Colon vs Semicolon (with Examples)
Colon versus SemicolonColons and semicolons have different functions. A colon is like a "literary equals sign" (as opposed to mathematical one), and a semicolon is like a "half period" or "half full stop."
How to Use a ColonA colon has four functions:
(1) To expand on something already mentioned in the sentence.
- He blamed his divorce on one thing: beer. (A colon is like an equals sign. In this example, "one thing" equals "beer.")
- His fingerprints were found in two rooms: the kitchen and the bedroom. (In this example, "two rooms" equals "the kitchen and the bedroom.")
- During the inspection, I saw the following: a dead rat, a live rat, dozens of cockroaches, and countless ants. (When a colon is used after an introduction, it is often bullet points that follow.)
(3) In references, times, and titles
- Read Genesis 1:1 before 07:30.
- He said: "Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect."
How to Use a SemicolonA semicolon has three functions:
(1) To create a smoother transition between "sentences," particularly when the second starts with a phrase like "however" or "as a result."
- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. (President Thomas Jefferson)
- The wind was creating waves up to three feet high; as a result, we had to cancel the swim.
- Simon, the officer in charge; Daniel, the guide; and Ollie, the cameraman
(3) Before a conjunction that merges two "sentences" (i.e., independent clauses) containing commas
- Rather surprisingly, the majestic pike is hardly used in cooking today; but in Victorian times, pastry-topped pike was a very common dish. (Using a semicolon to outrank the commas in the independent clauses is an outdated practice.)
A List of Lessons about ColonsHere is a list of Grammar Monster lessons about colons:
- More detail about using colons (all functions)
- Colons before bullet points
- Colons before quotations
- Colons in references
- Colons for introductions
A List of Lessons about SemicolonsHere is a list of Grammar Monster lessons about semicolons:
- More detail about using semicolons (all functions)
- Semicolons before words Like "however" and "consequently"
- Semicolons in lists
- Semicolons before words Like "and" and "but"