The colon expands on the sentence that precedes it, often introducing a list that demonstrates or elaborates whatever was previously stated.
- There are many reasons for poor written communication: lack of planning, poor grammar, misuse of punctuation marks, and insufficient vocabulary.
- He collected a strange assortment of items: bird’s eggs, stamps, bottle tops, string, and buttons.
- Peter had an eclectic taste in music: latin, jazz, country and western, pop, blues, and classical.
- He had just one fault: an enormous ego.
The colon is also used to divide the hour from the minutes in writing a time in English.
- 4:15 = “four fifteen”
- 6:45 = “six fourty-five”
The semicolon is somewhere between a full stop and a comma. Semicolons can be used in English to join phrases and sentences that are thematically linked without having to use a conjunction. Semicolons can also be used instead of commas to separate the items in a list when the items themselves already contain commas.
- I like your brother; he’s a good friend.
- Many great leaders, Churchill, leader of Britain during the Second World War; Alexander, the great Emperor and general; and Napolean, the brilliant French general, had strong characters, which were useful when their countries were at war but which did not serve them well in times of peace.