Punctuation: Colon ~ Explication

Could we possibly have any more uses of the colon?

Of course we could.

Here is the colon used for Explication ~ Restatement, Additions, and Amplication.


We discussed the conventional use of the colon and its research-based use in our first section on Links that Separate.  We detoured into the critical thinking skill of Analogies.  In the last section, we studied the third use, to precede lists, which has the fancy name of Enumeration.

On to the fourth and final use of the colon:  Explication, a fancy-looking word that means the same as a similar word:  Explanation.

Ticky Info:  Although it may be complete, with a subject and its verb, the explication that follows the colon is still not considered a separate sentence and should not be capitalized.

Writers use Explication in three different ways: Restatement, Additions, and Amplication.

1] Restatement

This use is very similar to the research-based use of the colon.  In restatement, the writer merely re-words.

Example:  Restatement usually casts the original sentence in simpler words:  rewording alters the vocabulary of the former sentence without changing its meaning.

When using the jargon of a particular field—medical, for example—restatement clears away misunderstandings.

“Then,” you ask, “why not use the simpler words in the first place?”

Let’s stick with the medical focus.  Any doctor will provide a diagnosis using the medical terms;  this proves he knows what illness the symptoms reveal and will appropriately move forward with treatment.  A great doctor, prior to discussing treatment, will use restatement to ensure that the patient knows exactly what the diagnosis means.

Not all doctors are great.

Restatement occurs in contract negotiations when great lawyers inform their clients exactly what is meant by the legalese filling the contract.  Most business disputes arise when the restatements are omitted or when they are incorrect.

Knowing how to restate information is a higher level thinking skill.  Restatement requires an understanding of the details of the information and the audience’s level of understanding of that information.  We can remove any disconnect between the information and the audience with the appropriate words.

In this use, more than in the conventional uses, the colon truly functions as a link.

2] Additions

These occur when more information is given to the original sentence.  Rather that simple restatement, connected information comes in.

The addition could take the form of a conclusion, as in cause: consequence or cause: effect or diagnosis: prognosis.  Or it could be hypothesis: conclusion or category: classification elements appended.  We writers append this information because it needs to be considered.  The addition may provide the next logical step of a sequence or the expected progression.

Additions can seem unnecessary:  the writer includes them to serve a purpose, usually one which is unanticipated by the audience.

3] Amplification

As you likely remarked about Restatements and Additions, the difference between these two types of Explication is so minute as to be nearly indistinguishable.  Unlike certain other languages, English has a great capacity for subtle distinctions.  These nuances give English the ability to shade meanings, cutting meanings sharply enough to split hairs.[1]  Amplication is yet another shade Explication that seems too fine.

However, we can see the differences between crimson and cardinal and persimmon and maroon, all classified as shades of red.  We can choose to eat eggplant or aubergine, snails or escargot.  Fine distinctions create discernment.

Think of an object that you want, such as a new tech gadget.  Now consider a similar object by a different maker.  The first you would celebrate receiving;  the second you would accept without celebration.

Amplification expands the explanation;  it enriches the statement with ornamentation.  While restatement will skip to the core essentials, amplification adorns those core essentials.  Basically, these two work in reverse.  They are not reversals or exact opposites;  they merely appear to function in that manner.

With Amplification, the communication may become burdened with too much.  Before this occurs, separate the amplification from the original.  If the two are of equal length, they may remain linked by the colon.

. ~ . ~ . ~ .

Coming up is Semicolon, again before the pervasive Comma.  Our discussion of the semicolon is much simpler discussion in comparison to the Colon.

[1] To Split Hairs is one of those idiomatic phrases that new language learners have difficulty understanding.  If you’ve ever tried to cut a strand of hair into two pieces lengthwise, then you understand the impossibility and the fineness of the distinction.  Many use the phrase when the distinction is “too fine” to be of any importance:  they say the distinction is so small as to be unnecessary.  In the world of law and science and other similar fields, however, fine distinctions are essential.