Knowledge of Language - Colons and Semicolons
I was going to wash my hair!

Knowledge of Language - Colons and Semicolons

This English Language quiz is called 'Knowledge of Language - Colons and Semicolons' and it has been written by teachers to help you if you are studying the subject at middle school. Playing educational quizzes is a fabulous way to learn if you are in the 6th, 7th or 8th grade - aged 11 to 14.

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Colons are used in three ways: (1) to illustrate a point, (2) when using subtext in titles, and (3) when introducing a list (such as has been done in presenting these three points) or the introduction in a letter [Dear Sir:].

Example of illustrating a point: “The Hunger Games” is a very popular movie: It was sold out everywhere I went.

Example of illustrating a subtext: “The Solar System: Earth and Beyond”

Example of illustrating a list: I like all kinds of chocolates: milk, dark and white.

Semicolons are used when the difference between two separate statements is being emphasized. Some refer to the semicolon as the “super comma” as it can be used in place of a comma to give more emphasis. Generally there is a joining word used in conjunction with the semicolon. (Conjunction words such as: however, otherwise, therefore, subsequently and in addition to.) It is important to remember that the sentence before the semicolon and the sentence after the semicolon are each complete independent sentences. If one is not, then a semicolon should not be used.

Example: Mark has no problem spending money on specialty cars; however, he is a tight wad when it comes to buying furniture.

There are two sentences here, i.e., “Mark has no problem spending money on specialty cars,” and “He is a tight wad when it comes to buying furniture.” The two sentences are joined by the conjunction word “however.” The first sentence is ended with the semicolon followed by a conjunction (however) and a pause (comma) and, finally, the second sentence.

Semicolons can also be used in place of a comma when providing a list. For example, the sentence given above, “I like all kinds of chocolates: milk, dark and white,” could also be written as, “I like all kinds of chocolates: milk; dark and white. Using either a comma or semicolon is correct and is dependent upon how the writer wants to express themselves.

1.
Choose the answer that shows the correct usage of the colon or the semicolon.

Are you familiar with the slogan You deserve a break today?
Are you familiar with the slogan; You deserve a break today?
Are you familiar with the slogan, You deserve a break today?
Are you familiar with the slogan: You deserve a break today?
Are you familiar with the slogan You deserve a break today?
A colon is used to illustrate a point. In this sentence, the writer is illustrating the point of the slogan so we need to see a colon before what is being illustrated. Therefore, a colon needs to come before “You” and after “slogan.” Neither Answer (a), (b) nor (d) contains a colon. This tells us that each of them is incorrect. Answer (c), on the other hand, correctly demonstrates the usage of a colon when making an illustration of a point.
2.
Choose the answer that shows the correct usage of the colon or the semicolon.

Kathy visited Miami Florida Atlanta Georgia Dallas Texas and Phoenix Arizona.
Kathy visited Miami, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; and Phoenix, Arizona.
Kathy visited Miami, Florida, Atlanta, Georgia, Dallas, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona.
Kathy visited Miami, Florida: Atlanta, Georgia: Dallas, Texas: and Phoenix, Arizona.
Kathy visited Miami Florida, Atlanta Georgia, Dallas Texas and Phoenix Arizona.
In this sentence there is no need to use a colon. This immediately tells us that Answer (c) is not correct. Although using a comma to separate items in a list is the most common usage of it, if we were to just use commas in this listing it would look as though Kathy visited eight places. Therefore, Answer (b) is not correct. A comma is needed to separate a city from a state so a comma should be used between each city and state above giving us four places that Kathy visited. Answer (d) omits this crucial comma so it is not the correct answer. To separate one city and state from another in the list, a semicolon would be the preferred punctuation mark to make it more clear that Kathy visited four places. Therefore, Answer (a) shows the correct usage of the semicolon along with a comma for this sentence.
3.
Choose the answer that shows the correct usage of the colon or the semicolon.

I have four pets a cat a dog a horse and a gold fish.
I have three pets; a cat; a dog; a horse; and a gold fish.
I have three pets a cat, a dog, a horse, and a gold fish.
I have three pets: a cat, a dog, a horse and a gold fish.
I have three pets, a cat, a dog, a horse and a gold fish.
This sentence illustrates a listing of pets so we know that a colon must be used. A colon does not appear in Answers (a), (b) or (d); therefore, they are not correct. Answer (c) shows the correct usage of a colon to illustrate a listing of pets with the proper usage of commas.
4.
Choose the answer that shows the correct usage of the colon or the semicolon.

Try this dress on blue seems to be a good color for you.
Try this dress on; blue seems to be a good color for you.
Try this dress on blue seems to be a good color for you.
Try this dress on, blue seems to be a good color for you.
Try this dress on. Blue seems to be a good color for you.
This sentence is in need of a punctuation mark to be used within it. As such, Answer (b) is not correct. The answer shown in Answer (d) shows two independent sentences separated by a period. It does not demonstrate how the sentences are linked together and; therefore, is not what we are looking for in this quiz. Answer (c) could be used with a comma but the speaker is trying to emphasize that the dress should be tried on. When you want to give more attention or emphasis, a semicolon is needed. Therefore, Answer (a) shows us emphasis on the dress and is the correct answer.
5.
Choose the answer that shows the correct usage of the colon or the semicolon.

