber, a puzzle book, a juice box, and a cookie. (In this sentence, no set introductory phrase is used, but a colon works perfectly here.)

Warning! *insert flashing lights here*

There are a couple of things-you-should-never-do in relation to this rule…

Never use a colon to introduce a list that functions as the complement of a verb or as the object of a preposition. Also, never use a colon after such expressions as especially, including, or such as.

So what in the world does that mean?

Here are a couple of examples:

The ingredients we decided to add to the cake recipe were: cloves, ginger, and cinnamon. (This is incorrect because the colon separates the verb were from its complements.)

We will be traveling through: Washington, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. (This is incorrect because the colon separates the preposition through from its objects.)

Five-year-old Kyra equipped her younger brother with items such as: a spy kit, a Star Wars lightsaber, a puzzle book, a juice box, and a cookie. (This is incorrect because the colon follows the expression such as.)

Well, that’s it for part one. Check back tomorrow for part two!

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Day One: The Colon Loves Lists <you are here>

2 comments:

  1. Always a great reminder of grammar. And when you use it right, you look smart, which always helps. :)

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    1. Haha! :) I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Jenna!

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