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As a quick reminder, sentences are comprised of independent and dependent clauses. Independent clauses contain a subject and a verb, and as their name suggests, they can stand alone without additional information e.g., the sun is shining. Dependent clauses also contain a subject and a verb, but they are incomplete sentences that need an independent clause to make sense e.g., which is a pleasant surprise. Together, independent and dependent clauses create full sentences e.g., The sun is shining, which is a pleasant surprise.

Colons are used in sentences:

  • To join two independent clauses and to emphasize the second clause (American Psychological Association, 2020, p. 156) e.g., Flooding caused road closures on January 28, 2016: Highway 1A and Cowichan Bay Road were both affected by washouts (Harnett, 2016).
  • After an independent clause when it is followed by a list, a quotation, appositive, or other idea directly related to the independent clause e.g., To complete my assignment, I need to finish three more tasks: check my APA formatting, review my grammar, and read the entire document one more time.

Do you have questions about punctuation or any other writing matter? Please contact the Writing Centre as we’d be pleased to assist you.

Theresa Bell
Manager, Blended Learning Success

(Originally published in Crossroads January 28, 2016; updated June 11, 2020; reviewed March 3, 2021)


American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).

Harnett, C. (2016, January 28). Crofton-area road closed by washout; Trans-Canada traffic flowing. Times Colonist.