He will need to clean his room up otherwise his mother will not let him go out.
He will need to clean his room up: otherwise; his mother will not let him go out.
He will need to clean his room up; otherwise, his mother will not let him go out.
He will need to clean his room up, otherwise his mother will not let him go out.
He will need to clean his room up otherwise, his mother will not let him go out.
The word “otherwise” is a conjunction word connecting two separate sentences. Whenever you have a conjunction word, a colon is never used before it unless the word “otherwise” is the beginning of a subtext. As Answer (a) shows a colon before a conjunction word, it is an incorrect answer. Answer (c) shows the correct usage of the second comma after the conjunction word but shows the incorrect usage before a conjunction word. Answer (c) is not correct. Answer (d) shows the correct usage of a comma after a conjunction word but does not show how the two sentences are separated so it is incorrect. Finally, Answer (b) is the answer that shows the proper usage of the semicolon and the comma.
6.
Choose the answer that shows the correct usage of the colon or the semicolon.

To Whom It May Concern
To whom it may concern:
To Whom It May Concern:
To Whom, It May Concern:
To Whom; It May Concern
“To Whom It May Concern” is the introduction to a letter. Therefore, it gets a colon placed at the end. Since it is an introduction, all of the words need capital letters. Introductions do not contain semi-colons and no pause (comma) is needed. Therefore, Answer (b) shows the correct usage of the colon.
7.
Choose the answer that shows the correct usage of the colon or the semicolon.

I was going to wash my hair however we were out of hot water.
I was going to wash my hair: however, we were out of hot water.
I was going to wash my hair; however; we were out of hot water.
I was going to wash my hair, however, we were out of hot water.
I was going to wash my hair; however, we were out of hot water.
Whenever you have a conjunction word, a colon is never used before it unless the word “however” is the beginning of a subtext. As Answer (a) shows a colon before a conjunction word, it is an incorrect answer. Answer (b) shows the correct usage of the first semicolon as it appears before a conjunction word. A conjunction word is not followed by a semicolon. Therefore, Answer (b) is also incorrect. Answer (c) correctly shows the second comma after a conjunction word but it shows an incorrect usage of the comma before a conjunction word. A semicolon comes before a conjunction. This then tells us that Answer (d) shows the correct placement of the semicolon and the comma.
8.
Choose the answer that shows the correct usage of the colon or the semicolon.

Nicholas made a hole in one there was no one there to see it.
Nicholas made a hole-in-one: there was no one there to see it.
Nicholas made a hole-in-one; there was no one there to see it.
Nicholas made a hole-in-one there was no one there to see it.
Nicholas, made a hole-in-one, there was no one there to see it.
When using a semicolon (;) a conjunction word needs to follow it. In Answer (b), there is no conjunction word following the semicolon so Answer (b) is incorrect. Answer (c) shows no colon or semicolon. This sentence, to flow smoothly, is in definite need of a punctuation mark within it so it, too, is not correct. Answer (d) shows improper use of the comma so it is not the correct answer either. Answer (a) shows two thoughts to illustrate a point but has no conjunction word. This is a perfect place for a colon. Answer (a) is the correct choice.
9.
Choose the answer that shows the correct usage of the colon or the semicolon.

He knew how he would handle it he would get a loan.
He knew how he would handle it. He would get a loan.
He knew how he would handle it: he would get a loan.
He knew how he would handle it; he would get a loan.
He knew how he would; handle it, he would get a loan.
When using a semicolon (;) a conjunction word generally needs to follow it. In Answer (c), there is no conjunction word following the semicolon so Answer (c) is incorrect. Answer (a) has made the sentence two separate sentences by putting a period after “it” and then capitalizing “he.” Although this can be correct, it is not the answer we are looking for in this colon/semicolon quiz. Answer (d) shows an improper use of the semicolon as it is not before a conjunction word and the comma is not needed. Finally, Answer (b) shows us the correct usage of the colon used to illustrate a point.
10.
Choose the answer that shows the correct usage of the colon or the semicolon.

Dear Miss Cole I would like to remind you of a problem.
Dear Miss Cole, I would like to remind you of a problem.
Dear, Miss Cole; I would like to remind you of a problem.
Dear Miss Cole; I would like to remind you of a problem.
Dear Miss Cole: I would like to remind you of a problem.
This sentence is telling us that a letter is being written. The introduction of a letter always receives a colon at the end. The introduction of this letter is “Dear Miss Cole.” There should be no separation between “Dear” and “Miss” so Answer (b) is not correct. Answer (a) shows a comma after the introduction and Answer (c) shows a semicolon after the introduction so both of these are not correct. That leaves us with Answer (d) which shows the correct usage of a colon in the beginning of a letter.
Author:  Christine G. Broome

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