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Mastering the Mechanics: Colons

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Mastering the Mechanics: Colons

Last updated 5/31/2016


Visual: Walden University Writing Center logo is visible at the bottom of the screen along with a notepad and pencil background. “Walden University Writing Center. Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears in center of screen. Slide changes to background of dictionary page. A green text box appears which reads: "Mastering the Mechanics: Colons."

Audio: Guitar music plays.


Visual: Slide changes to a blue, brown, and grey slide titled "Colons." An image of a colon is visible in upper right corner of slide. The body of the slide has two bullet points with examples below and then a text box with a tip below that.  The bullets and examples read:

  • "Introduce items of a list: I am teaching the following classes next semester: Irish Literature, Composition II, and Creative Writing.
  • Elaborate on a statement: My classmates and I all agree: We will need to reread chapter 3 before the test next week."

Text box at bottom of screen reads: "Tip: Use colons only when the list does not fit naturally into a sentence’s construction." Then, below that there are two examples of how to use or not use a colon, which read:

  • "No colon:  The Jacksons’ three sons are Peter, Sean, and Mike.
  • Colon: The Jacksons have three sons: Peter, Sean, and Mike."

Audio: Colons are used to introduce items in a list. For example, [reading from the slide]: "I am teaching the following classes next semester" colon, and then you go on to list the classes.


Visual: As narrator says “colon” the colon after next semester is highlighted.

Audio: But I want to bring you down to this tip down here. You only use colons when the list does not fit into the sentence's construction. If the sentence flows naturally, if the list fits naturally into the flow of the sentence, you don't need to use a colon. I wouldn't use a colon in this sentence, [reading from the text box at the bottom]: "The Jackson's three sons are Peter, Sean, and Mike" right? That sentence, it all flows together very nicely. I would use a colon here, however, [reading from the slide]: "the Jacksons have three sons: Peter, Sean, and Mike.”


Visual: In bottom text box second example sentence, the colon after "three sons" is highlighted.

Audio: Now this colon, you can hear I sort of paused when I was reading this. And that's what this colon indicates, you should take a pause, and then after this colon is where I'm going to list these different elements so, only use a colon when the list doesn't fit naturally into the sentence.

You can also use a colon to elaborate on a statement. For example, [reading from the slide], "My classmates and I all agree: we will need to reread chapter 3 before the test this week." In this sentence, I'm elaborating, I'm explaining what my classmates and I agree.


Visual: Slide changes to notebook and pencil with Walden logo from first slide. Text reads: “Walden University Writing Center. Questions? E-mail"