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Check Your Colons

colons

Every ACT test will likely have a couple of problems that test you on your knowledge of the proper use of colons.  Let’s review the tips for using colons properly.

A colon is used after a complete sentence to add additional information.  The information is usually a list, an explanation, or a quotation.  When you see a colon, expect to see this additional information.  Let’ look at a some examples.

 The football game had everything that a fan would want: spectacular plays, a dramatic finish, and an unexpected hero.

The colon introduces a list of things that a fan want.  The sentence could have ended right there, and it would have been a complete sentence.  The list of the items after the colon are explain what the football game had.

The colon can also introduce an explanation.

The football game had everything that a fan would want: the game ended with a spectacular play by an unexpected player.

This use of the colon serves to separate two independent clauses (both can stand alone as sentences).  The second clause adds explanation to the first clause.

Finally, the colon can be used to introduce a quotation.

My brother explained why he stayed until the end of the game: “I never miss a dramatic finish, because I never leave a game early!”

Remember that a colon should always be preceded by an independent clause.   If you can’t remove the colon and the text after it and have the remaining words make sense as a sentence, then then colon is not used correctly.

Finally, never have more than one colon in a sentence.  If you see two, it’s a dead giveaway that the sentence is wrong.

Scott

P.S.  See ACT Exam Secrets for more great tips for the English part of the ACT Test.

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