Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Possible Duplicate:
Should I change the structure of a sentence/add filler words to make sure that the sentence always starts with a capital letter?

As a concrete example, imagine that I'm talking about prepositions, and I want to say that the word "with" is okay to use. I gather that when quoting a word, I can use either quotation marks or italic font, but I'm confused about capitalization at the beginning of the sentence. For example:

  • with is always okay.
  • With is always okay.
  • "with" is always okay.
  • "With" is always okay.

Which is correct?

I'm guessing #2 and #4, with the capitals, but my logical side does not like the capital letter getting inside the quotation, since it is not really part of it.

share|improve this question
add comment

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Matt Эллен, jwpat7, Mitch, Callithumpian Jan 24 '12 at 5:57

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

When you are not quoting someone but just referencing a single word, I'll ditto Irene that, in general, you should just capitalize it. This can be an issue when case is important. For example, if you are giving instructions on how to enter data into a computer, and the word must be entered in all lower case, then capitalizing it could be very misleading. In such instances I simply break the normal rule and put it in quotes but lower case. Like:

Enter the following commands exactly as shown. "While x>3" ... etc

If in fact the word "while" must be entered with a small "w", this would be misleading.

When you're quoting someone, the convention is to capitalize the word but to put brackets around the capital to indicate that it was a small letter in the original.

Like, suppose the complete quote was, "After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Goths increased in strength." You could give a partial quote as:

As Dr Jones explains, "[T]he Goths increased in strength."

This is often omitted in more casual quotes, but should be done in scholarly writing.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your guess about the correct capitalization is correct. In the beginning of the sentence, the initial letter of the first word is normally capitalized. The fact that it happens to be inside quotation marks makes no difference.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.