Ode to the colon

The Scribe adores the colon. Indeed, the Scribe’s affection might even exceed mere adoration. But it wasn’t always so. For many years, the Scribe overlooked the humble colon, infatuated with its flashier siblings, such as the comma, dash, and exclamation mark. But age and maturity have finally allowed the Scribe to appreciate the colon’s majesty and depth.

The unassuming colon can seem shallow and inconsequential, suitable only for such modest purposes as introducing a quotation, list, or statement, like this:

In Turkey v. Stuffing, the court said:

This is a trespass case in which plaintiff (Turkey) alleges defendant (Stuffing) invaded Turkey’s body cavity, causing pain and suffering. We hold that Turkey’s claim is preempted by the Thanksgiving Day Required Foods Act of 1677.

But the colon can do so much more. The colon is both a separator and a pointer. As a separator, it creates a pause roughly equivalent to a semicolon. But unlike a semicolon, the colon points to what comes next, creating a link between the two statements. Here are some examples:

  • The office manager’s announcement confirmed the whispered rumors: the firm’s new carpet would be orange!
  • Joe prepared for the game by generously partaking from each of the three food groups: chips, beer, and tobacco.
  • And then things got worse: the jury requested a calculator.

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