Colons: Two Dots, So Much Meaning

Contributor: Jennifer Blanchard. Lesson ID: 13453

Have you ever noticed two dots, one on top of another, when you're reading? It looks like this : Why is it there? What does it do? Complete this lesson to see when, where, and how to use it!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • Did you know there are 14 punctuation marks in the English language, and the colon is one of them?
  • Did you know that the colon can be called the great organizer?
  • Did you know that both dots in a colon are the same size?


Keep reading to learn how great writers use the colon to organize their writing!

This lesson will show you what a colon is as well as when and how to use it.

Understanding punctuation helps you comprehend what you read and write more clearly so that others can understand you!

  • Do you remember what a colon looks like?


Those two little dots, one on top of the other, is a colon!

This punctuation mark can be used in five main ways to organize ideas and make ideas more clear.

  1. A colon can be used to introduce a list or a series of items.

As you look at these examples, spot the colon and how it starts a list:

For the beach trip, you will need to bring: a swimsuit, a towel, water, sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.

In order to make spaghetti, the ingredients needed are: pasta, marinara sauce, Parmesan cheese, and ground beef.

The bookstore had books separated by: home decor, gardening, baking, and sewing.

  1. A colon can be used to help show time more clearly.

For example, if you want to say it is one-thirty in the afternoon, you could write 1:30 PM. The colon goes between the hour and the minutes.

Look at these examples:

7:24 AM

6:45 PM

12:20 AM

  1. A colon can be used to separate a title from a subtitle.

For example:

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

William Shakespeare: The Complete Works

  1. A colon can be used to separate independent clauses within a sentence.

Remember that an independent clause is a group of words with its own subject and action (verb) that creates a complete thought.

The clause after a colon gets the most emphasis, and it either completes the thought of the clause before it or explains that first clause further.

Look at these examples:

All the family members agreed: they wanted to get a new puppy.

A dolphin is not a fish: it is a warm-blooded mammal.

  • Do you see how the second clause completes the first clause by providing the truly important information?
  1. A colon can be used to introduce a quote or direct speech.

Check out these examples:

He offered the following advice: "Take your time and try your best on the test."

My mom warned me: "Finish cleaning the kitchen before you go outside to play."

These are the five main uses for colons; however, there are a few other times when a colon is used to organize writing. Examples include Bible verses and in screenplays or interviews to show who is speaking.

Review all you just learned with Colon song from Grammaropolis - "The Colon: The Great Organizer" from Grammaropolis:

When you are ready, head over to the Got It? section for some colon practice!

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