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A colon means "that is to say" or "here's what I mean." Colons and semicolons should never be used interchangeably. They can add sophistication to your written work.
You know what needs to be done: practise.
You may be required to bring many things: sleeping bags, pans, utensils, and warm clothing.
I want the following items: butter, sugar, and flour.
Avoid using a colon before a list if it directly follows a verb or preposition that would ordinarily need no punctuation in that sentence.
Not recommended: I want: butter, sugar, and flour.
Recommended: I want butter, sugar, and flour.
Here is what I want: butter, sugar, and flour.
Example: He got what he worked for: he really earned that promotion.
He became a vet: he couldn't stand to see animals suffer.
He set up an animal clinic: there were none in his city.
More examples and quizzes to be found at: http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/colons.asp