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I am currently working on a book (I am in the final stages) and would love to know whether the following use of the colon is correct or not:

Firstly, please take time to brainstorm all the negative thoughts, opinions, feelings, and beliefs you have about yourself below. Examples could include: "People feel uncomfortable around me." "I should be the life of the party." "I suck at conversation." Focus on identifying ...

Thank you!

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I do frequently use colons to end partial sentences that introduce lists. Such uses as the one in your example, though legitimate, are informal, and occasionally give the reader more pause than is necessary. Your sentence (or sentences), in my opinion, works well enough; but if you are picky, you might think it better constructed as a dependent clause introducing a list with elements that are independent clauses, in which case the sentence should probably look more like this:

Examples could include "People feel uncomfortable around me," "I should be the life of the party," or "I suck at conversation."

In this instance, I think the choice is between following grammatical conventions with which fewer people will take issue (the revised sentence) and expressing yourself more clearly (the original sentence).

  • Thanks for your response Tucker. This is a difficult decision to make. I'd like to hear your thoughts on double spacing between each quoted sentence: is this correct, incorrect, or a style choice? I have always used double spacing after periods (I was taught to do this), but spacing after colons/semicolons always confuses me. – user112771 Mar 6 '15 at 6:15
  • To be honest, I have never heard of double spacing at all in the context of common usage. As with every rule of grammar, I am sure that, to some degree, it is a style choice (just like Cormac McCarthy's refusal to use quotation marks) - so, as with every rule of grammar, you are free to do what you want with it. But if you are planning to "go against the grain," so to speak, and double space after sentences, I recommend having a reason for doing so. In either case, I would personally keep spacing after colons and semicolons single, simply for aesthetic reasons. – Tucker Sigourney Mar 6 '15 at 6:25
  • Many thanks Tucker. There is so much argument about double spacing, and I guess it is time to "get with the times" (I am not even in my forties yet though!). If that is what publishers want I guess I'll need to sign up to some kind of serial-double-spacers program! – user112771 Mar 6 '15 at 7:53

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