Last week we looked at a few virtues of the colon: its ability to lend clarity or emphasis to a sentence and, on occasion, act as a substitute for the unexciting verb “to be.” Today we’ll round out our look at this unsung punctuation mark with a point about its correct use.
So the question is: Do we make the first letter following a colon uppercase or lowercase?
See what I did there? I followed the colon with a complete sentence, so I – quite logically – made the “D” in “Do” uppercase. And in my opening sentence, because the section starting with “its” is not a complete sentence, the “i” is lowercase. Let’s show that distinction again:
Two of Joan’s contributions to the staff retreat particularly impressed me: her deft moderation of the panel discussion and her valuable context-setting before the PowerPoint presentation.
Two of Joan’s contributions to the staff retreat particularly impressed me: She deftly moderated the panel discussion, and she provided valuable context before the PowerPoint presentation.
Note, however, that when the section following a colon is a short complete sentence, we are allowed to start with a capital or lowercase letter. Either of these is considered correct:
We have reached a decision: Our winner is Jack.
We have reached a decision: our winner is Jack.
And what makes a sentence “short”? I wouldn’t know because I reword to avoid the dilemma, but feel free to set your own rule of thumb.