English Grammar Review
Clauses and Punctuation

Using the Colon

The semicolon and the colon have distinct functions.

The semicolon joins things.

; = {attached is a related idea}

The supplier from Poland you recommended seems appropriate; we should sign a contract soon.

The colon points to things.

: = {here is an explanation}

The supplier from Warsaw you recommended seems appropriate: they have many prior successes in our industry.

: = {here is a list that explains}

The supplier from Krakow you recommended provided proof of their value: contract reviews, relevant testimonials, and strong recommendations.

Rules about using the colon.

Rule 1: Make sure the words before the colon state a complete thought.

Information that Jakub gathered about the supplier: reviews, testimonials, and recommendations.
[wrong]

Information that Zofia gathered about the supplier includes: reviews, testimonials, and recommendations.
[wrong]

Information that Filip gathered about the supplier includes the following: reviews, testimonials, and recommendations.
[right]

Many people get this wrong. Try not to be one of them, at least when writing at work.

Rule 2: Capitalize the word after the colon if it begins an independent clause you want to emphasize.

It all comes down to this: If sales projections are not met, we may have to downsize.

Rule 3: Do not capitalize the word after the colon if the words that follow cannot stand alone as a sentence.

All customer sales must be reported to Lena, with one exception: When the amount is less than 500 zloty.
[wrong]

All customer sales must be reported to Lena, with one exception: when the amount is less than 500 zloty.
[right]

Rule 4: Capitalize the word after the colon if the word before the colon is a short introductory word, such as Note, Caution, Remember, or Wanted.

Remember: Submit your travel expense report to Ms. Kowalski.

Lesson: Using the Colon
Module: Clauses and Punctuation
Course: English Grammar Review