NewsWriting Tips

Capitalizing your content

I  admit it …I’m a word nerd! | March 2015

An eclectic array of emails arrive each morning.  But while I have a tendency to delete many of them after a cursory glance at the summary, I look forward to reading Daily Writing Tips in full.

Gems such as the 10 Point Comma Quiz really appeal to nerds like me.

A topic that crops up from time to time is capitalization – mostly when NOT to capitalize. The over use of capitals is a common problem in a lot of writing that I edit. It can be difficult to decide what is appropriate however the basic rule is ‘less is better’.  There are some other rules too.

Orange Capitals_resize

Capital letters should be used for:

  • the first letter of the first word in a sentence
  • the first letter of a proper noun
  • for denoting acronyms and initials.

They should not be used for:

  • emphasis – no one likes TO BE SHOUTED AT
  • aggrandizement – official titles are capitalized however general reference to, for example, the chief executive, is not.
  • when the name of an entity such as an organization is reduced to one word, for example ‘the association’ not ‘the Association’ or ‘the river’ as an abbreviation of ‘the Murray River’. But if the shortened version serves as the conventional abbreviation for a place, it operates like a proper name and the capital remains.  An example of this is ‘the Great Barrier Reef’ as ‘the Reef’.

Mark Nichol, in a recent DWT post, states that

“One complication is something that can be blamed on institutional pride, as when a university’s literature describes how “the University’s student-life environment is very rich” or on corporate branding efforts, as in “the Company is here to serve your needs.” Such gratuitous capitalization is entrenched in traditional legal writing (for example, “the Plaintiff’s claim is upheld”), but both in that context and in general prose it is distracting”.

Fascinating! …or is it just me?