The colon (:) and the semicolon differ greatly in use. The semicolon is a strong separator almost equal to a period, and is used only between equal parts. The colon is an introducer: calling attention to something that is to follow. It has the same meaning as follows:

  • Use the colon after the salutation of a business letter. Dear Mr. Kayode: 
  • Use the colon after a formal introductory statement to a direct attention to what is to follow:


The colon may direct attention to an appositive (or a series of appositives), to a formal list or explanation, or to a long quotation.

  • All her thoughts were centred on one objective: Marriage.
  • Poems could be divided into three clauses: narrative, Lyric, and dramatic.
  • Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart opens with: “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements”.


The colon may separate two main clauses when the second clause explains or amplifies the first.

  • This is the chief characteristic of the American Business Economy: everybody’s in it.

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