Friday, January 6, 2012

Punctuation Help, Please!

Dearest writer bloggers,

I'd love to hear your expert (or not so expert!) opinion on whether I should put a capital letter after a colon, and whether I should put a comma before the word "too".

The Colon
So, it seems as though sometimes you put a capital letter after a colon, and sometimes you don't. The Online Oxford Dictionary has examples that all have small letters after the colon, but Wikipedia seems to think that this is generally the case with British English, whereas with American English, there is more likely to be a capital letter after a colon.
My gut feel is that if there's a whole new sentence coming after the colon, then I should capitalize it, but if it's just a list, or a sentence that wouldn't normally stand on its own, then I shouldn't capitalize.
What do you think of the following sentences?

#1) I hear Tora’s voice in my head: Bend your knees, arch your back, thrust your opponent right off.

#2) Their colors shift rapidly in protest, cycling through an endless palette: lavender—magenta—burgundy—sienna.

#3) And then I notice something else: a solitary figure standing on the other side of the ravine.

The comma before (or not?) the word "too"
I've read several English forums and it seems that, these days, with a comma or without a comma are both correct (though people seem to think that in more formal writing a comma should be used). I searched the word "too" on the Online Oxford Dictionary and found this sentence as two of their examples: is he coming too? and she is a grown woman, and a strong one too. So, no comma there...
I am more inclined not to put a comma before "too", because it feels to me as though it interrupts the flow of a sentence. So what do you think of the following examples? Would you include a comma?

#1) I toss my bow away and dive toward him too, knocking his sleeping form to the floor.

#2) ... and I look down. Nate looks down too. "Actually, I think..."

#3) Yes, they get scared too. Anyway, the really evil ones...

#4) I have to admit I'd like to know the answers to those questions too.

Thank you in advance for your comments!


Kit Courteney said...

To me, your first three examples are correct. I agree with your reasoning and would do the same for each.

I agree with your reasoning for 'too', too. Except not in that case. I didn't do that deliberately.

I think it depends on how you want the sentence to sound to the reader.

Unless you want it to slow down the reader, slightly -

"Yes, they get scared (slight pause for added drama), too. Anyway, the really evil ones..."

- then I would leave the comma out.

I'm British - if that has any bearing :)

Trisha said...

I think you're spot on with the first examples, and as for too, I don't put commas before it.

To be honest I'm not sure what is technically correct, I just go with how it sounds to me.

Rachel Morgan said...

"I agree with your reasoning for 'too', too. Except not in that case. I didn't do that deliberately." - Kit, that made me smile!

Trisha, thanks. That makes me feel better about my sentences :-)

Michael Offutt, Visitor from the Future said...

I would contact Cherie Reich. She is a professional editor and could definitely answer this question.

Laura Josephsen said...

I've heard that you put a capital letter after a colon if the part after the colon can be a new sentence.

The comma before a too is really subjective. Some people use them and some don't. I think it's often done to create emphasis if you use one. There's more on that here:

Rachel Bateman said...

You are right on both counts. If what follows the colon can be a stand-alone sentence, you should CAPS it. If it is not, lowercase is the way to go.

As for the comma...traditionally, there was a comma before the word too. That's fallen out of use so much of late that it is completely grammatically correct to not use it. In fact, as it has been said already, mostly it is only put in for emphasis these days. It is much like the double space after a sentence - the old die-hards still hold on to it, but there's really no reason to use it.

The Golden Eagle said...

I read in the Yahoo! Style Guide that if the content after the colon could stand alone as a sentence then you would capitalize it; so I think the first three examples are right on.

I usually put a comma before "too"; I'm not sure what's right technically, but sentences feel awkward to me without it. Then again, I seem to be the loner on that one, so I guess you'd be fine without a comma. :)

Lauren Alissa Hunter said...

Honestly, I think the word “too” is super awkward, and in most of those sentences it could be eliminated.

When you can’t, I’d try subbing it with “as well.” Just a thought! And I am no help at all when I comes to commas, I like, seriously, love them.

Talli Roland said...

Well, personally, I'd put a comma before 'too' and I wouldn't capitalise after a colon. But hey, that's just me! :)

Cherie Reich said...

I think you are using the colon and what follows right after those sample sentences. That's always how I've been taught it.

As for a comma before "too." It's going away. I find the more grammar changes the less commas we use.

Cherie Reich said...

Oh, and as long as you are consistent on how you do those things, then that's what really matters the most because opinions can vary on them.

Madeleine Maddocks said...

Interesting question. I'd probably put a comma before too. A capital after a colon would depend on the context of the sentence I guess, but yes probably.

Theresa Milstein said...

I just took a grammar class. Dashes work as colons and are less formal. So I don't think the 2nd sentence is correct. You could do:

#2) Their colors shift rapidly in protest, cycling through an endless palette: lavender,magenta, burgundy, sienna.

#2) Their colors shift rapidly in protest, cycling through an endless palette--lavender, magenta, burgundy, sienna.

For your first example with "too", I don't think "too" is needed.

Hope this helps!