Meaning of ":" in if, else, and while statements

The PHP in WordPress templates often has code like
<?php if ( have_posts() ) : ?>

[ If there are more posts you end up here. ]

<?php else : ?>

[ If there are no posts, you show a "sorry" message here. ]

<?php endif; ?>

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or
<?php while (have_posts() ) : the_post(); ?>
   <?php get_template_part( 'content', get_post_format() );  ?>
<?php endwhile; ?>

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What are the colon (":") characters doing here?  I would expect a "{" .

Thanks
stevaAsked:
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it_saigeDeveloperCommented:
It's called, 'Alternative syntax for control structures'; e.g. - http://php.net/manual/en/control-structures.alternative-syntax.php

It was introduced because it improves legibility (makes the code clearer and easier to read).

-saige-
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stevaAuthor Commented:
Thank you.
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