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Colons and semicolons

To be honest we're not the biggest fans of colons and semicolons – as long as it doesn't change the meaning we'd rather you use dashes or rewrite the sentence.

But if you can't fend them off, follow these rules on how to handle them.

Use a colon to introduce something that follows logically from and depends on the preceding text:


The role of the colon is simple: to introduce.

I have been researching the era in detail: my discoveries are completely changing our understanding of its politics.

This includes reported speech:

He said: "My discoveries are completely changing our understanding."

Use a semicolon to link two related parts of a sentence, neither of which depends logically on the other and each of which could be single sentences:

I had an excellent holiday; I've brought back souvenirs for all of you.

You can also use semicolons in a complicated list or sentence if it will make it easier to read, particularly if some of the listed items already include commas:

The university offers modules such as Biochemistry - The Building Blocks of Life; Drama, Theatre and Performance; Latin Texts: 2; Arctic Ecology Field Course; and Geobiology.