Punctuation: Colon, the Transitional Use

This blog continues an examination of the colon, begun on April 1 (No fooling!).  Two analogies practices interject themselves because the first use of the colon, the conventional, discusses analogies–and who doesn’t love to work analogies out?

Herewith  😉 the second use of the Colon.

Transitional Use

The second use of the colon is extremely similar to the Conventional Use that separate one element from an attached element of equal (or greater) importance, such as speaker : dialogue or title : subtitle.  Indeed, I am tempted to associate this use with those conventional ones as to time and ratio and analogies.

Yet the Transitional Use begins the introduction to the other two uses.

Research and Colons

First, let me inform you that there are three types of researched compositions.  The first type merely surveys (reports) on information that others have developed.  A second type provides a theory (hypothesis) then mixes field experience with information that others have developed.  The third type presents a personal interpretation backed up with information that others have developed.

The “information that others have developed” is the reason that these compositions are called “researched”.  The second and third types require the writers to start the composition, building from their own ideas before researching for supporting or rebuttal information.

The first and second types are usually the realms of the hard sciences.  Some social sciences also use these types of compositions.

The third type is the realm of the upper levels of literature, as a student develops an interpretation of a Shakespeare play, for example, then seeks other scholars who have similar or contradictory thoughts as they present the validity of their interpretation.  This type is sometimes called an interpretive analysis or argument.

A special kind of the third type focuses on a particular work and only deals with that work:  it is called an explication.  The only source is the text.  The writer develops all ideas based on literary terms and devices.

Using Research

Whichever type of researched composition you are writing (except for the explication), you will present scholarly views that support your own.  When you work with the research, you lead with your thoughts.  That is, you present your own thoughts then append the research as a quotation from another source that backs up your ideas—or provides a contradictory outlook which you then rebut.


Suppose you are writing about Walt Whitman’s egalitarian spirit.  First you would state your thought:  then you quote a scholar’s similar viewpoint and attach appropriate internal documentation.  This is the best way to present research, as a support for your viewpoint.

Most students merely report what they have found.  The resultant compositions are weakly developed and present no critical thinking skills.  The students lead with who said what and follow with the quotation:

A;os dufa sdfoiusd adig igu doaiuv mnvaiut oiuaoi duagas ghie hgdgna diug:  “a daodif cngiet a;slkd eithg na;l ggien aaskdadlf gugi gerug lkus fiad fa;oitu figtiau gnsbnttu” (Wilbur 38).

I find the gobbleygook above the perfect metaphor for the quality of the survey researched compositions.

Ah, but even though I despise the reportage survey, this example shows the proper use of the colon.  This transitional use exhibits the colon’s role:  statement with outside support.   It transitions from personal writing to scholarly writing.  When the outside source bolsters the writer’s thoughts, the writer’s credibility is increased.


Next week, we hit up the third use of the colon.  No hints!