Should There Be A Colon After For Example?

Emily Thomas

You may have come across the phrase “for example” numerous times while reading or writing, and wondered about the proper punctuation that follows it. Should there be a colon after “for example”? This question has sparked discussions among language enthusiasts and grammar aficionados alike. The use of colons in sentences can often be a source of confusion, but fear not, for we are here to shed some light on this matter and provide you with a clear understanding of whether a colon should or should not follow “for example”. So, let’s embark on this delightful language journey together and unravel the mysteries behind this punctuation conundrum.

Should There Be A Colon After For Example?


A colon is a punctuation mark that often causes confusion for many writers. However, once understood and used correctly, it can be a powerful tool to enhance your writing. In this article, we will explore the definition of a colon and its purpose in writing. We will also delve into the specific usage of a colon with the phrase “for example,” as well as provide guidelines, examples, and the importance of consistency.

Understanding ‘For Example’

Before we dive into the usage of a colon with “for example,” let’s first define what this phrase means. “For example” is a transitional phrase used to introduce an illustrative or explanatory example that supports a statement or argument. It provides evidence or clarifies a concept by presenting a specific instance or instances.

Colons and ‘For Example’

Now that we have a better understanding of “for example,” let’s discuss how colons can be used with this phrase. When used correctly, a colon can effectively introduce the examples that follow, creating a clear and organized flow in your writing. However, it is essential to follow specific guidelines to ensure proper usage. Let’s explore these guidelines.

Guidelines for using a colon with ‘for example’

  1. Capitalize the first letter after the colon if you are starting a complete sentence or a formal quote that follows “for example.”

    • Example: “For example: The benefits of exercise are numerous.”
    • Example: “For example: She stated, ‘Exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.'”
  2. Do not capitalize the first letter after the colon if you are continuing the sentence or using an informal quote after “for example.”

    • Example: “For example: it can improve cardiovascular health.”
    • Example: “For example: she said exercise is ‘a great way to relieve stress.'”
  3. Use a colon after “for example” when introducing a bulleted or numbered list.

    • Example: “For example:
      • Improve cardiovascular health
      • Boost mental well-being
      • Enhance overall fitness”

Examples of correct usage

To provide further clarity, here are some examples of correct usage of a colon after “for example”:

  1. “There are various benefits of regular exercise, for example: improved cardiovascular health, increased energy levels, and enhanced mental well-being.”

  2. “For a healthy diet, consider incorporating whole foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.”

  3. “To succeed in this project, you will need specific skills: communication, problem-solving, and time management.”

Importance of consistency

Consistency is key when using a colon with “for example” or in any other context. Maintaining a consistent style throughout your writing helps create a cohesive and professional piece. Therefore, it is crucial to follow the chosen style guide or adhere to the established guidelines within your organization.

Grammar and Punctuation Rules

Now that we have covered the guidelines for using a colon with “for example,” let’s delve into some grammar and punctuation rules associated with colons.

Distinguishing between a colon and other punctuation marks

A colon is often confused with other punctuation marks, most commonly the semicolon and the comma. Here’s a brief explanation to help you understand their distinct purposes:

  • Colon: A colon is used to introduce a list, explanation, quote, or example. It creates a strong link between the preceding sentence and the following information.
  • Semicolon: A semicolon is used to connect two closely related, independent clauses. It shows that the two clauses are of equal importance and can stand on their own as separate sentences.
  • Comma: A comma is used to separate elements, such as items in a list, clauses, phrases, or introductory elements. It provides a pause or separates elements within a sentence.

Colons in lists

One essential use of a colon is to introduce a list. Unlike a comma, which is commonly used for this purpose, a colon provides a stronger and clearer separation between the introductory phrase and the items in the list. Here’s an example:

“In your camping backpack, make sure to pack the following essentials: a tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, and a first aid kit.”

Using a colon to introduce a quote or explanation

Colons can also be used to introduce a quote or explanation. When used in this context, a colon signals that the information following it provides further clarification or support for the preceding statement. Take a look at these examples:

  • “The famous philosopher Descartes once said: ‘I think, therefore I am.'”
  • “She offered a simple explanation: it was just a misunderstanding.”

Should There Be A Colon After For Example?

