Learn to Write English Clearly and Correctly

Set 4 - Lesson 18

Return to the List of Lessons Go to the Answer Key

Return to the Say-it-in-English Entry Page

Lesson 18,  Colons, Semi-colons, Quotation Marks:


Colons are most commonly used to introduce a list, a series,  numerical results, a passage extracted from another source, texts, and explanations that mean the same as the introductory words.  A colon ( : ) is used after an introductory word, phrase or sentence  but not when the series is the direct object of a verb or preposition or directly follows a form of the verb " to be ".  Here are some right and some wrong examples:

Special Case:  In a formal tabulation (list), such as in an official Job Description or a Resume, you may use a colon after a form of the verb " to be."   Example:

The qualities of a good Boy Scout leader are:


Moral integrity


Use a colon to indicate clock time, unless the time is right on the hour.

Use a colon between the name of a publisher and the city of publication in a Footnote.


Use a colon in Bible references to separate the chapter from the verse.


A semi-colon is a comma with a period sitting above its head -  ;   It is used to indicate a more serious pause than a simple comma.  Within a sentence, one's voice usually lowers when it gets to a place where a semi-colon would be used, almost the same as with a period.

Notes:  Always place a semi-colon outside quotation marks.   Never use a semi-colon before a parenthesis or an expression enclosed in parentheses.


Use quotation marks to enclose the exact words of a speaker or writer.

Note:  If the exact words are written immediately after the name of the speaker, as in a question and answer format, do not use quotation marks.  Example:

Judge Judy:  How much damage was done to your car?

Plaintiff Jones:  At least $1,800, Judge.

Judge Judy:  Were there any other losses from the accident?

When the material being quoted is longer than one paragraph, use Quotation Marks at the beginning of each paragraph, but only at the end of the last paragraph.

Use Quotation Marks around a word or phrase that is accompanied by its definition.

Use Quotation Marks around an unusual word or phrase or a special trade word the first time it is used. 

Use Quotation Marks to enclose the titles of:

articles -  "Severe Weather Becoming More Common." chapters or parts of books - "Part 1 - The Early Days" brochures or pamphlets - "Install Your Own Drywall" operas - "Carmen"
paintings or sketches - "Mona Lisa" plays or motion pictures - "The House on Haunted Hill" poems - "Ode on a Grecian Urn" songs - "I Want to Hold Your Hand"

Use Single Quotation Marks to enclose a quotation within a quotation.

More notes about Quotation Marks:  Periods and commas always go inside the quotation marks.  Colons and semi-colons always go outside the quotation marks.  Question marks and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks if the entire quotation is a question or exclamation.  They go outside if the quotation is only part of the sentence.

Exercise A:  Put the colons, semi-colons and quotation marks where they belong in the following sentences.

1. Republicans make up 58 percent of the registered voters in this county  Democrats, 40 percent.

2. Mark usually awoke at 630 in the morning  however, this morning he overslept.

3. Will you please hurry, Arnold called to his wife.  It is time to leave.

4. The professional ball player signed these words on my baseball  Always play fair and you'll be a winner.

5. There was a lot of junk left in the desk I bought at the auction  paperclips, rubber bands, thumbtacks,  scraps of paper, old envelopes and a dried-up ballpoint pen.

Exercise B:  Cross out the punctuation that is wrong, circle the punctuation that is right and add the punctuation that is missing.

 10:A.M. The Mona Lisa is located in Paris. "Shut up! the judge ordered."
The new term to refer to internet business is ecommerce.
     Answer these questions; 1, 4, 7, 10.
 Genesis:12:7 H.B. Stowe: Uncle Tom's Cabin: Atlanta: Random House: 1853.
1115 hours is military time. 1159 P.M. The young poet wrote 'I Am' .


Examination:  The following sentences illustrate the Punctuation Rules in this lesson, but the specific punctuation has been left out.  Place the colons, semi-colons and quotation marks where they should be.

1. Betty told the other club members,  Yesterday when I went to pick up my daughter from dance class, she said to me, Mom, I was able to stand on my toes for a whole minute!

2. I never liked the play Oklahoma  therefore, I never bought the soundtrack.

3. The term blitz has a different meaning today than it did in the 1940's.

4. The hypnotist gave Mrs. Murray a list of instructions  find a quiet room away from distractions close the curtains or blinds  put the lamp on its lowest setting   sit back in a soft, comfortable chair.

5. The policeman shouted, Get out of my way!  as he chased the thief down the sidewalk.

6. I knew the game was nearly over  the crowd began edging toward the parking lot.

7. I had not planned to work long at that job  besides, the pay was lousy.

c. 2000 - 2017   Montoursville, PA  17754     

Over 300 of My Favorite Songs from the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's.

Practice reading English with Lyrics of the songs and histories of the singers and bands at  www.mikiemetric.com .

 Return to the top of the page.