How to use a Colon

The colon is used to provide a pause before introducing related information.

Some of the main uses of the colon include:

Introducing a list

A list of items can be introduced by the colon. For example:

There are three countries in Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

There are many things we can see in the night sky: stars, planets, the moon and even comets.

Introducing an explanation or conclusion

Colons are often used to introduce an explanation or conclusion of an earlier statement. By using a colon, the second statement is emphasised, showing that it follows on from the first. For example:

We had to organise a gig: so many people wanted to see the band.

After a few weeks together, Sarah came to her conclusion: Robert wasn’t exciting enough for her.


The colon is often neglected but used correctly can improve your writing, clarifying and emphasising your message.

The next time you’re working on an article, try to use the colon and see if it can improve your writing.

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13 thoughts on “How to use a Colon

    • In depends. The Oxford comma is used in American English but should not be used in British English. In the UK, it’s only ever used to give clarity to longer sentences with multiple items or clauses. It’s not meant to be used with coordinating conjunctions (but) either.

  1. I have written a complex sentence that ends with ….by the following:…… indicating that I am going to provide a dot point list. Each dot point of the list contains several sentences. Do I change the initial sentence somehow to avoid a colon? Do I keep the colon and start the dot point sentences with capitals?

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