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Do I need to place a colon after 'as' in the following sentence?

The main subject of 'Animal Farm' is totalitarianism, which is defined as(:)'a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state'.

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    You don't need either the quote marks around the definition or the colon before it, so it seems a bit ott to have both. You could go even further and set your "definition" off using a different font (i.e. - italics), but these are all just stylistic choices, and I'm quite sure most writers wouldn't normally bother with any of them. Nov 30, 2020 at 17:52
  • The rule I was taught is that a colon can only follow a complete sentence, i.e. everything after is optional. In your example, that isn’t true, so I wouldn’t use a colon.
    – StephenS
    Nov 30, 2020 at 17:56
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    That's not the usual rule for colons, but since there is no usual rule, use whatever one makes you happy. Nov 30, 2020 at 17:59
  • @StephenS That is a rule of thumb rather than a binding rule. 'The 2:10, the 3:30 and the 5:15: these are the trains that we could get.' Nov 30, 2020 at 18:00
  • I think if you use the rule of thumb the dots will be too far apart. I'd use a metric ruler.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 30, 2020 at 18:00

2 Answers 2

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You have a number of options at your disposal. Here's an interesting one that--while wordy--might be appropriate in an introduction to a paragraph or two on the topic of totalitarianism:

The main subject of Animal Farm is totalitarianism, which is defined as a system of government that is a) centralized; b) dictatorial; and c) demanding, by requiring complete subservience to the state.

But no, you do not need a colon after the word as.

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  • @Chemomechanics: True that. Thanks for pointing it out. Don Dec 30, 2020 at 19:38
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Punctuation is somewhat subjective. However, one could see how a colon only slows down the reader here.

Common colon mistakes

Using a colon after “such as,” “including,” “especially,” and similar phrases. This violates the rule that the material preceding the colon must be a complete thought. Look, for example, at the following sentence:

Example (incorrect): There are many different types of paper, including: college ruled, wide ruled, and plain copy paper.

You can see that “There are many different types of paper, including” is not a complete sentence. The colon should simply be removed.

University of North Carolina

Animal Farm is a book title, and, as it currently stands, it should be in italics:

A couple of generations ago, it was the custom to enclose all titles in quotation marks: titles of books, titles of poems, titles of films, titles of newspapers, and so on. This usage, however, has now largely disappeared, and the modern custom is to write most titles in italics.

University of Sussex

When stating the definition verbatim, use quotes. Using them otherwise might show skepticism³, so I would recommend dropping them. I think this definition is verbatim.

The main subject of Animal Farm is totalitarianism, which is defined as 'a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state'.

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