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Punctuation 03 - Colons and Semi-Colons
See if you can get 10 out of 10 in this quiz.

Punctuation 03 - Colons and Semi-Colons

Punctuation marks, and the ways we use them, are like traffic rules. They help us to write better and communicate better. For anyone to read and write well it is imperative that punctuation be understood in its entirety.

We have learnt that several punctuation marks play an important role in writing the English language. Full-stops (or periods) and commas are among the most widely used punctuation marks. While full-stops, exclamation marks and question marks are punctuation marks that signal the end of a sentence, commas are used in a variety of situations where a pause is warranted. Similar to commas, but significantly different from them, are semicolons and colons.

Semicolons are punctuation marks that separate elements of equal importance in a sentence unlike the comma, which can be used to separate a main clause from a subordinate clause. Semicolons are also used to separate list items when the list makes use of commas, as in this sentence:

‘In the last few weeks I have been to Chennai, Tamil Nadu; Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh; Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh and Jodhpur, Rajasthan.’ Here the semicolon is an appropriate punctuation mark which is able to make the meaning very clear.

Similar to the semicolon, the colon is one of the punctuation marks that have their special use in writing. The colon is predominantly used to support the idea before the colon and explain the elements further. What follows after the colon could be a detailed description of the element that preceded it. The colon helps to separate the hypothesis from its proof. The colon finds widespread usage in very formal situations that include hours and minutes, subtitles of books and formal letters.

The semi colon and the colon are important elements of the English language that improve its overall presentation and, more importantly, make the meaning of what is being communicated very clear. Take the quiz that follows to understand the usage of semicolons and colons.
1.
Choose the sentence with the correct punctuation.
M S Dhoni is so reckless that he'll give the ball to anyone, even Ajinkya Rahane; he is not a bowler, not even in his dreams.
M S Dhoni is so reckless that he'll give the ball to anyone, even Ajinkya Rahane: he is not a bowler not even in his dreams.
M S Dhoni is so reckless that he'll give the ball to anyone, even Ajinkya Rahane: he is not a bowler, not even in his dreams.
M S Dhoni is so reckless that he'll give the ball to anyone even Ajinkya Rahane: he is not a bowler, not even in his dreams.
A colon is used before a description and here Ajinkya Rahane's bowling capability is being described. The other options are not punctuated appropriately
2.
Choose the sentence with the correct punctuation.
There are primarily two ways to play a back hand shot in tennis: with a double handed stroke, which is using both hands; or a single handed stroke, which is the stroke perfected by Roger Federer.
There are primarily two ways to play a back hand shot in tennis: with a double handed stroke, which is using both hands: or a single handed stroke, which is the stroke perfected by Roger Federer.
There are primarily two ways to play a back hand shot in tennis; with a double handed stroke, which is using both hands; or a single handed stroke, which is the stroke perfected by Roger Federer.
There are primarily two ways to play a back hand shot in tennis: with a double handed stroke, which is using both hands; or a single handed stroke; which is the stroke perfected by Roger Federer.
The colon is used to support the idea before the colon and explain the elements further after it. Remember a colon is used after a sentence when you want to introduce a list. Also, remember a semicolon is used to separate elements of a series when one or more of the units contain commas. The punctuation used in other options is not appropriate
3.
Choose the sentence with the correct punctuation.
Some of my friends play with a Wilson racquet; others play with a Head or a Yonex.
Some of my friends play with a Wilson racquet. Others play with a Head or a Yonex.
Some of my friends play with a Wilson racquet, others play with a Head or a Yonex.
Some of my friends play with a Wilson racquet: others play with a Head or a Yonex.
The semicolon here connects related ideas by linking two independent clauses. The colon is not appropriate here as the second part of the sentence is not a description of the first part
4.
Choose the sentence with the correct punctuation.
We plead, therefore; that you reveal this information to no one.
We plead, therefore that you reveal this information to no one.
We plead, therefore, that you reveal this information to no one.
We plead therefore, that you reveal this information to no one.
If you can do with a comma it is better to use one. Here the semicolon is not the appropriate punctuation mark
5.
"Complete your assignment; it is absolutely essential that you complete it." - Which statement about the sentence is correct?
The punctuation is wrong; it should have only comma.
The punctuation is wrong; it should have no punctuation mark.
The punctuation is wrong; there should be an exclamation mark.
The punctuation is correct.
The semicolon is the appropriate punctuation mark as the sentence contains two independent clauses without a conjunction to help connect them
6.
Choose the sentence with the correct punctuation.
The invoice was raised two months earlier; therefore I expected the payment to be made by now.
The invoice was raised two months earlier; therefore, I expected the payment to be made by now.
The invoice was raised two months earlier, therefore, I expected the payment to be made by now.
The invoice was raised two months earlier therefore, I expected the payment to be made by now.
The second part is a complete sentence as is the first part. When we use words such as 'therefore' or 'however' or 'for example' or 'consequently,' to link the two sentences it is better to use a semicolon before the introductory word and a comma after the introductory word; in this case, 'therefore'
7.
Choose the sentence with the correct punctuation.
Trupti packed her father's car with all the things required for the camping trip: foldable tents, pegs, torch, ropes and books.
Trupti packed her father's car with all the things required for the camping trip; foldable tents, pegs, torch, ropes and books.
Trupti packed her father's car with all the things required for the camping trip, foldable tents, pegs, torch, ropes and books.
Trupti packed her father's car with all the things required for the camping trip: foldable tents, pegs; torch, ropes: books.
A colon is used after a sentence when you want to introduce a list. The semicolon is used when you link two independent clauses. The other options are not punctuated appropriately
8.
Choose the sentence with the correct punctuation.
Being new to the game of cricket I had to learn a new term 'googly' since the commentators use the word: a bowled ball that swerves in one direction and breaks in the other.
Being new to the game of cricket, I had to learn a new term 'googly' since the commentators use the word: a bowled ball that swerves in one direction and breaks in the other.
Being new to the game of cricket, I had to learn a new term 'googly' since the commentators use the word; a bowled ball that swerves in one direction and breaks in the other.
Being new to the game of cricket I had to learn a new term 'googly' since the commentators use the word; a bowled ball that swerves in one direction and breaks in the other.
A colon is used before a definition and here 'googly' is the word being defined. The other options are not punctuated appropriately
9.
Choose the sentence with the correct punctuation.
Leander Paes has played in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Bengaluru, Karnataka, Kolkata, West Bengal, Mumbai, Maharahtra.
Leander Paes has played in Chennai; Tamil Nadu, Bengaluru; Karnataka, Kolkata; West Bengal, and Mumbai; Maharahtra.
Leander Paes has played in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Bengaluru, Karnataka, Kolkata, West Bengal, and Mumbai, Maharahtra.
Leander Paes has played in Chennai, Tamil Nadu; Bengaluru, Karnataka; Kolkata, West Bengal; and Mumbai, Maharahtra.
The semicolon is used to separate elements of a series when one or more of the units contain commas. In Answer 1 you can see the confusion caused by not using the semicolon. In Answer 2 the semicolon is wrongly used just for a place
10.
"This week at the office was pretty stormy: I had a series of unpleasant meetings and I spent the whole week sorting out issues." - Is the sentence correctly punctuated?
No! The sentence is not correctly punctuated. There should be a semicolon instead of the colon.
No! The sentence is not correctly punctuated. There should be a comma instead of the colon.
No! The sentence is not correctly punctuated. There should be a full stop instead of the colon.
Yes! The sentence is correctly punctuated.
A colon is used before an explanation and here the reason for a stormy week is explained after the colon
Author:  V T Narendra

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