Colons and semi-colons often get confused, but only because they look similar. The jobs they do are very clearly different.
The job of a colon is to show you that what is coming next will be examples of, or the complete description or list of, what you have just mentioned. They can be used with or without bullet points. Here are some examples.
1. As a result of our investigation, we recommend that you:
- Increase the number of staff in the unit by at least two
- Train the junior staff in telephone techniques, and
- Identify a team leader to manage shifts
2. He was surprised by several items in the report: the amount of wastage, the cost of casual labour and the response time for complaints.
Used like this, the colon is clear and useful. No other punctuation mark does that job and it does no other job.
A colon does not replace a full stop and should not appear at the end of a sentence. You do not need a capital letter after a colon, unless the word needs it anyway.
3. The company has bought subsidiaries in several countries this year: France, Spain and Canada.
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