Fun and easy rules for colons and semi-colons

Photo by Tom Magliery

Photo by Tom Magliery

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

Sources: Photo by Tom Magliery,, English Plus, Quote Garden, Brainy Quote



Filed under Editing & Proofreading

6 responses to “Fun and easy rules for colons and semi-colons

  1. Good information here. And presented in an easy-on-the-eyes format.

  2. Tom

    Excellent piece, Karen! Thank you.

  3. Thanks, Tom; and you are welcome. 🙂

  4. Very helpful for writers. I’ll link to you.


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