Is it ok to start sentences with quotes with lower case when lower case is important for meaning?

For example

"hope" (feeling) starts with lower case, but "Hope" (name) starts with upper case


`loop` is a keyword in Rust, used to start infinite loop

More context on why I need it and why I can't change sentences. I have localization system which gives user ability to localize created by user products, or reuse existing created by other users localizations. This localization system has entity Meaning, which represents some meaning or phrase, like Meaning for hope (feeling), or Meaning for Hope(name), or Meaning for "hope" (feeling) starts with lower case, but "Hope" (name) starts with upper case(sentence). Currently we don't have separate texts for when Meaning is in the beginning of sentence or not(because it would make the system more complex and a little bit less performant), and we just uppercase first character if it can be uppercased when Meaning is used in the beginning of sentence. From logical point of view, it passes meaning of phrase well for most cases, like when put in the beginning of sentence,

  • hope(feeling) becomes Hope(feeling)
  • Hope(name) stays Hope(name)

but maybe it is not correct from grammatical point of view for some cases, since

  • "hope" (feeling) starts with lower case, but "Hope" (name) starts with upper case stays unchanged (because first character is ", so we don't change it)

Maybe we should complexify our localization system to make capitalization logic more correct

  • 1
    Grammar is about syntax and morphology alone. It doesn't have anything to do with writing.
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 28 at 11:55
  • 1
    You can start a sentence with a lower-case letter if you really need to (and using a capital here would be disastrous), but you can usually easily find a workaround. This has been covered already on ELU. // The capitalisation of common abstract themes such as Love, Hope, Faith ... almost personalisation ... is also acceptable (and has again, I believe, already been covered). // What you are actually asking is unclear, even if you correct 'grammatically correct' to 'acceptable' or 'acceptable and idiomatic' or 'acceptable and easy to understand'. Commented Mar 28 at 12:14
  • 1
    You should have a space before the opening bracket, if that's what concerns you. See this question and others.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 28 at 12:54
  • 1
    Why not The feeling "hope"… and In Rust, "loop" is a keyword…?
    – Laurel
    Commented Mar 28 at 14:04
  • 2
    The problem is usually dealt with by beginning the sentence in some other way, such as 'The word hope . . . ' . If that way of dealing with it is not available because of some limitations of the software used, the matter is outside the scope of this site.
    – jsw29
    Commented Mar 28 at 16:29

1 Answer 1


In the context you mention, the use of quotation marks has a metalinguistic function, signaling that the word itself and not the thing signified by the word is (in this case) the subject of the given sentence. Now, words referred to metalinguistically might be written in a form that goes against the general rules of spelling, if that is justified by the metalinguistic information we are trying to convey.

It is the case, for example, in dictionaries: entries, despite being the first word in a new line, start with lower or upper case depending of whether the word designates a common or a proper noun respectively. Your first example seems to fall into this category, as you seem to be explaining that the common noun "hope" is distinguished from the proper noun "Hope" by the fact that the latter starts always with a capital letter, indifferently of its position in a sentence.

Concerning you second example, certainly it would be quite misinformative if you were to write a handbook on a case-sensitive programming language and still used standard capitalization, even when the (key-)word under consideration specifically started with a lower case. For this reason, you should always refer to case-sensitive programming language keywords with their correct capitalisation, indifferently of the part of the sentence where the word appears. Note, too, that concerning this latter fact, and in the world we live in where people write their documents on computers, you probably have better alternatives to using quotation marks to refer to programming languages expressions. Typically, people would write such expression in a monospace font, and for example in stackexchange pages you can even typeset the words and expressions in a specific manner to make it clear that the text corresponds to code, namely enclosing the expression in triple backticks, so for example ```loop``` is rendered as loop.

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