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The colon is a useful punctuation tool which should only be used in certain specific circumstances. It usually introduces an explanation, definition, description or list of items relating to the clause immediately prior to the colon. The information that comes after a colon illustrates or provides specific examples relevant to the more general statement which comes before a colon.
There should be no space before the colon and one space after it.
The colon was once memorably used in a classic grammar joke by the comedy group The Mighty Boosh, when Howard tells Vince about his future career plans. ‘Howard Moon, colon, explorer’, he proclaims. ‘Colon explorer?’ says Vince, ‘I don’t think that’s got a good ring to it’. It isn’t quite as amusing when written down, but it does demonstrate how the colon is used to introduce a description in a sentence:
‘Howard Moon: Explorer’.
The clause or list which comes after a colon does not have to be a complete sentence in its own right but the clause preceding the colon most definitely should! It would therefore be incorrect to write:
‘Ingredients for pancakes: flour, eggs and milk’
but correct to write:
‘The ingredients needed to make pancakes are: flour, eggs and milk’.
The first clause of the first sentence does not contain a verb and so does not make grammatical sense, whilst the second does and so is correct.
A colon is also used in several other instances:
-when writing ratios, ‘2:3’
-when introducing speech in a play, ‘Macbeth: Is this a dagger which I see before me?’
To emigrate is to leave one’s home country and move to another with the intention of living there permanently. It would be used in a sentence like this:
‘Having traced his ancestry, Mike found that his family had emigrated from Ireland in the 1840’s’.
To immigrate is to arrive in a new country with the intention of making it one’s permanent residence. Thus, if a newspaper runs a feature about high levels of immigration, it is referring to a high number of people entering the country.
To continue the example given above, ‘immigrate’ would be used in a sentence like this:
‘Mike’s family immigrated to Australia in the 1840’s’.
It all depends on whether you are speaking from the point of view of the country left or the country arrived in.
To migrate is simply to move from one country to another for an unspecified amount of time. Migration is the general shift and movement of people across the globe, without reference to whether they happen to be leaving or arriving.
The word ‘migration’ is also used to describe the movement of a particular species of bird or other animal from one climate to another. For example:
‘European swallows migrate to Africa during the winter’.
The key difference to remember is that emigration refers to leaving one’s country of origin whilst immigration refers to arriving in a new country. Migration is simply the act of movement from one country to another. Don’t forget that ‘emigrate’ is spelled with one ‘m’ whilst ‘immigrate’ has two!
An ellipsis is a grammatical tool which can be used to cut down lengthy quotations or simply to focus upon the relevant points in a quotation being used. It is comprised of three dots which indicate where the author has made an omission, like this:
Although some style guides require spaces on either side of the ellipsis this is not usually necessary. Some also stipulate that the ellipsis should be enclosed within square brackets to indicate that the original text has been edited; just as all other edits by authors are indicated by square brackets. This is now generally considered outdated, but be sure to check with your own University or style guide.
It would be used multiple times to shorten a paragraph like this, taken from Clive James’ book Cultural Amnesia:
‘There is a consoling mythology…which would have us believe that genius operates beyond donkey work. Thus we are told reassuringly that…Shakespeare didn’t care about grammar…Shakespeare, far from being careless about grammar, could depart from it in any direction only because he had first mastered it as a structure’.
The original paragraph contained more examples of genius in list form, including Einstein and Mozart, but here the ellipsis is a useful tool which can be used to condense the topic and make the quotation more concise.
When using an ellipsis, it is important that the remaining sentence which you have chopped and edited still makes sense. Cutting a verb which is crucial to the meaning of the following clauses or leaving in an object which has no verb will make the quotation incomprehensible to the reader. Check carefully that what you have omitted is not crucial to the meaning of the sentence.
In some instances, an ellipsis is used not to indicate an omission but to create a pause, perhaps for comic effect or dramatic tension. In these instances, an ellipsis is used much like a comma and so should be followed by a space, like this:
‘They think it’s all over… it is now!’
It can also be used to indicate a trailing off of speech:
‘I wonder if maybe I could…’
Although they are pronounced in exactly the same way, these two words have different meanings and one is much more commonly used than the other. Both can be used as a verb or noun and one can also be used as an adjective. Get up to speed with the various meanings of faint and feint so that you can use them with confidence in your writing.
‘To faint’ is a verb meaning to briefly lose consciousness or expire after feeling dizzy and weak.
When used as an adjective, ‘faint’ can mean the feeling of light-headedness that comes before losing consciousness, as in:
‘Diana complained that she was feeling faint’.
In a different context, it might mean ‘dim’, ‘vague’ or difficult to see, hear or smell. It would be used in a sentence like this:
‘Through the mist, there was a faint outline of the shore on the horizon’.
‘Faint’ can be used as a noun, as in, ‘he was overcome by the heat and collapsed in a faint’, although this is considered quite archaic language.
The word ‘feint’ is a verb meaning to cleverly make a deceptive movement, especially during sport. It is closely linked to the stem of the word ‘feign’, which means to deceive or pretend. It originated with a French word used in medieval swordsmanship.
It is most often used in fencing and boxing, when athletes pretend to punch or thrust with their left arm and then hit with their right. It
can also be used when discussing other sporting activities or even fights, for example:
‘John feinted left and then gave him a right hook’.
The word ‘feint’ is sometimes used in a military context to describe ‘feint retreats’, which give the impression that an army is retreating in order to draw the other side towards them before beginning an attack.
‘Feint’ can also be used as a noun, as in the sentence:
‘Beckham kept the ball away from the defender by using a clever feint’.
As ‘feint’ is a less commonly used word than ‘faint, it is possible that some people are unsure of its meaning. ‘Feint’ is a lovely, literary word to employ when the circumstances call for it, so keep it in your arsenal and use it in academic writing where appropriate!