Colons Exercise (14)

All but one of the following sentences demonstrate incorrect use of the colon; revise the sentences as necessary:

Answers and Explanations

The function of a colon is to separate two phrases or clauses when the second element amplifies or illustrates the first element.

1.
Original: The three types of rock are: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.
Correct : The three types of rock are igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.

A colon is redundant to a verb and should never follow one.

2.
Original: That’s the key: What to do about rust.
Correct : That’s the key: what to do about rust.

Do not capitalize the first word of a phrase or an incomplete sentence that follows a colon unless it is a proper noun. (Some style guides recommend capitalizing the first word following a colon only when the explanatory content consists of two or more sentences. However, others consider that suggestion too restrictive and advise capitalizing one or more complete explanatory sentences; I endorse this style.)

3.
Original: Try the following steps: Rinse, lather, and repeat.
Correct : Try the following steps: Rinse, lather, and repeat.

The imperative statement following the colon is a complete thought; this sentence is correct.

4.
Original: Smith said: "That’s the way I look at it."
Correct : Smith said, "That’s the way I look at it."

An attribution should be followed by a comma, not a colon. (Exception: Use a colon if the attribution is a complete thought, as in "Smith summed up his viewpoint tersely: "That’s the way I look at it.")

5.
Original: For example: Compare the two images below.
Correct : For example, compare the two images below.

Always use a comma, not a colon, after an introductory phrase.

Related Articles

Subscribe to our articles and exercises