Sunday, 6 January 2013

Colons and Colons

Photo: Anatomist90
As I dislike learning by rote, anatomy and physiology never floated my boat  during  my time as an occupational therapy student.   And so it was when I presented myself with today's picture, a transverse section across the abdomen, that I mistook this person's right kidney for a rather large poo.  Thank goodness  that I never had an inclination to become a surgeon.   Who knows what I would have whipped out if I didn't have my glasses and some helpful annotation to guide me!

1 want to talk about colons today but not the ones that are a  feature of the human digestive tract.  No, I'm talking about that tricky little punctuation mark and its close relative, the semi-colon, a half brother in the grammatical world maybe?   Even though I was subjected to an ultra-orthodox 1970s  education, where  sentence analysis and construction was a key theme during English lessons, I've never used them.  Their purpose passed me by.  Until now that is.

I've 'stumbled upon' a brilliantly useful section of the University of Bristol's website which isn't at all highbrow and academic.  It makes understanding grammar and punctuation crystal clear.  Not only does it describe how to use the colon, semi-colon and other tricky nuance of the English language correctly, there are little exercises to test your learning.  So now I have it sussed here's some sentences that show off my new found skill.

Here's a colon introducing an idea....

There is one important thing that you need to know about the kidney:  To the inexpert eye it can look like faecal matter on a CT scan.

....a list.....

The abdomen contains a number of important organs: the kidneys, liver, small intestine, colon and major blood vessels.

...and to introduce quoted material.

Lovelygrey often remembered the words of her anatomy lecturer:  'Never, ever go anywhere near an operating theatre!'

The semi-colon can be used to make sense of complicated lists...

In the abdomen there are a number of important organs including the kidneys, part of the renal system; the small intestine and colon, part of the digestive system; the liver, important to the endocrine system and major blood vessels.

..and to separate closely related independent themes.

There are colons and colons; they are different beasties altogether!


  1. Bravo! I used to love teaching these two, especially semi-colons which we'd do with a good game of 'I delved in a Boy Scout's pocket and I found...'. I have to say I rarely use them though - maybe a New Year's Resolution - give up the ! and the ... and use more : and ;!

  2. Righto: I'm going to have to use these in the future now that you've inspired us: or perhaps I'll just stick with the exclamation mark!
    Love from Mum