Colons – Part One – Linguistic Love Tour with @ChryseWymer #amwriting
Thank you to the wonderful Kriss Morton for allowing me the space to write about one of my favorite subjects: colons. Many authors seem almost afraid of them, and it’s an incredibly useful mark that I think we should embrace (when needed).
This month, I’ll be hopping along from blog to blog to share my knowledge on the nuts and bolts of great writing. I am a copy editor, proofreader, and author—published both traditionally and independently. I’m also raffling off Amazon gift cards to get you started on your editing bookshelves. You can contact me at email@example.com, or, for more information, visit: http://ocdeditor.weebly.com/ At the previous site, I’ll also be keeping a list of the blogs I’ve visited and the subject matter I’ve shared. So here goes:
Colons – Part One
Before getting into the meat of colon usage, I want to reiterate that colons and semicolons are often misused. The semicolon stops the forward movement of a statement while a colon marks a forward movement, often emphasizing it.
The following video is, in my opinion, helpful in differentiating basic colon vs. semicolon use: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU0x4Ipj-5Q There are grammatical errors in it, but the actual information on semicolons vs. colons is correct.
Colons promise the completion of something just begun.
There are five uses for this mark; the first is the one most often used by fiction writers.
First, the colon may link two separate clauses or phrases by indicating a step forward from the first to the second, e.g.:
Finally, Cliff arrived at his destination: the Capitol Grill.
. . . Hunter realized the truth: Sabrina’s cheeks were bright red, and her eyes were bloodshot. John Abramowitz, Identity Theft
What comes after a colon may be a phrase (first example) or a full clause (second example).
All authorities currently agree that when a phrase (sentence part without a subject and verb) follows a colon, the first word should NOT be capitalized.
Word nerds are divided about whether or not to capitalize when a complete clause (subject and verb) follows a colon. Examples of correct usage with both the “up” and “down” styles:
First rule of trial work: Never let the jury see you sweat. John Abramowitz, Identity Theft
Anna stared at the oak-framed print: against a backdrop of yellow wheat stalks, two sinuous black panthers stared at each other in defiance. Robynn Gabel, Windswept Hearts
My personal preference, despite most circumstances, is the down/lowercase style. The “down” style, to me, links the thoughts more closely together. Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition agrees with this. However, there are some cases in which I believe a capital is warranted. The Identity Theft example above is one of them. The capital letter gives more emphasis to the completed clause.
So with phrases following a colon, you always lowercase the first letter after the colon. With clauses, either is technically correct. Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Ed. states that a capital letter should always be used when introducing a series of sentences. But let clarity and rhythm be your guide.
About Chryse Wymer
Chryse Wymer is a freelance copy editor and proofreader whose main focus is on indie writers. Her clients have been well reviewed, and one was recently chosen as a top-five finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Book Awards in his category: mystery/thriller. For some years, she has been particularly obsessed with William S. Burroughs’s writing, who happened to coin the term heavy metal … her favorite music.
Contact Chryse at firstname.lastname@example.org - Give her a shout-out on Twitter @ChryseWymer, or like her on Facebook.
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*Note from Kriss – I can count the number of editors I know personally who I would trust to work on clients or my own manuscripts, and Chryse is one of them.