Colon (punctuation)

related topics
{language, word, form}
{math, number, function}
{@card@, make, design}
{system, computer, user}
{math, energy, light}
{work, book, publish}
{car, race, vehicle}
{theory, work, human}
{area, community, home}
{build, building, house}
{album, band, music}

Punctuation

The colon (:) is a punctuation mark consisting of two equally sized dots centered on the same vertical line.

As with many other punctuation marks, the usage of colon varies among languages and, within a given language, across historical periods. As a rule, however, a colon informs the reader that the following proves, explains or simply provides elements of what is referred to before.

The following classification of the functions that a colon may have, given by Luca Serianni (a pioneer of the colon) for Italian usage,[1] is generally valid for English and many other languages:

  • syntactical-deductive: introduces the logical consequence, or effect, of a fact stated before
  • syntactical-descriptive: introduces a description—in particular, makes explicit the elements of a set
  • appositive: introduces a sentence with the role of apposition with respect to the previous one
  • segmental: introduces a direct speech, in combination with quotation marks and dashes. The segmental function was once a common means of indicating an unmarked quotation on the same line. The following example is from Fowler's grammar book, The King’s English:

A colon may also be used for the following:

  • introduction of a definition
  • separation of the chapter and the verse number(s) indication in many references to religious scriptures, and also epic poems; it was also used for chapter numbers in roman numerals
  • separation of hours, minutes and seconds when reporting the time of day (cf. ISO 8601; alternatively, a period (.) may be used[3])
  • separation of a title and the corresponding subtitle

Contents

Use of capitals

In English, the word following the colon is in lower case unless it is a proper noun or an acronym, or if it is normally capitalized for some other reason. However, in American English a colon may be followed either by a capital letter or by a lower-case letter, depending on usage: where direct speech follows, a capital letter is used; where an acronym or proper noun follows, a capital is used; otherwise, a lower-case letter is used.[3] Some modern American style guides, including those published by the Associated Press and the Modern Language Association, prescribe capitalization where the colon is followed by an independent clause (i.e. a complete sentence). However, The Chicago Manual of Style[4] requires capitalization only when the colon introduces two or more complete sentences.[5]

Full article ▸

related documents
Number names
Japanese numerals
Full stop
Plural
Mandarin Chinese
Abugida
Wade-Giles
Yogh
Affix
Bantu languages
Approximant consonant
W
Bi-directional text
Tāna
International Sign
Aramaic alphabet
Cedilla
Northern dynasties
Lower case
Grammar
Consonant
Verner's law
Great Vowel Shift
Schwa
Eta (letter)
G
Cree language
Declension
Michif language
Gallurese