Hope you are enjoying this long-awaited spring. At RLE, springtime is summer associate time, so we are busy gearing up for lots of writing workshops.
This month’s tip is on one of writing’s most powerful, but least used, punctuation marks: the colon. I hope you'll experiment with using these two little dots to assert your points forcefully.
Until the next tip!
Beyond the Smiley Face: Use the Colon to Assert Confidence
Apart from its key role in the smiley face, the colon is a tragically underused punctuation mark. Lots of professional writers use colons only when they must—to introduce a list or a long quotation.
But the colon is a great tool for showing strength and confidence in a low-key way. The colon's function is to direct attention to whatever follows it. So when you want to amplify, explain, or illustrate a sentence, let the colon do that work for you. It adds a punch to your writing that you don’t get from words that convey similar meaning, like in that, which is, or namely.
Especially in persuasive writing, the colon is a handy way to bump up the rhetoric without coming across as overheated. Here are a couple of examples of colon power:
Evidence of external judicial actions also violates Rule 403 for an additional reason, which is that this evidence would confuse the jury by raising peripheral issues that do not need to be resolved here.
Evidence of external judicial actions violates Rule 403 for an additional reason: this evidence would confuse the jury by raising peripheral issues that do not need to be resolved here.
The defendant’s conduct has caused Revco irreparable harm in that Revco has lost the opportunity to introduce its redesigned product line at the 2013 Expo.
The defendant’s conduct has caused Revco irreparable harm: Revco has lost the opportunity to introduce its redesigned product line at the 2013 Expo.
In the revised sentences, the colon conveys a pang of suspense and anticipation. Is it me, or does the colon remind you of the first two notes of Law & Order's iconic theme song? Dah dumm. Think of the colon as your pocket flashlight: use it to shine the spotlight on what’s important. But don't overdo it. As one of my clients put it (half-jokingly), with the great power of the colon comes great responsibility.