Notes on the Colon
average 3.4 colons per 1000 words (VC 1 million corpus:
minimum Pickwick Papers 0.5
maximum misc Linguistics papers 9.4
1.2% of all punctuation marks
In COCA 1,360,298/425 million = 3.2 per thousand
see Punctuation Frequency page for details
1748 J. Mason: 'A Comma Stops the Voice while we may privately tell one, a Semi Colon two; a Colon three: and a Period four.'
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man without a Country: 'Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.'
Street sign images
History in Google ngrams
ExamplesType 1 colon (grammatical)
King James VI Bible: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.KJVI: And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
BBC: It also made recommendations about: Charges - which it claimed were too opaque. It said bigger, lower-cost pension schemes should be able to operate
DB Fact: The Priory of Sion – A European secret society founded in 1099 – is a real organisation
New York Times: High-end consumers and the people racing for the Black Friday special on $9.44 blenders at Wal-Mart continue to have at least one thing in common: they know hot holiday products go quickly.
CEFR: CEF serves the overall aim of the Council of Europe as defined in Recommendations R (82) 18 and R (98) 6 of the Committee of Ministers: ‘to achieve greater unity among its members’ and to pursue this aim ‘by the adoption of common action in the cultural field’.
Type 2 colon (numerical separator)DB Louvre Museum, Paris 10:46pm
NYT Deuteronomy 20:16
CEFR Finnish Nine Level Scale of Language Proficiency 1993: Level 2
Type 3 colon (reported speech)
BBC Altmann, director general of Saga, said: "We need to reform …Odd uses: IPA (length mark), computer languages (separator etc)
OED Definition1. In Ancient Greek Rhetoric and Ancient Greek Prosody, a member or section of a sentence or rhythmical period; hence in Palaeogr., a clause or group of clauses written as a line, or taken as a standard of measure in ancient MSS. or texts. pl. cola.