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I'm in South Ossetia – yes, I managed to get a visa!

In this sentence, should "yes" be capitalised ("Yes") after the dash?

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    You're asking about informal writing. Anything understandable is fine. A capital "Y" for "Yes" is fine. Why use a dash? Why not a period? There are no rules for informal writing!
    – user264
    Apr 26 '13 at 13:01
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    @BillFranke the person whose writing I was looking at is Japanese. They have a tendency to use colons, semicolons and other exotic punctuation in English far more often than native speakers. Apr 26 '13 at 13:06
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    I see that someone deleted my comment about ignoring how non-native-speakers of English write English. The arrogance of power, I guess. I'll say it again: Don't pay attention to how non-natives write informal English. If their informal prose is clear & understandable, it's good enough. Clarity & understandability are the hallmark of good informal writing, not fretting about whether the writing follows non-existent rules. Formal written English is quite another kettle of commas & colons, however. Look at how native Anglophones do exactly the same thing as your Japanese correspondent. Ask why.
    – user264
    Apr 26 '13 at 23:40
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    Look at how professional novelists ignore all the rules when they write dialog. Why? Because they can. Because their readers don't care. Some argue: "they know the rules before they break them". I argue: they don't know the rules & don't care about 'em any more than their readers do. Informal writing's more like speech than a PhD thesis. Nobody grades it. They either understand it or they don't. Is there anything about "I'm in Z - yes, I managed...!" that's less clear than "I'm in Z - Yes, I managed...!" If not, it doesn't matter. If so, then it matters. Which is it?
    – user264
    Apr 26 '13 at 23:51
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No, the dash represents a pause in the sentence, which continues after the dash. Since the sentence did not end you do not capitalize "yes". For a detailed list of capitalization and other style rules you can reference this Oxford Style Guide PDF.

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  • In the sentence shown from the OP, would the dash be roughly equivalent to a semicolon?
    – apaderno
    Apr 26 '13 at 13:41
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    @kiamlaluno: Roughly equivalent, yes. Note that even with a semicolon, 'yes' would not be capitalized.
    – Matt
    Apr 26 '13 at 14:43
  • I've replaced the link in your answer with a link to an archived copy, as the link has gone dead. Please consider archiving (via the Wayback Machine) any content linked to in an answer.
    – LMS
    Jan 6 '17 at 19:54
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No. The rules for capitalization are fairly straight-forward. You capitalize:

  • The first letter of a sentence or direct quotation (Today is a new day. John said "Today is a new day").

  • The pronoun 'I'

  • Single letters in music (Bach's Fugue in D minor)

  • Each word in a proper noun - including names of months, days, people, organisations, cities, holidays and religious texts (such as England, John, Microsoft, English, New York, Tuesday, January, Christmas Eve, the Koran, the Bible, the Old Testament, North, Far East etc)

  • Country-related (and some place-related) adjectives and nationalities (English breakfast, French toast, the German people, as well as Italians, Spaniards, Liverpudlian etc)

  • Titles - including religious titles (Sir Williams, Mr and Mrs Johnson, the President of the United States, the Pope, the Lord is my shepherd, the Prophet was born in Mecca).

  • Most acronyms (such as HAM radio, but not others such as i.e.)

Increasingly (and especially informally, or on the Internet) you will find two other "acceptable" uses of capital letters. (Don't do this in exams or formal writing)

  • A fragment can be written entirely in caps for emphasis (although italics are preferred) - e.g. Joan gave me YET ANOTHER excuse why she has to leave early today.

  • Words can be capitalized as an alternative to "scare quotes" (The French Revolution was a Good Thing at first, but Napoleon's rise to power was most definitely a Bad Thing).

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  • Additionally, capitalisation is considered acceptable after a colon. Apr 26 '13 at 17:17
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    @PaddyLandau: From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colon_(punctuation): Use of capitalization or lower-case after a colon varies. In British English, the word following the colon is in lower case unless it is a proper noun or an acronym, or is normally capitalized for some other reason (e.g. see segmental use hereinbefore). However, in American English, many writers capitalize the word following a colon if it begins an independent clause, i.e. a clause that could stand as a complete sentence.
    – Matt
    Apr 26 '13 at 17:32
  • All very nice, but where are the rules about capitalization after a dash? Where are the rules that even say a dash is permissible in a sentence like "I'm in South Ossetia - yes, I managed to get a visa!"? When you make stuff up -- like rules, you know, you have to show us where they are. Only celebrated clerics can discuss how many angels can dance on the head of a pin without having to prove that angels exist & that they can do the Watusi. Friendly letter format, & informal letter steps, & examples. No dashes!
    – user264
    Apr 26 '13 at 23:19
  • And then there's this oxymoron: the most formal "informal" letter I've ever seen. But for the blogger, the difference between the two is that formal means "for business" & informal means "to friends". I'm glad I'm not Mandy's "friend". And for this one, "informality" consists of doing what's not allowed in formal written prose, as well as omitting clarifying punctuation. Where are all the "rules" hidden? I'm the prescriptivist pedant here, unless you want to be, I guess.
    – user264
    Apr 26 '13 at 23:29
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    @BillFranke: "but where are the rules about capitalization after a dash" - There is no canonical rulebook for English - and whilst celebrated writers are free to do as they choose, English learners should follow the basic syntax as defined by the norms of the language. The rule that capital letters go at the start of sentences and not at the start of other clauses is well established in English: informatics.sussex.ac.uk/department/docs/punctuation/…. On ELU I would agree with you - anything goes. But on ELL, I stand by my assertion that capital letters are rule-bound.
    – Matt
    Apr 27 '13 at 9:59

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