Colons, Semicolons, and Dashes
Common rules for punctuation
A. Colons are used after a complete statement to set up a list or a
I like the following poets best: Housman, Yeats, and Eliot. President Kennedy
encouraged the nation with his stirring words: "Ask not what your country can do
for you. Ask what you can do for your country."
The colon must come after a group of words that is a complete sentence. You
would NOT use a colon in the following sentence:
INCORRECT: The poets I like best are: Housman,
Yeats, and Eliot.
The colon is incorrect in the above sentence because "The poets I like best
are" is not a complete sentence. There should be NO colon after the verb
B. Semicolons are used to join two sentences together. (See Note in Comma Rule C)
Wade held the ball for a second; then he passed to Wes.
The lane was
poorly lighted; therefore, I was unable to see the box in the middle of the
C. Dashes can be used in place of commas to set off nonessential information
that the writer wishes to draw attention to or emphasize. (See Comma Rule D)
Janet won the grand prize-a trip to the Bahamas-from the local radio
Mary is saving for a new bike-a Trek 5000.
(Note that you need to type two hyphens to make a dash.)