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  1. 1

    Peter J. King

    I agree with your dislike of this usage (which we think of as U.S.) — but I have a couple of caveats. First, in your example, the colon between “screaming” and “before” would simply be wrong. I can think of no grounds for a colon (and I don’t really understand your reference to aesthetics; I like the look of question marks more than that of commas? but that’s no reason for using them? surely?)

    Secondly, the (admittedly faulty) reasoning behind using a capital after a colon doesn’t apply to semicolons — accepting the rule for one doesn’t imply accepting it for the other. The reasoning is surely that a colon often introduces a complete, new independent sentence. That’s not a good reason for using a capital after a colon even when there is no such complete sentence — but even if it did, the reasoning doesn’t apply to semicolons. Semicolons don’t introduce sentences, they can link sentences, but those sentences are treated as components of one long sentence, because they’re closely related or in some way coordinated.

    Capitalisation after colons is irritating — but worse than irritating is the insistence by the “Chicago Manual of Style” on falsifying quotations by including within the quotation marks punctuation that isn’t in the original. Now that’s a fight worth devoting one’s life to.

  2. 2

    Richard Gilbert


    In my example, the colon is used for emphasis, and partly functions by slowing down the reader, as does the repetition of “she’d start screaming.” The colon isn’t wrong, therefore, except under the most pedantic interpretation of correctness. An editor might flag both as superfluous, true, and I’d fight him.


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