Another Bad Writing Trend

Posted: June 7, 2014 in Language Use, Writing

by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

The rules for capitalization in English are a mess. Always have been, always will be.

But there are some “dos” and “don’ts.” When looking through submissions in recent years, I’ve noticed that more and more writers simply ignore those rules; they seem to think they’re Germans–semi-literate Germans–and capitalize nouns seemingly at random. (In German, all nouns are capitalized.)

In broad strokes, the first letters of the following should always be capitalized: 1) proper nouns; 2) the first words in sentences; 3) names of individuals; and 4) place names. There are many other words that customarily have initial caps, including some which probably shouldn’t, especially those capitalized to show respect, such as “Congress”–an institution only slightly more popular than death by asphyxiation and scabies.

The important things to remember are that capitalization in English is not entirely arbitrary, that you don’t capitalize ordinary nouns, and when in doubt, look it up. (There are many good, free, online guides, such as GrammarBook.)

If you want to impress an editor, do something unusual: use capitalization properly.

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