Dutch typography regularly seems to use a superfluous colon to introduce a list of items. (Sometimes even a ‘list’ of one!)
I’m not talking about when you’re introducing a bulleted list or a table or something such that starts on a new line; a colon’s sensible then. This is about the Dutch habit of sticking an unnecessary dubbele punt in the middle of a simple sentence. Here are a few real-life examples that should be zapped:
- It contains spices such as: ginger, cloves and aniseed.
- His career included spells with: Groningen and PSV before moving to Chelsea.
- The terrestrial planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
Think of the way you’d be saying it out loud. A colon would make sense if you’re pausing, taking a deep breath, and then embarking cathartically on that list. But if it’s just a question of mentioning A, B and C, well, there’s no need for a colon after ‘mentioning’.
Prevalence: high. Commonplace in scientific writing in particular.
Frequency: high. If an author thinks that’s they way to do it, they’re obviously likely to do so pretty much every time.
Native: rarely. Though it sometimes makes sense for clarity in very long and tortuous legalese sentences, for instance.