Can I use a colon twice in a sentence? For example, I would like to punctuate the following sentence as shown:

These are hugely important factors for S. Oliver Canada as we’re dealing with a brand: 1) that is unknown in our market and: 2) that is known for low prices.

  • 5
    No. And in fact you wouldn't use a single colon. And you'd factor out the "that is", writing it as "a brand that is 1) unknown in our market and 2) known for low prices". – RegDwigнt Oct 21 '13 at 18:43
  • You might very well use a single colon if you reworded the sentence as follows: "These are hugely important factors for S. Oliver Canada as we’re dealing with a brand that possesses two relevant features: (1) it is unknown in our market; and (2) it is known [elsewhere] for its low prices." In this case, the semicolon after the first item helps indicate that the information following the colon is in parallel with the numbered material that follows. But since the reader already has that information, there is no need for the writer to repeat the colon after and. – Sven Yargs Aug 26 '16 at 0:21
  • Use of a colon: David S. asks: "Can I use it twice in one sentence?" – GEdgar Aug 26 '16 at 0:30

It is ill-advised to do so, and in your particular case you would be better off removing both colons entirely.

Multiple lists in a single sentence, though not forbidden, is not advised in writing, as it leads very strongly towards run-on sentences. Colons, when used to start a list, should particularly be used sparingly, as they denote a definite list of items separate from the sentence itself, and using multiples of them leads to a very cumbersome and difficult to read sentence.

In your case, these colons are not even needed, since each individual numbered item is in a list of its own. If you wish to keep all of the information on the same line, removing the colons entirely and leaving the sentence otherwise unchanged is advisable.

If you are going for the highest level of clarity, you could instead create a short numbered list.

'These are hugely important factors for S. Oliver Canada as we’re dealing with a brand that:

  1. Is unknown in our market
  2. is known for low prices"

But even this is a bit more complicated than you truly need.

For your sentence, a list is not actually required at all

You only have two items of interest. So it would be a far better idea to just name those two items.

"These are hugely important factors for S. Oliver Canada as we’re dealing with a brand that is unknown in our market and that is known for low prices."

This however is starting to verge on writing advice instead of grammatical advice. But in short - when you are writing and want to convey information, to get the greatest effect, use the fewest words. Or as the saying goes, 'less is more'.


In your example, the colon is unnecessary because by numbering you items, it is already clear that you are providing a list. Another way to show this would be to replace the colon with the words "such as." You would not say "...dealing with a brand such as 1) that is unknown in our market and: 2) that is known for low prices...'

  • 1
    We appreciate the desire to help, but please consider either expanding your answer or deleting it. Questions should be answered as an expert would answer them: comprehensively, with explanation and context. Explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Unsupported answers may be removed. (more¹) (more²) – MetaEd Aug 25 '16 at 22:49

I agree that using two colons in a sentence is generally inadvisable, but there are situations when it can work just fine, for example, in the case of two independent clauses separated by a semicolon, with each independent clause containing a list (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semicolon on the use of semicolons). For example:

He likes fruit: apples, oranges and pears; she likes vegetables: lettuce, celery, and beets.

This sentence contains two colons, is grammatically correct, and is easy to understand. The semicolon does the heavy lifting here.

  • Counting periods, yes. That's one way to look at it. Looked at from the linguistic perspective, your example consists of (at least) two sentences. The choice of a semicolon over a period doesn't change the grammatical structure. – MetaEd Aug 25 '16 at 23:53
  • @MetaEd Your comment does not surprise me. And you're right: I was counting periods ... and relying on standard terminology in grammar, not linguistics.I was merely trying to construct an unobjectionable sentence with two colons. That said, I don't understand how you could argue that this could be more than two sentences. Will you enlighten me? – Richard Kayser Aug 26 '16 at 1:15
  • Possibly as (1) "He likes fruit" (2) "apples, oranges and pears" (3) "she likes vegetables" (4) "lettuce, celery, and beets". #1 and #3 as complete sentences (having subject and predicate), #2 and #4 as minor sentences, parenthetical inserts into the primary utterance. – MetaEd Aug 26 '16 at 14:57
  • @MetaEd Thanks for taking the time. I'll learn more. – Richard Kayser Aug 26 '16 at 15:58

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