The New York Times isn’t alone in making me ill over its colon usage. But I adore the Times and read it faithfully, so I’m daily aggrieved. The usage I detest: capitalizing the first letter of the clause after a colon. In this style, incomplete sentences escape the initial capital. But independent clauses unfortunately do not.
Here’s a true story in which I’ll use a colon before an independent clause in the first sentence of the second paragraph:
“I knew a farmer who had a sow who learned to escape by ramming herself through an electrified fence. Hot wires hurt. Even if briefly. The swine knew this. But oh, the rewards of freedom! So she’d run full bore, as it were, at the fence.
“And, knowing she’d suffer, she’d start screaming: before she was shocked, she’d start screaming. Which was how the farmer knew his pig was out again. Inside his house, he’d hear her cries as she ran, unfettered and unharmed, at the waiting fence. I wonder if what really motivated her was rage—at injustice, since, technically, the fence hurt her before her crime.”
The idiocy of the alternate stylistic practice is that, following its hazy logic, the first word in an independent clause after a semicolon should really be capitalized too: “And, knowing she’d suffer, she’d start screaming; Before she was shocked, she’d start screaming.”
Now I really feel nauseous. I mean, look at it.