Tag Archives: capitalization

Editing flowers

I’ve been wading my way through an enormous, heavy tome, proofreading. I’ve experienced a few frustrations from the process, and my husband brought me flowers from the local farmers’ market to brighten up my editing space.

It worked. 🙂

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Happy National Grammar Day

Reblogging from Write Well Me:

I don’t have much to say on this topic except the following:

• March 4 also happens to be my daughter’s birthday. Anastasia and grammar will be forever linked.
• They’ll make a day out of anything
• National Grammar Day gives plenty of fodder for those of who care about such things. Read this and this. (Case in point: this very blog post you’re reading.)

For more information, visit the National Grammar Day website. Yes, there’s an entire website as well as a whole day devoted to grammar.

The discussion between the Baltimore Sun editor and Language Log’s Geoffrey Pullum, referenced above, is quite interesting to follow. I can see both sides of the that vs. which in relative clauses debate pretty clearly. Having supported myself as a copy editor, I’m glad to hear that Language Log doesn’t hate my kind. I don’t want to sound clichéd, but I would like editors and linguists to work together; I don’t see why they’re divided. Maybe that’s just me, editor and wannabe linguist.

Where do you place yourself in this debate?

Prescriptive grammar?

According to a Language Log post I saw first at A Teacher’s Education, the military wants us all to capitalize Soldier, even when it stands alone. Army Chief of Staff General Peter J. Schoomaker apparently thinks this will help instill respect for the people who are in the military.

It won’t work.

My first thought was not would people get it, but rather: would people DO it. I understand that we write, now (you and I, anyway, and your readers here), mostly according to the established pattern. But this seems like an iffy time to try such a thing: It seems to me (albeit as no historian) that the English language is accepting and conforming more and more to today’s digital shorthand — which basically ignores (intentionally or not) the accepted grammar rules.

I’d imagine the print media (which are resistent to change in grammar rules, particularly those pushed on them by people and institutions they’re working to guard against, as watchdogs) would ignore such a prescript. The AP Stylebook is notoriously slow to change — it was just in the last (yearly) edition that it finally conceded to popular opinion that internet shouldn’t be capitalized and that online doesn’t need a hyphen.

It’s good for the military to take charge of this where they can — but that’s basically in its own writings, which are seen by the general public quite rarely. Working at a newspaper, I saw a good chunk of them, and they, for several years now, have Soldier, Sailor, etc., capitalized. The copy desk routinely replaced all those capitalized letters for title standing alone with the lowercase letter. They corrected the releases. Capitalizing titles only before names is a long-standing tradition. It will be difficult to change. I’m sure a few publications will be quick to change — Stars and Stripes comes to to mind, although I’m not very familiar with it.

How long has it taken for a rule to change in the past? Take the serial comma, for instance. I was taught in high school (I had several different English teachers) that first the serial comma was used always, and later that it’s only used when needed for clarity. My nonuse of the serial comma was reinforced in college and in journalism classes particularly. Some teachers still require the serial comma’s use today, 12 years after I graduated from high school. Just because the government wants to institute a change in proper capitalization, does that mean it will happen? How many generations will it take for the change to take hold?

Finally, even if this did catch on, it’s a slippery slope. It’s no stretch that it would make writers rethink capitalization generally, and it would become a sign of a writer’s world view. Or, if a person is feeling particularly anti, he or she could simply not capitalize the titles (even with the names!) of the offending parties. What a mess.