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#896 - 03/23/00 12:25 PM colon-oscopy
Bryan Offline

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6
Loc: New York State

How do people feel about using a colon after an incomplete sentence? For example, is it wrong to say, "... among these things are: soap, water, and computer chips"? My instinct is to agree with Strunk and White that a colon can only follow a complete sentence, but I see more and more writers (some of them quite good) using colons in the other way.

#897 - 03/27/00 09:42 AM Re: colon-oscopy
Chele Offline

Registered: 03/27/00
Posts: 1
That is abominable. What is the purpose?

#898 - 04/07/00 03:34 AM Post deleted by wsieber
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1027
Loc: Switzerland

#899 - 04/07/00 04:05 AM Re: colon-oscopy
jmh Offline

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
I'm OK with colons but semi-colons bother me. I'm pretty hazy about them but generally use them to divide up lists which follow the use of a colon. I think that schools are so happy to get pupils to write in sentences with capital letters and full stops that the use of semi colons drop of the list. These days the bullet point has taken over from long consecutive lists in most cases. Perhaps we care less about the cost of paper.

#900 - 04/10/00 02:19 AM Re: colon-oscopy
whalemeat Offline

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 14
Loc: sydney australia
There are perfectly legitimate uses of a colon after an incomplete sentence and they are not abominable or even mildly unpleasant.

A colon can be used to separate a dependent word or word group from an independent one - Warning: do not go beyond this point.

A colon can be used before a significant one-sentence quotation or a quotation made up of more than one sentence - Jane Austen said: "One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other half"

A colon can be used between speaker identification and speech in a text such as a play or between a title and a subtitle.

There must be other possibilities.

#901 - 04/12/00 06:54 PM Re: colon-oscopy
jeff Offline

Registered: 03/28/00
Posts: 39
Loc: Chicagoland
Hi Bryan,

The colon might be employed to condense your example. Let’s say your sentence came from the following text. "Mary Poppins carries a magic portmanteau of her favorite things. Among these are soap, water, and computer chips". Now let's use the colon. "Mary Poppins carries a magic portmanteau of her favorite things: soap, water, and computer chips." The problem with this last construction is that it loses the notion conveyed by “among” that the things listed are only a partial contents of the bag. Care is advised: no one ever said this stuff was easy.

Many desk dictionaries have a style or grammar section. If you turn to page 1535 of Merriam-Webster's 10th Collegiate, you will see no less than eight acceptable uses for the colon. If you don't have a copy of MW10, you are not using the favorite of the true linguaphile. Not all dictionaries are created equal, and I would further aver that no other desk-sized dictionary is equal to the Merriam. I'll spare you the reasons, since you doubtless have no desire to hear more about the descriptivists, citation files, language research, and the like. Suffice it to say, if you harbor a true desire to understand and emulate the language of your fellow native speakers as it is spoken today, you will appreciate this dictionary. Besides, all those permanent language scholars and lexicographers at Merriam are depending on sales to put their kids through college. I always like to be helpful. :-)



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