Examples of Colon [3 Types]

A colon has multiple uses: explaining a statement, introducing a list, introducing a quotation or excerpt, and being part of ratio, numeric terms, titles, and citations. (The previous sentence used colon to introduce a list.) In this post, we’ll cover examples of colon in sentences, categorized under its first three uses. Of the four, the first use is most common in writing and hence will be covered most extensively.

Note that, when writing a sentence using colon, colon is always preceded by a complete sentence, but what follows may or may not be a sentence.

1. Examples of colon explaining a statement

What comes after a colon explains or expands what comes before it. To get the most out of these examples, notice how this holds for each of these sentences.

1.1 Both sides of the colon are sentences

(Note that the text after colon starts with a capital letter because it’s a sentence.)

Wearing fine clothes doesn’t change our character: Well-dressed people can be rude, unkind, and dishonest.

An obvious advice: Don’t drink and drive. [Left side is not a sentence; hence, this is not a correct use of colon when writing a sentence.]

Kings have long arms: Governments have far-reaching powers.

Pair of commas in relative clauses is like pair of socks: You use both or none.

The proverb Squeaky wheel gets the grease may be used in somewhat different way: If you stay overly quiet among friends or in class, you’ll likely not attract even rightful attention.

Their happiness evaporated when they learnt the details: That emergency vaccination was meant for only those journalists who were covering a specific event.

Saving has the same effect as earning: It leaves us with money.

This line (paraphrased) from the book Sapiens sums this up well: You love your children more than evolution requires.

Before asking this question, I should have remembered: Ask no questions and hear no lies.

This is also called responsibility bias: People tend to overvalue their own contributions and undervalue contributions of others.

Message was clear: Every tub must stand on its own bottom.

The speaker summed up well about networking: Know few but know them well.

Most of us have written incorrect sentences like these: You want to go out tonight, however I want to stay home and watch TV.

Adverbs can modify actions: He eats with gusto. [The right is an example of the left.]

Shoddy and unprofessional have significant overlap: A shoddy probe is an unprofessional probe.

Adjectives and adverbs differ in three ways: They modify different parts of speech, they answer different types of questions in a sentence, and they’re differently mobile in a sentence. [On the right is a compound sentence.]

The countdown serves three purposes: One, it has a psychological effect of making me more focused; two, by counting the sessions, I get a sense of my productive time in the day; and, three, at the end of the session, I take a natural break to restore my focus. [On the right is a compound sentence.]

He tried multiple methods to make ingesting the bread easier: he tried eating it after dipping in water, he varied the temperature of water, and he even sprinkled vegetable oil on the wet bread. [On the right is a compound sentence.]

Vice versa is also true: A simple sentence is an independent clause.

Researchers selected the subject on only one criterion: He had an average memory.

I want you to take just one message: Once you get comfortable on something, it’s time to raise the difficulty level, little bit each time.

The students got the underlying message: It wasn’t about lack of ability on their part which was inhibiting their academic performance, but it was about learning the ropes, which takes time and effort.

Let me ask this: At the end of the day, how many important tasks you’re able to complete on a regular basis?

There is a strong reason why at least some skills, especially those in technology industry, are better learnt or supplemented outside the formal education system: New trends and updates typically enter college curriculum with some lag.

According to Chronicle of Higher Education 2012 study, the difference in hiring decision between local college/ university and elite college or university isn’t large: 47 percent are far more or more likely to consider local colleges compared to 56 percent for elite colleges.

On receiving the test paper, quickly glance through it: Knowing what questions are there calms your nerves.

Worse was awaiting us, though: We were grossly underprepared for the bone-chilling cold and our wait for the first meal was likely to extend to the next day.

The way up was treacherous: Loose boulders strewn around in the dark night which could roll down, if disturbed accidently, and take their toll.

The quiet, unassuming guy had become a genieof sortfor us: He could fulfil most of our wishes.

But, one thing was evident: Most wanted to test themselves after weeks of preparation, and therefore were walking at a good pace.

