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  1. #1
    Abstract Idea is offline Key Member
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    Default Capitalizing What in the middle of the sentence.

    I have studied some capitalizing letters rules in English, but this one was new to me:

    "Now that she was left without a parent, Joanna could not bear the notion of her husband going to sea again, but the question was, What could he do at home?"
    (from the short story To Please His Wife (1891) by Thomas Hardy)


    Why is the letter W capitalized after a comma? I am almost sure this is not a typing mistake but rather something on purpose. Maybe because it is an embedded question? Maybe using only on old or formal English?

    P.S.: Please feel free to correct any mistakes of mine on this post.

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    julianna's Avatar
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    Default Re: Capitalizing What in the middle of the sentence.

    hello, i think that because it is a WH question, don't you think so?

  3. #3
    Abstract Idea is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Capitalizing What in the middle of the sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by julianna View Post
    hello, i think that because it is a WH question, don't you think so?
    I really don't think so Julianna. I think there is something else here. Maybe one's writing style. But I would like to know if it was common in the past, and if it could be still used nowadays.

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    Default Re: Capitalizing What in the middle of the sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    I have studied some capitalizing letters rules in English, but this one was new to me:

    "Now that she was left without a parent, Joanna could not bear the notion of her husband going to sea again, but the question was, What could he do at home?"
    (from the short story To Please His Wife (1891) by Thomas Hardy)


    Why is the letter W capitalized after a comma? I am almost sure this is not a typing mistake but rather something on purpose. Maybe because it is an embedded question? Maybe using only on old or formal English?

    P.S.: Please feel free to correct any mistakes of mine on this post.
    It's a mistake. It's not correct.

    "Now that she was left without a parent, Joanna could not bear the notion of her husband going to sea again, but the question was, What could he do at home?"

    Here's how I would correct it.

    "Now that she was left without a parent, Joanna could not bear the notion of her husband going to sea again, but the question was this: what could he do at home?"

    It's probably not a typing mistake. I would say it's something that the writer probably didn't consider.

    No capitalization is necessary after a colon, unless what follows is a name or an important title.

    Details of punctuation are often overlooked. Many people don't use colons when it would make sense to do so. We can think that writing is good when considering creativity or good story-telling, and we can think of good writing regarding the technical aspects of grammar, good combining of clauses, good vocabulary usage, and punctuation.

    If you have any books that deal with pronunciation, or any webpages, I'd look up some examples of how colons are used.

  5. #5
    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Capitalizing What in the middle of the sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post

    Why is the letter W capitalized after a comma? I am almost sure this is not a typing mistake but rather something on purpose. Maybe because it is an embedded question? Maybe using only on old or formal English?
    I think you are right on both counts; that it represents an older convention, and that it is (was) used for embedded questions (note - in direct speech, not indirect).

    I leave further comment for people with a better knowledge of literature.

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    Smile Re: Capitalizing What in the middle of the sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by orangutan View Post
    I think you are right on both counts; that it represents an older convention, and that it is (was) used for embedded questions (note - in direct speech, not indirect).

    I leave further comment for people with a better knowledge of literature.
    If I may, please, I would like to humbly add that I don't really feel that a knowledge of literature is necessary to comment here.

    Thank you,


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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Capitalizing What in the middle of the sentence.

    I meant "a better knowledge of literature than me". This seems to be necessary for developing the direction I took in my post (though not necessary for commenting on the thread in general).

    Sorry if it came over differently.

  8. #8
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    bhaisahab is online now Moderator
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    Default Re: Capitalizing What in the middle of the sentence.

    Don't you think that it could just be a device, used by the author to emphasise the word "what"? Having just re-read the story, it would seem likely to me.

  9. #9
    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Capitalizing What in the middle of the sentence.

    My recollection is that I have come across this before in 19th century writing, apparently as a device for embedding quoted speech. But I am not sure.

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    Smile Re: Capitalizing What in the middle of the sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by orangutan View Post
    I meant "a better knowledge of literature than me". This seems to be necessary for developing the direction I took in my post (though not necessary for commenting on the thread in general).

    Sorry if it came over differently.
    No problem.


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