This question already has an answer here:

If I write this line in a story:

She said: when are you going?

Does the "when" have to be capitalized? Also, if the "she said" part is not part of a conversation in a novel does the word after the colon have to be capitalized?

Additional info from OP's comment:
I know English uses a comma after "said". I just use a colon for some avant-garde writing. What I am curious about is the capitalization of "when" if a colon is used in whatever context.

marked as duplicate by user140086, Nathaniel, Mitch, Sven Yargs, Brian Hooper Jan 10 '16 at 11:01

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.

  • 3
    The moderators at Graphic Design have expressed interest in answering questions about typography. – MetaEd Jul 9 '13 at 20:34
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about style and preference and general reference. It doesn't belong here. – user140086 Jan 4 '16 at 17:09
  • I agree with Nathaniel that the question is essentially a duplicate of the one he identifies, but I disagree with the assertion that style questions about punctuation and capitalization are off-topic at EL&U. In my opinion they are very much on-topic as matters of (written) English usage. – Sven Yargs Jan 10 '16 at 6:41

As Trevor said in his answer, this is not the standard way to punctuate a quotation.

There are, however, contexts where the punctuation construct you've described would be used. For example:

There are three issues here: grammar, capitalization, and punctuation.

In cases like that, do we capitalize the word after the colon? Here's the short answer: It depends. Grammar Girl says:

it's a style choice, and it depends on what is following the colon

Another style guide reads:

Capitalize first word after a colon if the expression after the colon is a complete sentence.

So, you could write:

That's when the teacher asked me this question: "When are you going?"

That would mirror what the Purdue OWL says:

Use a colon after an independent clause when introducing a quotation.

My teacher’s remark on my final essay was very complimentary: “This essay coherently analyzes musical trends of the late 20th century.”

  • The O’Reilly Style Guide states “Lowercase the first letter after a colon: this is how we do it. (Exception: headings.)” The heading exceptions refer to “headline casing” rules which may apply at a sufficiently high head level. – tchrist Oct 5 '13 at 15:17
  • On the other hand, the house style at the computer magazines where I used to work was to initial-cap the first word after a colon if it could function as a complete sentence (as opposed to being, say, the first product in what was essentially a series or list of product names. – Sven Yargs Jan 12 '16 at 2:42
  1. English does not use a colon in that position. It uses a comma.
  2. The spoken words should be within quotation marks.
  3. The quotation itself should be punctuated and written independently of the containing sentence.


She said, "When are you going?"

Addendum (following OP's comment)

Even for some "avant-garde writing", I would follow my point 3 above: if the quotation is a complete sentence, then punctuate and capitalise it as such. I would, however, go further, ans suggest that,; but even if the quotation were not a single sentence because the speaker only spoke a partial sentence, or even only a single word, I would still capitalise and punctuate it as if it were a full sentence, thus indicating that that it is the full text of what was said.

However, if you are asking about using a colon in normal writing (and not in the context of a stylised form of quoting speech), then, no, you capitalise as you would in any continuation of a sentence, namely, only for a proper noun. For example, see:

  • the first paragraph of this Addendum.
  • the first indented paragraph of the answer from @J.R.
  • Verve, you may be thinking of scripts. In some scripts, dialog is written like this: DARTH VADER: He will come to me? THE EMPORER: I have foreseen it. His compassion for you will be his undoing. He will come to you and then you will bring him before me. DARTH VADER: As you wish. Arrgh, I forgot I can't show it properly in comments. It would be lined up differently, but the character name followed by a colon and then dialog is used. But is you're writing a screenplay, don't do that. Look up the format. Character name in the middle of the page in all caps, no colon, dialog below. – sarah Jul 8 '13 at 2:03
  • Yes, I was thinking of something different. I know English uses a comma after "said". I just use a colon for some avant-garde writing. :-) What I was curious about was the capitalization of "when" if a colon is used in whatever context. – verve Jul 8 '13 at 9:09
  • As regards your first sentence, your question did say "in a story". It helps if you provide as much info as appropriate so we understand your question fully. As regards your second sentence, it's still unclear whether you're still meaning when preceding a quotation in "avant-garde" style, or in any context in mid-sentence. See my amended answer. (I've also amended your question to include the additional info.) – TrevorD Jul 8 '13 at 10:25
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    I could easily find authorities that allow a colon (or neither colon nor comma) between a quote verb and the quote. (Though I'd often opt for the comma.) – Edwin Ashworth Jul 8 '13 at 19:49

Legal transcription uses a colon after the question posed by the speaking attorney rather than a comma in most instances, and as long as what follows is a complete sentence, it is capitalized. This would be considered formal transcription. Example: Q. Here's what I'm trying to find out: Did you see the car approach before it hit you? Q. Let me ask you this: Did the truck hit the median first?

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