Style Guides and Recommendations

Different style guides provide recommendations for using colons. Let’s explore three commonly used style guides and their specific guidelines for colon usage:

Associated Press (AP) Style

The AP Stylebook recommends using a colon when introducing a list or a quote. It also suggests capitalizing the first word after a colon if it starts a complete sentence. However, it generally advises avoiding excessive use of colons.

Modern Language Association (MLA) Style

MLA Style, often used in the humanities, recommends using a colon at the end of a full sentence to introduce a quotation. However, it does not generally recommend using a colon to introduce lists.

American Psychological Association (APA) Style

APA Style, commonly used in the social sciences, advises against using a colon after “for example” unless it introduces a quotation. Instead, it suggests using a comma, semicolon, or a period.

Arguments For Using a Colon

While there may be differing opinions on the usage of a colon after “for example,” there are valid arguments supporting its inclusion. Let’s explore some of these arguments:

Clarity and emphasis

Using a colon after “for example” provides clarity and emphasis, signaling to the reader that illustrative examples will follow. It helps the reader anticipate and understand the purpose of the examples, making the writing more engaging and persuasive.

Structuring information

A colon effectively organizes information, especially when introducing lists or explanations. It creates a visual break, highlighting the examples or items that follow and enhancing the overall structure of the writing.

Enhancing the flow of writing

By introducing a colon after “for example,” you create a seamless and coherent flow in your writing. It helps connect the introductory statement with the subsequent examples, enabling the reader to follow your argument or explanation more easily.

Arguments Against Using a Colon

Although there are compelling arguments for using a colon after “for example,” it is important to consider differing perspectives. Here are some arguments against its usage:

Alternative punctuation options

Some argue that using a colon after “for example” may not be necessary or could be replaced with other punctuation marks, such as commas, semicolons, or periods. They contend that these alternatives can adequately introduce examples without introducing the potential confusion associated with colons.

Avoiding excessive use of colons

Overusing colons, especially after “for example,” may lead to a writing style that feels repetitive or formulaic. Critics argue that this excessive use of colons can hinder the natural flow of writing and detract from the overall readability of the piece.

Maintaining simplicity in writing

Simplicity is often valued in writing, as it allows for clearer communication of ideas. Opponents of using a colon after “for example” argue that simpler punctuation options, such as commas or periods, can effectively introduce examples without complicating the sentence structure.

Professional Opinions

To gain a well-rounded perspective on the topic, let’s consider the views of language experts and popular style guides regarding the usage of a colon after “for example.”

Language experts’ view on using a colon after ‘for example’

Language experts offer differing opinions on whether to use a colon after “for example.” Some believe that a colon is unnecessary, as other punctuation options can adequately introduce examples. They suggest that using a colon may limit flexibility and creativity in sentence construction.

Popular style guides’ recommendations

As mentioned earlier, different style guides provide specific recommendations for colon usage after “for example.” The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook advises minimizing the use of colons, while the Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA) styles offer more specific guidelines regarding the usage of a colon after “for example.”

Common Errors and Misconceptions

It is essential to address common errors and misconceptions associated with colons after “for example” to ensure proper writing practices. Let’s explore these errors and how to avoid them:

Confusing colons with semicolons

One common error is the confusion between colons and semicolons. Remember that a colon is primarily used to introduce lists and explanations, while a semicolon connects two closely related independent clauses. Be mindful of the context and purpose when deciding which punctuation mark to use.

Misusing colons in sentence structure

Another error involves misusing colons in sentence structure. Colons should be used to introduce information that directly relates to the preceding sentence. Avoid using a colon at the end of an incomplete sentence or introducing information that does not provide clarity or support.

Incorrect placement of ‘for example’

Misplacing “for example” within a sentence can also lead to confusion. Remember that “for example” should come before the example or list being provided. Placing it at the end of a sentence or in an illogical position can disrupt the flow and coherence of your writing.


In conclusion, understanding when to use a colon, particularly after “for example,” is crucial for effective writing. By adhering to the guidelines outlined in this article and considering the purpose and context, you can enhance the clarity, structure, and flow of your writing. However, it is equally important to acknowledge alternative punctuation options, avoid excessive use of colons, and maintain simplicity in your writing. By considering professional opinions and being aware of common errors and misconceptions, you can confidently incorporate colons into your writing, adding depth and precision.