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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Punctuated equilibrium

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-It-All: The colon.

Colons are not capital periods. I know they look like they could be, so bear with me through this part. This can be particularly confusing, because when correctly used, colons often follow a complete sentence and can even come just before a capital letter:

I often quote myself: It adds spice to my conversation.


Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: That is the ideal life.


Husbands should be like Kleenex: soft, strong and disposable.

A colon moves things forward. (HAHAHAHAHAHA.) It is used to join two sentences in a way that builds and then releases tension. ("I often quote myself:" - ohdearohdearwhat'scomingnextIcan'tbeartolook - "It adds spice to my conversation." - whew, now I can take a break and chuckle.)

The first part makes a statement while the second part explains it further. They are not separate sentences: they actually belong together as two halves of one thought. The second half might be a joke or might simply explain the first half. In any case, think of the colon as a signal that one phrase is related to the next. It is not a double period that would signal the end of one thought and a definite break before the beginning of the next.

The colon has other uses as well: it starts lists, it attributes quotes, and it separates subtitles from main titles of books and movies (Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi).


Sharon said...

You are very funny. I think you could publish this. A lot of people would laugh, just like I did!