A sentence can be extended with a colon when the writer wishes to expand on something already mentioned in the sentence.
(A colon is used to introduce some more information about something previously mentioned in the sentence.)
There were two pets in the house: a budgie and a cat.
(two pets: a budgie and a cat)
He blamed his divorce on one thing: beer.
(one thing: beer)
A sentence can be extended with a semicolon when a slight break is preferable to a new sentence.
No one was hurt in the accident; the only real injury was a broken finger.
She did not approve of my design at all; she found it crass.
Quite often, there is a short phrase immediately after the semicolon which acts like a bridge between both halves of the sentence. (This is covered more in the lesson
Everybody knows he is guilty; however, it will never be proven.
Her own guest was declined; as a result, she left.
Business is booming; for example, Siemens have rung
since 4 o'clock.
This business will collapse if you do not invest in the staff's well-being; of
course, that is just my opinion.
Using Three Dots
If you want to create pause for effect, use three dots.
I don't want to achieve immortality through my work…I want to achieve it through not dying.
She had a bath once a year…whether she needed it or not.
Bart, with $10,000, we'd be millionaires! We could buy all kinds of useful things like...love!
As I moved the bushes, I was not confronted by the deer I had been tracking
for two days but...a Bengal tiger.
dots used as a pause
for effect (correct usage)
Confused about colons, semicolons and three dots? Use a dash.
The dash performs all the functions of the colon, the semicolon and three dots mentioned
He blamed his divorce on one thing – beer.
(replaces a colon)
The sales team meet on Tuesdays – unlike the floor managers who meet on
(replaces a semicolon)
The team requires another person – namely, Adam Richards.
(replaces a semicolon)
No one was hurt – the only injury was a broken finger.
As I moved the bushes, I was not confronted by the deer I had been tracking for
two days, but – a Bengal tiger.
(replaces three dots)
I've been looking for a girl like you – not you, but a girl like you.
I'm really a timid person – I was beaten up by Quakers.
A credit card stolen from a woman in Devon was used to pay for a Chinese
meal 18 hours later – in Hong Kong.
Author has used a dash as a pause for effect.
Author could also have used three dots.
A COLON IS LIKE AN EQUALS SIGN |
Many people like to think of a colon as an equals sign. Look at the
examples to the left.
two pets = a budgie and a cat
one thing = beer
DIFFERENT TO SEMICOLONS
A colon should only be used to extend a sentence when you are introducing words which expand on something previously mentioned. When a slight break is preferable to a new sentence, you should use a semicolon.
The pilot's chances of landing safely were minimal: the elevators
were packed with ice.
IN APPOSITION |
The words after the colon are known as an 'appositive phrase'. (It just means an
You can also use the term 'in apposition to'. For example:
There was only one fish in the vicinity: a great white shark.
(In this sentence, "great white shark" is in apposition to "fish".)
This company has always had the same motto: Try it twice
and then sack it.
(In this example, "Try it twice and then sack it." is in apposition to "motto".)
ANOTHER USE FOR 3 DOTS (CALLED ELLIPSIS)
Three dots can also be used to show that words have been omitted. This is covered more in the lesson
The magazine claims: "The scene in the '70s was...controlled by
DON'T RELY SOLELY ON DASHES |
Although a dash covers the functions of a colon, a semicolon and 3 dots, it is worthwhile learning how all are used so you can choose the one
that looks best in your sentence. In the example below, there are already several hyphens and dashes; so, using the 3 dots is preferable to another dash.
Mrs Thomas – the 64-year-old lady from Kent who swore she
would never have a facelift – removed the bandages to
find...a 40-year-old version of herself.