Grammer on Thoughts and Capitolization

kamistry
kamistry used Ask the Experts™
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In the following passage, where the boy is thinking to himself, is "Why" supposed to be capitalized or not?

The boy thought to himself, Why don't they just let him live in the jungle? His body is of no use to us, and he can't harm us here.
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Exactly ― it is a quotation and if the italics were between "quotation" marks it is correct.

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Commented:
No I think it should not be between quote marks (for sure).
Because the text is telling the reader about what the boy was thinking (not saying).
If the boy said the words, then it would be in quotes.
The boy thought the words, therefore, it is Italics.
Now the question is, should the first word be in capitol (the 'Why')?
EirmanChief Operations Manager

Commented:
Why comes after a comma and is in the middle of a sentence.

Therefore, it should not have a capital w.

If one used a semi-colon (;) instead of the comma, a capital may be okay.
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awking00Information Technology Specialist
Commented:
The capital W is perfectly acceptable in this case as it represents a thought indicated by the italics. And, as Kamistry stated, if it were a statement instead of a thought, that would be indicated by quotes. I'm sure we have all seen something like the following:
... and he said, "Give it a try."
Also, note that, when referring to uppercase, capital is spelled c-a-p-I-t-a-l but, when, for example, it refers to the US. Capitol, it is spelled c-a-p-I-t-o-l.
The boy thought to himself, "Why don't they just let him live in the jungle? His body is of no use to us, and he can't harm us here".

I'm going to be at odds with Eirman here.  My thoughts are that the uppercase "W" in "Why" is absolutely correct because it is the start of a complete sentence that needs to be written in Sentence case.  The uppercase "H" that starts the next sentence within the quotation marks is therefore also correct.

It doesn't matter whether the two sentences are thoughts or were spoken aloud.  They still need to be enclosed in quotation marks because the effect is the same.  I tend to use a colon when I am introducing a quote, for example;

The boy thought to himself: "Why don't they just let him live in the jungle? His body is of no use to us, and he can't harm us here".

I'm sure it is incorrect to do so, but I prefer this method because it creates a natural separation.  Technically a colon should only be used if a complete sentence precedes and introduces the quote, and a comma should be used in most other instances.

There may be some dispute about whether the full stop (period) that closes the sentence should be inside the closing quotation mark or outside it, as I typed at the start of this comment.  My way is what is taught in the UK, whereas I believe that the following is taught in the US (http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/quotation.htm#footnote):

The boy thought to himself, "Why don't they just let him live in the jungle? His body is of no use to us, and he can't harm us here."

My view is that the UK way is correct because the quotation is actually part of a complete structure that needs to be terminated.  Given that the two sentences within the quotation marks are also complete, it might also be correct to use two full stops, but I have never seen this type of punctuation being used.

The boy thought to himself, "Why don't they just let him live in the jungle? His body is of no use to us, and he can't harm us here.".

If I had to write the same thing I believe that I would be tempted to do so this way:

"Why don't they just let him live in the jungle?", the boy thought to himself, "His body is of no use to us, and he can't harm us here".

Most people these days don't even notice bad grammar, case errors, or even spelling and punctuation mistakes, because they are so used to typing onto a mobile device keyboard and are too lazy to touch the Shift key.

(BTW, my Shift key is playing up and for some reason my "H" key needs to be pressed quite hard, so ignore my own case and missing "h" letters ;-)
kamistry

Were you aware that there is a "Proofreading" topic here on Experts-Exchange:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/topics/proofreading/
Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be frequented as much as it should be and you have more chance of answers in the "Miscellaneous" topic.
Thank you Kyle

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