Sometimes a visual reference is helpful in remembering rules.
A colon is a bug watching the line (list) of ants coming to the picnic.
A semicolon is the wink on a child who’s not quite done talking.
A colon is used when a clause is followed by a list. Uses for colons also include salutations in formal correspondence, ratios, time, and with quotations. Colons also apply to Bible verses. Here are a few fun examples:
Salutations in formal letters –
Dear Mr. Connery:
In a list –
I will bring everything we need: wine, strawberries, oysters, whipped cream, and bagpipe music.
In ratios –
The ratio of women to men will be 1:1.
In time –
Please arrange for my limousine to arrive at 9:00 p.m.
In the Bible (I feel a little naughty using the Bible after the last entries) –
References are usually written Proverbs 11:2. Using Proverbs 11.2 is now accepted.
With quotations –
George Burns said: “Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
A semicolon should be used between two clauses that relate to each other. If you can use a semicolon, you can also use a period (and vice versa). For more examples, see Sources at the end of this post.
In his first NHL season, Wayne Gretzky played for the Oilers; in his last season, he played for the Rangers.
Many states have long winters; in fact, North Dakota’s winter is over six months long!
Hundreds of baseball players gain fame through hard work, dedication, integrity, and honesty; a few find illegal means.
What fun sentences can you create with colons and semicolons?
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” -Anton Chekhov