When to Use a Capital Letter at the Start of a Sentence
(Including after Colons and in Quotations)
The Quick AnswerUse a capital letter at the start of a sentence. (This includes sentences within quotation marks.)
The words following a colon do not usually start with a capital letter, unless the introduction is short and the words after the colon are the main idea and a complete sentence.
A Capital Letter to Start a SentenceStart every new sentence with a capital letter. This seems like a fairly simple ruling, but there are some quirks.
Capital Letters after Colons, Dashes, or SemicolonsWhen a sentence is divided by a dash, a semicolon, or a colon, you will often have two "sentences" either side of it. In fact, these are not two sentences but two independent clauses. Only the first one (i.e., the one that starts the sentence) gets a capital letter. For example:
- In this world there are only two tragedies: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. (Oscar Wilde) (Note: No capital letter on one.)
- Our motto: Live every day to the fullest – in moderation. (Lindsay Lohan)
Of course, if the first word should have a capital letter in its own right (e.g., it's a proper noun (e.g., London, George Harrison, Wal-Mart) or an abbreviation (e.g., CNN, BBC, Nato)), then obviously it keeps its capital letter.
Capital Letters within Quotation MarksIf your sentence contains a quotation which is a standalone sentence, start the quotation with a capital letter. For example:
- At 4 o'clock, he stood up and said: "You can all leave if you wish." (In this example, the quote is a standalone sentence. Therefore, it gets a capital letter.)
- He was considered "the sexiest man ever to come out of Barnsley." (Here, the quote is a not a standalone sentence.)