Colon vs Semicolon


Punctuation marksAlthough the colon and the semicolon look similar, they each have very different uses in the English language.

In this lesson, we will take a look at the colon vs semicolon.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here to get the English Short Stories Book and Workbook


The colon looks like one period on top of another ( : ).

The semicolon looks like a period on top of a comma ( ; ).

Both the colon and the semicolon are made on a keyboard by using the same key ( :/; ) which is one key to the right of the "L".

However, to make a colon, you must push the colon/semicolon key and the SHIFT key at the same time.

Uses of the Colon

The colon is one of the easiest forms of punctuation in the English language because it is used for one thing: to introduce.

A colon gives emphasis, or importance, to whatever is being introduced because it causes the reader to fully stop and pay attention to what comes next.


The colon is used to introduce words, phrases, lists and quotations.

Examples:
  • I have many pets: dogs, cats, fish and birds.

  • Richard had only one person on his mind: his girlfriend, Rose.

  • My favorite quote is from my dad: "Follow your dreams."

  • It takes one thing to graduate from high school: hard work.


The colon can also be used for punctuation after the greeting in a formal business letter.

Examples:
  • Dear Sir:

  • To Whom It May Concern:

  • Hiring Manager:

  • Dear Madam:

Uses of the Semicolon

1) The semicolon is used to connect, or put together, two related or similar sentences.

Examples:
  • Mom is taking us to the beach; then she is driving us to the movie theater.

  • Tommy cleaned his room; therefore, he is allowed to stay up 30 minutes later tonight.

  • I bought a new bike; the tire is flat.

  • Jill wants to adopt a cat; her old cat did not like it.

2) We also use a semicolon to connect items in a list if there are already commas in the sentence.

Use a semicolon when listing dates, locations, and names with descriptions.

Examples:
  • I have lived in Baltimore, Maryland; Dallas, Texas; and Miami, Florida.

  • My favorite teachers are Mrs. Smith, my reading teacher; Mr. Johnson, my math teacher; and Miss Jones, my art teacher.

  • Sarah will be out of town for training on January 2, 2012; October 10, 2012; and January 15, 2013.

Colons and semicolon in the same sentence

Colons and semicolons can be used in the same sentence, but they are each used for different purposes.

Examples:
  • I have lived in many large cities: Baltimore, Maryland; Dallas, Texas; and Miami, Florida.

    In this example, the colon is used to introduce the cities. Semicolons are used to separate each city and state from the next city and state in the list.

  • Her three daughters were born within the last 5 years: November 16, 2008; March 17, 2010; and April 23, 2012.

    In this example, we use a colon to introduce the birth dates of the daughters. A semicolon separates each of the birth dates.

These were the differences and examples of the colon vs semicolon. Now that you know them, it is time to practice! Read and do exercises.

Get Vocabulary, Grammar and Teaching Tips, Site Updates and Special Offers Directly to Your Mailbox

Join now and get a special bonus:

First 2 chapters of the English Short Stories Book and Workbook.

Are you a teacher or a student?

* We respect your email privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.