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7.26 Annunciatory function

The colon is used primarily to introduce the words that follow it. It introduces a formal quotation or a formal statement:

  • The first sentence of the circular was unequivocal: "The purpose of this circular is to announce the termination of the policy respecting federally administered prices."
  • Simply put, the directive says this: Employees may smoke in designated areas of the cafeteria, but nowhere else.

Short quotations or declarations, however, are usually introduced by a comma (see 7.18 Quotations, etc.).

The colon is also used for the question-and-answer format, to introduce dialogue and in transcriptions:

  • Some Hon. Members: Hear, hear!

The colon introduces a list, but should not be used after "such as," "for instance" or "for example," or if the list is the object or complement of an element in the annunciatory statement:

  • There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

but not

  • The subjects covered were: bonds, mutual funds and global investments.


  • The memo was sent to: directors, section managers and human resources managers.

In cases such as the last two, use no punctuation after the annunciatory statement or insert a phrase such as "the following," "as follows" or "as illustrated," which then takes a colon.

The colon can be used to introduce vertical lists, even if the series is a complement or object:

The teleworking issues before the working group included:

  • human resources
  • technology
  • space and accommodation
  • financial implications

However, here too, an introductory phrase ("the following," etc.) is preferable.