We decided to utilize the break: We polished off the last few remnants of our snacks.

Leaving him there was not an option: It meant certain death.

It was for some reason that all the ancient civilizations existed near the rivers: They needed water for survival.

It was an extraordinary day: We covered two days of trek in one, and that too in extremely depriving conditions.

Noun phrases are the most complex of all phrases: They come with wider variety of premodifiers and postmodifiers than other phrases.

1.2 Only the left side of the colon is a sentence

(Note that the text after colon starts with a small letter because it’s not a sentence.)

Another way to know if the suspect is modifying a verb – and hence is an adverb – is to use the very thing that poses challenge in knowing this: mobility.

Mozart could put in 3,500 hours of practice in music before he turned six because he had an instructor at home: his father.

The incomplete idea gets life, and the sentence becomes more informative: symbiosis at play.

I’ll start with two short stories: one real, one fiction.

We were no better than the herds of cattle we came across, in at least one way: herd mentality.

Imagine, after generating hydroelectric power in the upstream, a river is allowed to meander away into the ocean without realizing its other potentials: irrigation and fishing, among others.

There are two kinds of perfect people: those who are dead and those who are not born yet.

Investment Banking is known for its gruelling work life: 85-90 hours per week and sometimes more than 100.

If you’re like most, you yearn for completion bias: starting with easy-to-do stuff to get the psychological boost of completing few items in the first few hours in the day.

Infrastructure projects could be of very different sizes: a primary school building running into few thousand dollars to large infrastructure projects such as city transport running into billions of dollars.

1.3 Multiple sentences on the right side

Often, you can easily tell a noun from an adjective, but if you face challenge, you can apply this test: Put the suspected word before the subject. If it makes sense, it’s an adjective. If it doesn’t, it’s a noun.

People are generally more productive in the morning: They’re fresh after night’s sleep. There are fewer distractions in the morning.

What was most demotivating though was the uncertainty staring at us: How many more mountains we’ll have to cross? How many more surprises like the slushy path we’ll have to face? Will we meet the other group?

We need to start from scratch and look into everything: What are we doing now? What was practiced earlier? And how others do it?

2. Examples of colon introducing a list

(Note that the text after colon starts with a small letter because it’s not a sentence.)

Motivation could stem from anything: material gain, pleasure, prestige, satisfaction, or even negative emotions.

Adverb clauses help you express wide variety of relationships in your writing: time, place, reason, purpose, result, and many more.

If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.

In the movie Life of Pi, Pi had to battle several things at the same time: loss of his family, a tiger on the lifeboat, scorching sun, lack of food, extreme loneliness, and, above all, little hope of survival.

Within few years of iPhone’s launch, employees at RIM started keeping two phones: a BlackBerry for the workplace and an iPhone for personal use.

Nothing changed in those three years: same gear, same tracks, and same coaching methods.

If you watch yourself, you’ll notice that you spend significant time every day in your thoughts: day-dreaming, planning something, thinking about something or someone, and so on.

Historically, aid-agencies have taken several measures to improve governance in projects for which they provided funds:

  • Enhanced pre-funding due diligence
  • Regular internal and external audits
  • Detailed fraud and corruption risk assessments
  • Specialized training for project staff
  • Policy reforms such as restructuring state enterprises and liberalizing the economy
  • Working with Members of Parliament and parliamentary committees to build their capacity

The countdown serves three purposes:

  • It has a psychological effect of making me more focused.
  • By counting the sessions, I get a sense of my productive time in the day.
  • At the end of the session, I take a natural break to restore my focus.

(The last sentence has also been written in subsection 1.1 as a sentence each on either side of the colon. Note that we’ve used a period in each bullet because each is a complete sentence.)

3. Examples of colon introducing a quotation or excerpt

Abraham Lincoln famously said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” [Quotation]

In the 2014 Gates Foundation annual letter, Bill Gates adds this about corruption: “While we should try to reduce it, there’s no way to eliminate it, any more than we could eliminate waste from every government program – or from every business, for that matter.” [Excerpt]

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Anil Yadav

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