Susan 馃悵 Rooks, The Grammar Goddess

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American Grammar Checkup: Capitalizing Words After a Colon

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聽 聽 聽 聽To capitalize or not to capitalize: That is the question!


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With apologies to William Shakespeare and Hamlet, I'm sure you get the point. Many of us have wondered about this without ever coming to a decision; it seems like it should be easy to figure out but then we forget to check on it.


We may be confused on this topic because we remember someone saying we should capitalize the first word after a colon, but we also remember someone saying we shouldn't.

What's a poor writer to do?

So to give you the best information on this pressing issue, I went looking for the definitive answer. Let's face it: Sometimes things do change, even grammar rules! And I would hate to lead you astray!

What did I find? There is no definitive answer. Even the best authorities don't completely agree. But at least the AP and Chicago Manual almost agree on this topic. Almost.

The AP and the Chicago Manual of Style do agree on this point:

Use a lowercase letter for the first word after a colon unless the word is a proper name.

  • These are my favorite foods: ice cream, lobster, and chocolate.
  • I listened to my friend sing that aria: ouch.聽
  • Sarah has a number of hobbies: reading, knitting, and gardening.
  • Tom has lived in several cities: Boston, Chicago, and Houston.
  • Three agencies were represented: NASA, the FBI, and the CIA.


OK so far? Well, then the AP and Chicago part ways.聽

The AP says use a capital letter for the first word after a colon if it is either a proper name OR the first word of a (single) complete sentence.聽

  • I listened to my friend sing that aria: It was painful to hear.
  • We learned a great lesson from that failure: In the future, we need to
    watch our expenses more carefully.聽

The Chicago Manual says to use a capital leter if the first word is a proper name OR the start of at least two complete sentences or a direct quotation or question.
  • Several questions came up at the conference: Did we make our goals? Were we on target? What's next for us?
  • We made some important decisions at the meeting: We need to focus on our expenses every month. We need to add at least one client per month. We need to hire two sales associates immediately.

聽 聽 聽 聽 聽So in keeping with the KISS principle, I think it all boils down to this:聽
If the first word after a colon in a sentence is a proper name, the pronoun "I," or 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 the start of another sentence, capitalize it.聽
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 If it isn't, don't.


You could do worse, right? Since so few really know how to handle this issue, you'll at least have something to fall back on. But remember: This is an AMERICAN style, and yours may be different.聽

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Does that work for you? Great! So now you can go do something really important like calling your mom to say "I love you" or cuddling with someone special (yes, your dog or cat counts).



聽聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽聽KISS : Keep It聽Short and Simple.


聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽########################

聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽Has this post helped you in any way? If so, please . . .

聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Like 聽the post (if you really do).聽

聽 聽 聽 聽 聽聽 Share it if you learned something, so your connections can learn, too.聽(No fair keeping 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 all the good stuff just for yourself.)聽

聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽Comment in the comments section, so you can be seen by my connections.
聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 You never know who would be interested in YOU.聽

聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 All of these things will help YOU build YOUR network!

聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 ***************************
聽聽聽 My previous posts can be seen here,聽and they're easy to find because they're categorized. 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 Just type in a word on the topic you're looking for and see everything I wrote on it.

聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 *****************************

Do the associates in your company look and sound as smart as they are? They would if they could take one of my "Brush Up on Your Skills" workshops right where they work. If your company hires outside experts to teach any topic to its associates, please share my posts and聽website with your Human Resources or Training Manager.

I offer free generic "Brush Up on Your Skills" workbooks聽in a pdf format聽in American grammar, business writing, and interpersonal skills. They show what I teach in my three-hour corporate classes.

聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽Want one? Ask me!


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Comments
#18
Ken Boddie, thanks so much! And heaven knows there are many examples of outrageous punctuation in every language, especially English (in all its variations).
#19
No censor, Randy Keho, but I never liked including "stupid" in that acronym. I much prefer to Keep It Short and Simple or something along those lines!

Randy Keho

5 years ago #15

From my experience, KISS, when broken down, is defined by different words. Do you have a censor?

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #14

Perhaps, in a more general context, Susan, the question is whether to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous punctuation and spelling, or to cap-it-all and take arms against a sea of solecism? Love your work! 馃槃
David Grinberg, thank you so much for sharing my post! I appreciate your support here and on LI.
John White, MBA, thanks so much for sharing my post here! I really appreciate, and all your continued support.

Kevin Pashuk

5 years ago #11

Thanks Susan Rooks. I will certainly capitalize on the knowledge I gleaned from your post.
#1
Second reply to Laurent BOSCHERINI -- I also need to know which workbook you'd like: American grammar, business writing, or interpersonal skills. And, of course, I need your e-mail address.
Thanks so much, Laurent BOSCHERINI, for sharing my post!
#11
My, my, my, Tausif! You'll need about a week to do that, but thanks!
#9
My pleasure, Tausif Mundrawala! I have written many others that might also help you on my website -- www.grammargoddess.com -- just click on "blog."
#1
You are most welcome, Laurent BOSCHERINI, and yes, you may. Just let me have your e-mail address. And I won't be sending anything else unless you ask; I don't "spam" my colleagues.
#2
I loved Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, Neville Gaunt, even if it was written by a Brit! Clever, although a couple of rules weren't for the Americans . . .
#3
James McElearney, you're in very good company. We can all use the help in some subject or other! Thanks for commenting.
#4
Giggle, Phil Friedman!

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #2

@Susan Rooks - If I may ask, can I now report to my physician that I've had my colon-oscopy?

Laurent Boscherini

5 years ago #1

Thank you Susan Rooks for sharing your insightful and insatiable educational post. I am always waiting for it. May I order one of your free generic workbook.

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