Colons with Lists

The Rule:

Place a colon before the list if the words that introduce the list are a complete sentence or you use the words “following” or “as follows.”

Examples:

The required steps are as follows: read these examples, complete the practice exercise, and check your work.

  • Since the list is introduced with the words “as follows,” a colon is appropriate before the list.

Items on my to-do list include publishing this blog, downloading the pictures I took to my computer, and cleaning the dishes.

  • “Items on my to-do list include” is not a complete sentence and the sentence didn’t use the words “following” or “as follows,” so no colon.

I found all the ingredients I needed: chicken, cheese, stewed tomatoes, flour, bread crumbs, eggs, and seasonings.

  • “I found all the ingredients I needed” is a complete sentence so a colon is appropriate before the list.

 


Practice:

  1. The three largest earthquakes occurred in San Francisco, Lima, and Tokyo.
  2. The following items needed to be emailed to me the manuscript, the signed contract, and the paid deposit.
  3. Many jobs interest me teaching, editing, public speaking, and tutoring.
  4. I found some fun surprises in my pocket money, a love note, and a granola bar.
  5. I enjoy several activities such as reading, writing, learning, acting, and computer programming.

 



Answers:

  1. The three largest earthquakes occurred in San Francisco, Lima, and Tokyo. (no colon since it isn’t a complete sentence before the list)
  2. The following items needed to be emailed to me: the manuscript, the signed contract, and the paid deposit.
  3. Many jobs interest me: teaching, editing, public speaking, and tutoring.
  4. I found some fun surprises in my pocket: money, a love note, and a granola bar.
  5. I enjoy several activities such as reading, writing, learning, acting, and computer programming. (no colon since it isn’t a complete sentence before the list)

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