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Mastering the Colon: When to use this confusing punctuation mark. NEC FACET Center. Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s show! I’m your host Frankie McGee!. And this is my lovely assistant, Lucy Mae! Lucy, tell our viewers what today’s lesson will be!.

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Mastering the Colon: When to use this confusing punctuation mark

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Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s show! I’m your host Frankie McGee!

And this is my lovely assistant, Lucy Mae! Lucy, tell our viewers what today’s lesson will be!

Why Frankie, today’s punctuation lesson is the colon!


Maybe even some pizzazz, Frankie!

What an excellent lesson. Using colons will give your sentences variety.

colon rule 1
Colon Rule # 1

Use a colon to show that a direct quote will follow.


Kate Chopin opens “The Story of an Hour” with this sentence: “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.”

This colon leads into a quote.


Okay audience, we’ve got our first warning message. What does this mean?


Punching bag!



That’s right; it’s time for the punching bag game!

I need a volunteer from our studio audience to punch the bag until the warning pops up!

Do not use colons to introduce every

direct quotation. The structure

of your sentence determines

what punctuation mark you should use.

I’ll do it!


Well Frankie, a sentence must contain a subject, a verb, and a complete thought!

Only use a colon if the words introducing the quote form a complete sentence.

What is a complete sentence, you might ask? Well Lucy, show ‘em how it’s done!

Okay, so you might be wondering what this means?




PJfell into the water fountain yesterday.


Complete thought

This is a complete sentence!


Let’s look at some ways to introduce quotes.

The word echoed in Louise Mallard’s mind: “Free! Free! Free!” (a colon)

The little blond girl remarked, “You are not a friend of Luciana because I’m her cousin and I know all her friends. And I don’t know you.” (a comma)

The less affluent townspeople considered wealthy Richard Cory “ a gentleman from sole to crown.” (No punctuation is needed because the quote is part of the sentence structure.)

restated colon rule 1
Restated Colon Rule # 1

Use a colon only when the words introducing the direct quotation form a complete sentence.

colon rule 2
Colon Rule # 2

Use a colon to introduce a list if the

introductory words can stand alone as a

complete sentence.

Lucy, please show us some examples!

Let’s move onto rule #2!


Jim packed a healthy lunch for the road: a turkey

sandwich, veggie chips and a banana.

This is a complete sentence with a list following it.

The number of participants exceeded my expectations:

Roger Williams, Lisa Turner, Brent Stall, Mina Smith,

and Debbie Talon.

Complete sentence with a list following



Okay, viewers. We’ve got another warning here. You know what this means…

That’s right folks; it’s time for the jumping jacks game!








Do not use a colon every time you have a list.

The sentence must be complete with a list following.

We have two members from our studio audience, and they’re going to jump until the warning appears!

Good job gentlemen! Lucy, show us what this warning means!

Keep on jumping gentlemen!


Frankie, if you said, “Marge bought” or “We made,” the audience would be confused! They would wonder what Marge bought or what we made.

Therefore, each sentence considers the list as part of the complete thought rather than additional information being introduced by a colon.

These sentences don’t need colons because they aren’t complete sentences without the list!

Marge bought rice, hamburger meat, and salsa.

We made kites, drums, and stockings for the holiday parade.


Audience, do the following sentences need colons?


The teacher brought: the test, pencils, and Scantron sheets.

Tom likes all forms of chocolate such as: candy bars, cookies, cake, and ice cream.


What about these sentences?


The bouquet consists of: orchids, lilacs, and freesia.

Among other things, Border’s sells: novels, stationary, and cards.

colon rule 3
Colon Rule # 3

Use a colon to separate an appositive at

the end of a sentence if the words preceding

the comma can stand alone as a

complete sentence.

Alright Lucy, please show us rule #3!

Excuse me, Frankie. What’s an appositive?


“My neighbor” renames Susie Evans.

Susie Evans, my neighbor, designed the new downtown office complex.

The population of Tulsa, a growing city in Oklahoma, is currently around 393,000.

An appositive is simply a group of words that rename a noun. Let’s look at some examples.

Well, fine audience member, I’m glad you asked!

“A growing city in Oklahoma” renames Tulsa.

Appositives are set off with commas.


In this sentence, the appositive comes at the end; therefore, we can use a colon instead of a comma.

“the mysterious Mona Lisa” renames Da Vinci’s “most famous painting.”

The appositive comes at the end of the sentence, so it’s okay to use a colon.

The famous Louvre in Paris owns one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous paintings: the mysterious Mona Lisa.



Uh oh, another warning.

Okay audience, you know what this means!


Dance Fever!

Dance Fever!


Only use a colon if the words before the appositive make a complete sentence!

That’s right! It’s time for Dance Fever! How about some volunteers from our audience!

That was some amazing dancing! Lucy Mae, please tell us about this warning.

Don’t stop dancing until the warning appears!


Although often dealing with serious issues, the television series Mash carried one light-hearted message: people can find humor even in the worst of times.

Everything before the colon can stand alone as a sentence; it contains a subject, a verb, and a complete thought.

The precocious little girl taught everyone a valuable lesson: an active imagination can give a person much joy in life.

This statement is renaming the valuable lesson; therefore, it’s an appositive.

Everything before the colon can stand alone as a sentence; it contains a subject, a verb, and a complete thought.


Okay audience, does this sentence need a colon?


Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” explores an important theme: gender equality.

colon rule 4
Colon Rule # 4

Use a colon following the

salutation in a business letter.

Lucy, it’s time for our next rule.

How about some examples, Lucy?


Dear Dr. Robbins:

Dear Ms. Baxter:

To Whom It May Concern:

Frankie, I do have a point of caution for the viewers.


Dear Aunt Rose,

Use a comma after the salutation in a personal letter to a friend or relative.

Dear Jason,

colon rule 5
ColonRule # 5

Use a colon after each of the four standard

headings at the top of an interoffice memo.

Well Frankie, it’s actually pretty easy, too!

Alright folks, that last rule may have been pretty easy, but how about this next one?


Interoffice Memorandum

To: Date:

From: Subject:

An interoffice memo contains at least these 4 headings and uses a colon to separate the heading from the necessary information.


Interoffice Memo

To: Frankie McGee

From: Lucy Mae

Date: 23 June

Subject: Colons

It might look something like this.

Today’s show will cover colons!

colon rule 6
Colon Rule # 6

Use a colon between titles and subtitles

of books, articles, and essays.

Lucy, tell us about our next rule. Is it something important for students to know?

Yes! It’s a very important rule for students to know, especially when writing research papers.


The Future of Nuclear Energy: A Nightmare or a Dream Come True?

Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama


Main Title: A Writer’s Resource

Subtitle:A Handbook for Writing and Research

A Writer’s Resource: A Handbook for Writing and Research

Audience, does this title need to be rewritten to incorporate a colon?



Well folks, that concludes today’s show. Lucy Mae, tell our home audience what they’ve won today.

Well Frankie, they’ve won a free lesson in punctuation!






Thanks for joining us today on “What About Punctuation?” Be sure to join us next time when we explore the exciting world of Apostrophes!

And remember, good punctuation can take you far.