Last month I posed a question to my adoring fans (read: friends) on Facebook. What niggling questions have you always had but not yet answered? Regarding style, that is. I can’t really address the meaning of life. That might be a job for Carol Saller over at CMoS Q&A.
The response I got asked whether to capitalize after a colon. Good question. Fortunately, The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.) has the answer, in the succinctly titled section “Lowercase or capital letter after a colon” (6.61). At first it’s going to seem kind of complicated, so I’ll summarize: for the most part, no.
Here’s the deal. “When a colon is used within a sentence, as in the first two examples . . . the first word following the colon is lowercased unless it is a proper name. When a colon introduces two or more sentences . . . when it introduces a speech in dialogue or an extract . . . or when it introduces a direct question, the first word following it is capitalized.”
Here are some examples illustrating when to capitalize.
Participants in the 2011 Jersey Shore Studies Conference at the University of Chicago: Michael Corey, Michael Showalter, Alison Hearn. [proper name]
My parents just couldn’t stop talking about Convocation 2012: The pomp! The circumstance! The tams! [two or more sentences]
Juliet: O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo? [dialogue]
Theresa couldn’t stop asking just one question: When do we get more cake? [direct question]
Hope that answers your question, Susan Stearns!