1. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Capital letter after dash?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by madhoca, Mar 6, 2012.

    I know US punctuation puts a capital letter after a colon, whereas UK English does not. What's the situation with a dash? I don't know how I've got by so long without this issue coming up, but now I find I have a sentence similar to this (this isn't the actual one, so I'm only interested in the punctuation, not re-writes):

    A thought struck him -- no one would find out about the robbery now, with Jackson dead.

    Is it better/possible/impossible to have the part after the dash starting with a capital letter?

    A thought struck him -- No one would find out about the robbery now, with Jackson dead.

    I've researched a bit, but can't get much of an answer to this.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    You don't need a capital letter. :)
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know I don't need one. I'm trying to work out if it's possible to have one.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    If there's a reason why you want one, just make it capital - syntax rules can always be broken if the writer knows what they're doing and has a good purpose.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The problem is that the em dash is not the right punctuation for the "sentence". You could use a period, or you could use a semicolon:

    A thought struck him. No one would find out about the robbery now, with Jackson dead.

    A thought struck him; no one would find out about the robbery now, with Jackson dead.

    After a period, you capitalize the first word of the second sentence. After a semicolon, you don't capitalize the first word of the following independent clause.

    Don't blame me. I didn't create the language rules.
     
  6. 221b Jordan
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    221b Jordan New Member

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    The only instances I use a dash are for pauses in dialogue. If that is the case here then no, you don't use a capital letter because the sentence isn't finished. :) As Mallory says though, rules are there to be broken, and as it doesn't come up a great deal it would be easy on a computer to go back and change it at a later date.

    Hope this helps.
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks!
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto cog... and while it's certainly possible to put one there, a capital after a dash is not correct and would be edited out by any editor with half a brain...

    on both sides of the pond, i believe...
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you. I must say, I didn't see how it was possible to have a capital letter in the middle of a sentence really, but I've been reading too much stuff recently where they go:

    A thought struck him --
    No one would find out about the robbery now, with Jackson dead.

    Kind of ba-ba-ba-bam emphasis in case the reader hadn't caught the drama, and while I don't want to add italics and have it on a new line, it seems a bit tame having the crunch line flowing on from the rest of the sentence. But I guess it doesn't--that's what the dash is for.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    where are you reading such nonsensical formatting/punctuation?

    in traditionally published works, or just in writing site posts, or self-published stuff?
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    The worst punctuation I've seen so far, including the type of thing I gave above, is in Signet Select, which is a division of Penguin. Can't get more traditionally published than that...
    It's another issue, but I also see loads of proof goofs in books these days, especially in Random House publications.
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me that's a textbook case of where a colon would be appropriate:
    A thought struck him: no one would find out about the robbery now, with Jackson dead.​
    Maybe that's just a British thing.
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that in the UK writers would probably put a colon there, but I think the colon works better only if it's more 'literary', a dash is slightly better if it's a 'casual' style.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree re the dash vs colon bit...

    as for seeing bad writing/editing in published books, that's nothing new... not even for major publishing houses...
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd write it as:

     
  16. Justin Nemo
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    Justin Nemo New Member

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    Not wishing to through a spanner in the works here and I know that there is an ever growing divide between American English and English English, but in the 'Queen's English', would wouldn't use a capital letter. Lol!
     

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