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  1. #1
    monsterjazzlicks's Avatar
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    Question RE: Opening Capital Letter in Quotation (Question)

    Hi folks,

    I have been trying to find out the reasons why authors make the decisions to present certain grammatical which they do.

    Some writers use a capital letter in the opening of a quotation while others do not. For example:

    In 1945, Mr. Jones is recorded as saying: "we shall never forgive those terrible people."

    In 1945, Mr. Jones is recorded as saying: "We shall never forgive those terrible people."

    As you can see there is a capital letter (in the opening of the quotation) in the second example. I see equal amounts of both variants throughout my reading.

    Let's say that the original line of Mr. Jones is a simple sentence beginning with a capital 'W' (as you would normally write): "We shall never forgive those terrible people."

    What specifically confuses me is whether or not one should maintain absolute fidelity to the quotation and all it's grammar etc, or whether to abandon the capital 'W' because the start of the quotation is not actually the start of the sentence (ie. 'In 1945' is).

    I am aware this is not dissimilar to my question of earlier this week in which I asked about capital letters following a colon. However, I am thinking that the context of quotation marks may carry their own set of rules.

    Many thanks in advance for any kind assistance offered here.

    Ta,

    Paul
    Last edited by monsterjazzlicks; 10-Jun-2017 at 19:56. Reason: Spelling

  2. #2
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    Re: Opening Capital Letter in Quotation (Question)

    My explanation to my students is always that if the quotation marks surround a complete sentence (or a fragment which starts with the first word of a sentence and ends with an ellipsis), or the first word inside the quotation marks is a proper noun, then the first letter should be capitalised.

    John said "We shall never forgive those terrible people."
    John said "We shall never forgive ...".
    John said "Yes."
    John said "I am not going to forgive him."
    John said "Microsoft is still a huge company."


    If the quotation marks surround a single word that isn't a sentence or a fragment beginning with an ellipsis, then no capitalisation is used.

    John said "forgive" is not a word he would ever use.
    John said "... those terrible people" when referring to the group which attacked the girl on Saturday night.
    John said "yes" was not an appropriate answer to his earlier question.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  3. #3
    monsterjazzlicks's Avatar
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    Re: Opening Capital Letter in Quotation (Question)

    That's brilliant, thanks!

    Examples '1' and '6' really highlight what I was asking.

    Incidentally, in example '2' (the one with the trailing ellipsis) you place the period outside of the quotation?
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 10-Jun-2017 at 22:21. Reason: Deleting quote. We didn't need to read it all again.

  4. #4
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Re: Opening Capital Letter in Quotation (Question)

    Quote Originally Posted by monsterjazzlicks View Post

    Incidentally, in example '2' (the one with the trailing ellipsis) you place the period outside of the quotation?
    Yes, because the final word of the sentence and the full stop which must follow it are not part of the quote. The full stop ends the sentence which started with "John said".

    Be aware, however, that there are definite differences between the American and British styles when it comes to the placement of full stops with quotation marks.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  5. #5
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: Opening Capital Letter in Quotation (Question)

    In expository writing, the publisher's style guide - not the author - will generally determine the answer.
    I am not a teacher.

  6. #6
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    Re: Opening Capital Letter in Quotation (Question)

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Be aware, however, that there are definite differences between the American and British styles when it comes to the placement of full stops with quotation marks.
    Again, I think this is where I get (or rather what got) me confused when reading works by US authors King and Koontz.

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