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Colons – Part One – Linguistic Love Tour with @ChryseWymer #amwriting

Thank you to the wonderful Kriss Morton for allowing me the space to write about one of my favorite subjects: colons. Many authors seem almost afraid of them, and it’s an incredibly useful mark that I think we should embrace (when needed).


This month, I’ll be hopping along from blog to blog to share my knowledge on the nuts and bolts of great writing. I am a copy editor, proofreader, and author—published both traditionally and independently. I’m also raffling off Amazon gift cards to get you started on your editing bookshelves. You can contact me at [email protected], or, for more information, visit: At the previous site, I’ll also be keeping a list of the blogs I’ve visited and the subject matter I’ve shared. So here goes:

Colons Part Onefade-line-divider

Before getting into the meat of colon usage, I want to reiterate that colons and semicolons are often misused. The semicolon stops the forward movement of a statement while a colon marks a forward movement, often emphasizing it.

The following video is, in my opinion, helpful in differentiating basic colon vs. semicolon use: There are grammatical errors in it, but the actual information on semicolons vs. colons is correct.

Colons promise the completion of something just begun.

There are five uses for this mark; the first is the one most often used by fiction writers.
First, the colon may link two separate clauses or phrases by indicating a step forward from the first to the second, e.g.:

Finally, Cliff arrived at his destination: the Capitol Grill.
 . . . Hunter realized the truth: Sabrina’s cheeks were bright red, and her eyes were bloodshot. John Abramowitz, Identity Theft

What comes after a colon may be a phrase (first example) or a full clause (second example).
All authorities currently agree that when a phrase (sentence part without a subject and verb) follows a colon, the first word should NOT be capitalized.

Word nerds are divided about whether or not to capitalize when a complete clause (subject and verb) follows a colon. Examples of correct usage with both the “up” and “down” styles:

First rule of trial work: Never let the jury see you sweat. John Abramowitz, Identity Theft
Anna stared at the oak-framed print: against a backdrop of yellow wheat stalks, two sinuous black panthers stared at each other in defiance. Robynn Gabel, Windswept Hearts

My personal preference, despite most circumstances, is the down/lowercase style. The “down” style, to me, links the thoughts more closely together. Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition agrees with this. However, there are some cases in which I believe a capital is warranted. The Identity Theft example above is one of them. The capital letter gives more emphasis to the completed clause.

So with phrases following a colon, you always lowercase the first letter after the colon. With clauses, either is technically correct. Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Ed. states that a capital letter should always be used when introducing a series of sentences. But let clarity and rhythm be your guide.

Thanks for reading, and join me again tomorrow for part two on colons:

About Chryse Wymer

Chryse11-4-13Chryse Wymer is a freelance copy editor and proofreader whose main focus is on indie writers. Her clients have been well reviewed, and one was recently chosen as a top-five finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Book Awards in his category: mystery/thriller. For some years, she has been particularly obsessed with William S. Burroughs’s writing, who happened to coin the term heavy metal … her favorite music.

Contact Chryse at [email protected] – Give her a shout-out on Twitter @ChryseWymer, or like her on Facebook

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*Note from Kriss – I can count the number of editors I know personally who I would trust to work on clients or my own manuscripts, and Chryse is one of them.


  1. Signs I’m becoming a grammar nerd: I enjoyed this very much.

    • I think it’s at least a slight sign that you’re *reading* it. Heh heh. When your loved one(s) back away from you in confusion, you *know* you’re a word nerd.

  2. Good luck on your tour….and yes I colons scare me. 😉 Loved the great info that you gave, thank-you.

    • Thank you for the well wishes. I hope I alleviated potential colon anxiety (that’s right: I said, “colon anxiety.” Feel free to yuk it up.

      • Darn my itchy trigger-typing fingers. I meant to use a parentheses after that last clause.

  3. I have a comma addiction! I throw them around like candy! 🙂 [email protected]

    • How normal of you LOL

  4. Looks like a great read, I am going to have to add it to the good old kindle.

  5. Great explanation and thanks for the ping back 🙂

    • Thanks I saw yours and thought PERFECT!

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