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Catrina Coffey

ACT Punctuation: Colons and Semicolons


The colon ( : ) is a fairly straightforward punctuation mark. The rules for colon usage are clear-cut and don’t leave much room for error. Master these, and the day is yours!

Colons are used after independent clauses (a.k.a. “complete sentences”) in four situations. You can remember them by remembering the letters LEQ.



No, it doesn’t mean “for the way you look at me,” like in one of my favorite songs. Here, the L stands for list. You use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a series of items.

I have three things on my to-do list for this summer: sitting, loafing, and goofing off.



The E stands for explanation. You can use a colon after a complete sentence to expand on what you’re talking about.

This I know: Do or do not. There is no ‘try.’ – Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

While I was in Ireland, I had heaven in a cup: a Cadbury “Flake” bar in vanilla ice cream.



The Q stands for quote. You can use a colon to introduce a quotation.

Well, it’s like Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “I hate quotations.”



Semicolons are great. They’re my favorite punctuation mark—no, seriously. They’re sophisticated; use them properly, and people will be impressed at your mastery of the English language.

Here are the rules for semicolons:

  • Use a semicolon to separate two closely related independent When I say “closely related,” I mean that they clearly belong as part of the same thought. The two sentences are grammatically complete, but make much more sense when joined together.

With educated people, I suppose, punctuation is a matter of rule; with me it is a matter of feeling. But I must say I have a great respect for the semi-colon; it’s a useful little chap. Abraham Lincoln

  • Use a semicolon to separate items in a list that already contain commas. In this example, the narrator is meeting with three If I hadn’t used semicolons, you might think the narrator was meeting five people.

I have a meeting with Donna Jones, the school principal; Ms. Hawkins, my daughter’s English teacher; and Jim Jackman, the volleyball coach.

Unclear version: I have a meeting with Donna Jones, the school principal, Ms. Hawkins, my daughter’s English teacher, and Jim Jackman, the volleyball coach.


About Catrina Coffey

Catrina graduated from Rider University with a B.A. in English. She’s been helping students prepare for standardized tests since 2011. In her spare time, you can find her reading anything within arms’ reach, playing video games, correcting grammar, or studying word derivations. (Did you know that procrastinate comes from the Latin word cras, which means “tomorrow”?)

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