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Don’t be confused by the period that has door knob above it. The dot at mid-level indicates a need to stop before readers open a new area of related information.

  • Think of the Closed Door.

Like the period, the colon requires a full stop, ending a complete sentence before proceeding to an explanatory sentence or a list of items. If the phrase is an incomplete sentence, think of an open door with no need for the doorknob. You need only a pause, so use a comma.

  1. The speaker offered an important insight: “When we’re in the valley,” he said, “we should look up, for all deep valleys are surrounded by mountain peaks.”
  2. Writing has three important elements: editing, revising, and rewriting.

The colon points to a book title’s subtitle1, introduces the verse number after the chapter number in Scripture2, announces a quotation3, and completes a formal salutation3.

Examples:
1 Eyewitness: The Life of Christ Told in One Story
2 Matthew 5:13
3 To whom it may concern:

  • Next to Quotation Marks.

Unlike periods and commas, which always go inside, the colon always goes outside the quotation marks.

Example: Here’s what I put at the top of my “to-do list”: wake up, brew a cup, and write.