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My homework key says that a is the correct answer, but I'm unsure why. How does the addition of "three props" change anything? In other words, how do I recognize when to apply this rule: "Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a list ofparticulars, an appositive, an amplification, or an illustrative quotation".

Which of the following statements uses colons correctly?

a. Your dedicated whittler requires three props: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch.

b. Your dedicated whittler requires: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch.

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, andy256, Mitch, tchrist, anongoodnurse Dec 12 '14 at 0:11

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Colons can be used to introduce a list when the clause before the colon is an independent clause, which means it can stand as its own sentence. "Your dedicated whittler requires three props" is an independent clause, so it can use a colon to introduce the list. "Your dedicated whittler requires" is not an independent clause, so it can't use a colon that way.

Here is a good website that describes when you should and shouldn't use a colon: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/colon.htm

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According to the Chicago Manual of Style (14th Edition) (I'm sure there's a more recent edition, but this one's on my desk), a colon is commonly used to introduce a list or a series. The example given is "Binghamton's study included the three most critical areas: McBurney Point, Rockland, and Effingham."

A colon should not be used to introduce a list that is the complement or object of an element in the introductory statement. The example given is "Madame Mirceau had taken care to (1) make facsimiles of all the documents, (3) deliver them to the foreign minister's office, and (3) leave the country."

In your option b, the three items listed are the objects of the verb requires, so they would not be preceded by a colon.

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