Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Capitals After Colons.

Capitals After Colons

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 23, 2019)


Word includes many grammar and spelling aids to help make the job of writing just a bit easier. (Or more frustrating, depending on your viewpoint and needs.) One thing that Word did not include, however, was a feature to automatically capitalize the first word after a colon. In some (but not all) grammatical circles, it is standard and proper to capitalize the first letter of the word immediately following a colon. Since Word does not include this feature, what is a person to do?

Well, the first (and obvious) solution is to simply remember to capitalize the word yourself—i.e., press the Shift key and capitalize the letter as you type. If you are looking for a more automatic approach, then there are several methods from which you can choose. Some Word users might be inclined to think you could use Word's AutoCorrect feature. Theoretically, all you need to do is define a series of new AutoCorrect entries that consist of a colon, followed by a space, and then a lowercase letter. You would then instruct AutoCorrect to replace this sequence with a colon, a space, and the corresponding uppercase letter. Of course, you would have to add 26 such entries, one for each letter of the alphabet.

After doing all this work in AutoCorrect, however, you would immediately find out that it did work. Why? Because AutoCorrect only uses spaces and punctuation as "triggers" to signal a change may be needed. In other words, the AutoCorrect approach would work if you were typing a colon, a space, a lowercase character, and then another space. This means that in the phrase "this is: a dirty shame" the letter "a" would be replaced by AutoCorrect with an uppercase "A". However, in the phrase "this is: another dirty shame," AutoCorrect does no correction at all. Thus, AutoCorrect can't be used to achieve the desired results.

The only other solution is to use a macro to double-check your document and automatically capitalize any letters following colons, just in case you missed them while typing. The macro could make use of the wildcard feature of the Search and Replace function, as follows:

Sub CapAfterColons()
    With ActiveDocument.Range.Find
        With .Replacement.Font
            .SmallCaps = False
            .AllCaps = True
        End With

        .MatchWildcards = True
        .Text = ": ([a-z])"
        .Replacement.Text = ": \1"
        .Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
    End With
End Sub

You could assign this macro to a button on your toolbar, and thereby catch all your mistakes in one quick step. There is one thing to be aware of with this macro: it does not change the first character after a colon to a "true" capital letter. What it does is to change the formatting of the colon, space, and first character to All Caps. This means that the character, even though lowercase, is displayed by Word as uppercase. (You can see this formatting setting in the Font dialog box.)

As a final suggestion, if you don't like to mess with macros, you can still use the AutoCorrect feature, but this time a little differently. Set up AutoCorrect to replace any instance of a colon with a colon-period combination. Thus, as you are typing, when you type a colon followed by a space, Word automatically changes it to a colon followed by a period and then a space. Word's AutoCorrect feature will then, automatically, capitalize the next letter you type since it believes it is the first letter of a sentence. (After all, it follows a period.) When you are done with your document, all you need to do is one quick search and replace to change the colon-period pairs back to just a colon.


If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13352) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Capitals After Colons.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 9 - 0?

2018-10-19 20:25:19


Your contribution is appreciable. See my case, I make subtitles in srt, I'll use your resource to capitulate after (.,:,?). It happens that there is a line break, and also a standard set of characters: I'll show you.

00: 00: 11,353 -> 00: 00: 15,958
xxxx. xxxx, xxxx xxx xxxxxx xxx.
xx. xxxxxxx, xxxx xxx xxxxxx xxx:

00: 00: 15,958 -> 00: 00: 20,329
xxxxs, xxxx, xxxx xxx xxxxxx xxx?
xxxx. xxxxxxx xxxx xxx xxxxxx x.

That should look like this:

00: 00: 11,353 -> 00: 00: 15,958
xxxx. Xxxx, xxxx xxx xxxxxx xxx.
Xx. Xxxxxxx, xxxx xxx xxxxxx xxx:

00: 00: 15,958 -> 00: 00: 20,329
Xxxxs, xxxx, xxxx xxx xxxxxx xxx?
Xxxx. Xxxxxxx xxxx xxx xxxxxx x.

Can you give any idea? I'm using ^ p and it has not worked for my case. Thanks in advance!

^ p2 ^ p00: 00: 15,958 -> 00: 00: 20,329 (this part using clear wildcard characters did we solve?)

2018-01-25 16:11:51


P.S. With regard to:

"No one can build software that will provide for every special need or error that occurs. The macro and/or steps described above are a solution."

