Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Colon Abuse & Misuse

Warning: Educational content follows.

This morning, as I sipped coffee, read the morning paper, and watched TV (I multi-task), I heard an important news item: President Bush was having a colonoscopy today. Wanting to stay on top of current events (or the bottom, as the case may be), I stopped sipping and reading long enough to learn that Cheney would be filling in for Dubya while he’s anesthetized.

Then my mind wandered. It does that a lot these days. I immediately thought about the punctuation mark called a colon. I hate how it’s often misused.

Colons are used in the salutation of a business letter (Dear Sir:), in time—to separate the hour and minutes (12:01 a.m.), in biblical references (Rev. 19:11), and after a complete statement to introduce additional ideas or information. More information about colons can be found at Purdue’s Online Writing Lab and Literacy Education Online.

For some reason, folks like to stick colons where they don’t belong. Some folks put a colon between a linking verb and the subject complement:
Wrong: Maggie’s favorite game is: catch.
See how wrong that looks?
Correct: Maggie’s favorite game is catch.
Catch is the complement for game.

Wrong: My favorite definition of fiction is: “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
The colon isn’t needed after the linking verb is.
Correct: My favorite definition of fiction is “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

Some folks like to stick a colon between a proposition and its object. Colons don’t go there.
Wrong: My favorite definition of fiction is by: Stephen King.
Correct: My favorite definition of fiction is by Stephen King.

I’ve noticed that many of those who abuse the colon by inserting it between a preposition and its object are kids who are so proud of their stories that they want to showcase their names. (A Tale of Two Cities, by: Little Chuckie Dickens. Arrrggghhh!) Why don’t their teachers correct them?

Enough of my ranting. Are you ready for a quiz? Test yourself on your colon knowledge at Daily Grammar.

Eliminate those colon errors. The end result is better writing.


Blogger House on the Glade Hill said...

I too, used to be a colon abuser. I probably don't use it enough.

I also caught that little snippet on our Today Show news. I was very nervous, checking the CNN and MSNBC stations periodically. I expected to find Cheney had started WWIII. Not lol. (okay just a little chuckle)

I hope your toe is better.

6:04 PM  

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