Capitalization after a Colon (with Examples)

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Do You Use a Capital Letter after a Colon?

The text on the right of the colon explains or illustrates the text on the left.

Read more about the rules for using colons.

The big question with a sentence that includes a colon is whether the text on the right should start with a capital letter or a lowercase letter. This is the rule:

Start the text on the right of a colon with a lowercase letter except when the text on the right consists of two or more sentences.

Capitalize after a Colon When Two or More Sentences Follow the Colon

When a colon is followed by two or more sentences that explain or illustrates the text on the left, you should capitalize the first letter of the first sentence. This is to ensure it looks equal to the second sentence (and any others). For example:
  • Her blood was found in two rooms: the kitchen and the hall.
  • (This is a standard single sentence with a colon. The text on the right explains the text on the left.)
  • Her blood was found in two rooms: small drops were detected in the kitchen and the hall.
  • (This is a pair of sentences with a colon. The sentence on the right explains the sentence on the left. As there is only one sentence on the right, a capital letter is not needed.)
  • Her blood was found in two rooms: A small pool was found in the kitchen. There was also a single drop detected in the hall.
  • (This example has a pair of sentences on the right. Both explain the sentence on the left. The first sentence is capitalized to ensure it has the same weighting as the second. Both of the sentences of the righ explain the sentence text on the left of the colon.)
IT'S SAFE TO CAPITALIZE AFTER A COLON WHEN THE MAIN POINT IS ON THE RIGHT

When the introduction on the left of the colon is short and the text is on the right of the colon is obviously the main point, you can start the text on the right with a capital letter. For example:
  • This is our mission statement: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
  • This is our mission statement: to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
  • (Both versions are acceptable.)
CAPITALIZE AFTER A COLON WHEN A QUOTATION FOLLOWS

When a quotation follows a colon, the quotation is very likely to be at least one full sentence. It should start with a capital letter. For example:
  • He said: "A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing."
Note: You should use a capital letter with the first word of any direct quotation of a whole sentence. If the direct quotation is part of a sentence, do not use a capital letter.


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