The AP Style rule is pretty simple: Capitalize the first word after a colon when it begins a complete sentence. I correct errors around colons all the time, so here?s a refresher!
?When should the first word after a colon be lowercase?
When the first word after a colon introduces a fragment, list, or phrase that?s not a complete sentence, leave it lowercase. A few examples:
There were three considerations: expense, time, and feasibility.
She cared about only one thing: pasta.
The recipes dance through the African diaspora: cornbread with Aleppo pepper, tofu gnocchi with black garlic, spiced goat with sticky rice.
In 2008, when the scandal broke large, Detroit?s status in the national conversation was still as a cautionary tale: a formerly great city, now derelict and dangerous.
Okay, so how do I know when to capitalize the first word after a colon?
If it begins a full sentence/independent clause, capitalize it. That means any clause with a subject and a verb.
Not sure if your clause qualifies? Try changing the colon to a period and see if it still reads as a complete sentence.
A couple of recent examples:
Little says that the actual route of the community center is not as enjoyable: There are more turns, and the walkways are not as wide.
As someone who?s led countless walks in the neighborhood, I can attest to its allure: Since Manhattan narrows at its southern tip, you can walk coast to coast with little difficulty.
However, it?s simple enough to figure out why a mortgage would complicate the transaction: Banks currently aren?t counting people?s bitcoins.
What about headlines?
In headlines, capitalize any word after a colon.
It?s April Fools? Day on Sunday. Notice the apostrophe placement!
New additions to our word lists: Southeast Asia (capitalized as a region), Kalamata olive, whiskey/whiskeys (for American, Irish, and English whiskey), whisky whiskys (for Canadian, Japanese, and Scotch whisky), capital (the city where a seat of government is located), Capitol (the building in Washington; also used for state capitol buildings; capitalize when referring to a specific building), cheesesteak, pate, prosciutto di Parma, Fresno pepper, Tiki, Bolognese, auto body, auto-body shop, Airstream, brownfield, and greenfield.
Eater, I?ve been seeing some headline capitalization errors. Please take a look at this headline capitalization cheat sheet I made or plug your headlines into this tool (select Associated Press as your style).
In other news, an argument against hypercapitalization. What, exactly, is the mediopassive voice? (?The wine drinks well? is one example.) And Italo disco to edit to, as promised!
Have a great week,