Rules for the application of the "segmental (not "segmented"! Gross!)" colon (i.e., the type of colon used to introduce speech) have been outlined since at least 1908 (see grammar handbook, "The King's English" -- That's sort of a bunch of years before Microsoft invented Word, and as far as I'm concerned it's just another instance of Microsoft inexplicably not including a formatting option/rule that's been around almost as long as printed type.

2018-01-25 15:31:44



(I know it's been years since you posted this comment, but I'm guessing this page is still getting a ton of hits considering this is STILL an irritating Word fail. So I'm replying to you for posterity and the sake of all "typists" out there who come here for solutions.)

You say you're not trying to be flippant and then are immediately, intentionally flippant. If you really want an answer to your question, there are actually non-flippant ways to ask it.

I'm also a transcriptionist and a large portion of my clients' material consists of interviews, many of which are pages and pages long. Formatting these interviews, as you might imagine, includes speaker tokens (names or aliases), a billion colons, and a (in my case) billions of tabs, followed by the things the speakers say. In other words, a transcribed interview looks like the script of a movie or a play:

Q:[tab]Blah blah blah. Hi, my name is Q.

A:[tab]Yadda yadda. Pleased to meet you. I'm A.

I can make an auto-text for "Q:[tab]" (which includes the double space between speakers) but not for forcing Word to capitalize the first sentence the speaker says after the colon. As Allen describes, above, there isn't a single tool in Word for this (maddening, but typical).

So now imagine I have 48 pages of interview to type, after which I need to turn in a document that's *at least* 98% accurate with regard to speech, facts, AND formatting according to client specs. I (straight-)type upwards of 100 wpm, but it's been a long, long time since I've had to work on an actual typewriter, and most word-processing programs build in recognition of the beginnings of sentences, and capitalize them. Because if you're typing for a living, accuracy AND speed = money.

Like the medical transcriptionist, below, I can't afford to make mistakes that are easy to avoid, like capitalizing the beginnings of sentences. If I can combine accuracy (correct use of capitals) with speed (a tool that lets me do this on the fly), then I'm better able to do my job.

Let's look at the math. In the transcription I just did, there are two speakers, "Q" and "A." In the whole document there are exactly 670 instances where I need to begin a new (capitalized) sentence after a speaker token, a colon, and a tab, as illustrated above. Here are the steps of my solution:

1. Make a/c for q (formatting for capitalization of "q," colon following it, a space [or in my case a tab], leaving the cursor in place for beginning of first sentence of speech.
2. Make a/c for a (same as for "q")
3. Make macro/button for search/replace (find ":." in whole document; replace with ":" -- takes about 15 seconds to make this macro)
4. Hit button on ribbon

=673 things my hands have to do (but in the future, I don't have to do steps 1-3)

If I'd implemented the steps of your solution:

1. Hold down shift key
2. Type "q"
3. Release shift.
4. Type colon
5. Hit tab
6. Hold down shift key
7. Type first letter of sentence
8. Release shift
9. At end of last sentence speaker utters before next speaker, hit return twice (my auto-correct for each speaker token takes care of this pesky step, saving me 670)

Repeating steps 1-9 x 670 = 6,030 things my hands have to do. This is also the same number of potential mistakes I set myself up to make.

Which makes more sense? 673 steps per document? Or 6,030?

I hope this answers your question about "typists" and the "one-push-button solution."

(And thank you, Andrew, for this kickass site. You've saved me hours and hours of time on a bunch of different problems.)

2016-09-05 09:17:03


Not trying to be flippant, . Why don't typists just:

1. Pres down and hold Shift key.
2. Press colon key :
3. Press space key
4. Press letter key
5. Release Shift key

No one can build software that will provide for every special need or error that occurs. The macro and/or steps described above are a solution.

Now, if the macro could and does include the search and replace method recommended above, you would have the one-push button solution. But you still would have to rely on data entry people to push the button.

2016-09-04 15:10:17

Bonnie Ryden

No, no, no! This is not nearly good enough. I am a medical transcriptionist and we MUST capitalize the first letter after a colon no matter what. I need a quick workaround that does not require extra steps at the end of every document. Every medical transcriptionist in the country will praise you if you can come up with something that is easy to implement and works every time. Thanks.

2015-01-10 23:43:34


" would immediately find out that it did work."

Maybe "it did NOT work"??

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