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It seems colons are used more restrictively in English than in my native language (German), so I'm having a bit of trouble with it.

Do you think the use of the colon in the following sentences is good style in English, or should I better replace the colons (by semicolons)?

  • This leads us to the main goal of this work: to define a statistical model for object recognition.
  • I am following my father's advice: first I look left, then right, then I cross the street.

I'm really using the colon here for ", which is": "This leads us to the main goal of this work, which is to define a statistical model for object recognition" to make it more concise. Is that wrong? Are there any other good ways to make it as concise as possible and get rid of superfluous words like "which is?"

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Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/14717/… – chrisjlee Aug 18 '11 at 16:38
up vote 12 down vote accepted

I believe your use is fine in both instances, and your understanding of its purpose is correct. Especially in example one, I think a colon is an excellent way to point out the main goal of an academic paper.

Note: Some (but not all) style guides call for the clause following the colon to begin with a capital letter if it's a complete sentence (as in example two).

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You are correct. The first type of colon introduces an example or list of examples, and lowercased items are standard. When what follows is a complete sentence, then the first letter is uppercased. – The Raven Mar 20 '11 at 16:48

Your use of the colon in those two sentences is totally standard. It is indeed equivalent to ", which is:" and this is OK.

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can colons also be used for something like this: the dog is blue: it is the same color as my car, where the colon is used instead of , that is – Alexej Magura Jan 20 '14 at 18:10

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