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RANDOM CAPITALIZATION

September 30, 2020

            There’s nothing more annoying (well there are LOTs of things) than random capitalization. This is the sure sign of an amateur writer.

WHAT’S RANDOM CAPITALIZATION?

            What’s random capitalization?

            It’s the Capitalization of random words that have no business being Capitalized. In other words, they’re usually, but not always certain nouns that the author capitalizes for reasons unknown, or maybe to emphasize the word, or because the author just feels it should be capitalized. Maybe they think because it’s the title of someone, it needs to be capitalized.

            The fact is that this is simply not true. The only time a word needs to be capitalized is when it’s used in reference to a proper name and certain titles.

WHEN TO CAPITALIZE A WORD

            You capitalize a word when it’s used as a proper title or name.

            I once was the editor of the Observer’s Challenge. I would get input from amateur astronomers from around the country and then clean up their grammar. Quite often, they would capitalize the cardinal directions. For instance, “The star GSC409+2129 sat East of NGC2409.”

            Nope, no ceegar.

            It should say “The star GSC409+2129 sat east of NGC2409.”

            Now, if the east was part of a proper name, that would be different.

            “We took a trip to the south of France.”

            Capitalize?

            Nope, because it isn’t a proper name. It’s describing a cardinal direction within France.

            “We took a trip to Southeast Asia.”

            That’s a proper name because it describes and named region. That named region includes several countries, mind you, but it’s a region.

            “We’re heading up north.”

            Nope. It’s not describing a named region.

            We’re taking a vacation to South America.

            In that case, it’s a named continent.

            Now, let’s take another example.

            God/gods.

            When it’s used to describe a proper name, it’s capitalized. When it’s describing beings, not necessarily.

            God, as in the being, is capitalized.

            “I’ve always had faith in God.”

            In this case, you’re talking specifically about the being.

            “There is no god I care about.”

            In this case, you’re not specifically calling out a particular god by name or affiliation. Therefore, no capitalization.

            How about public figures?

            I knew the mayor of Detroit.

            No capitalization because you’re just describing a political position.

            My mother went out with Mayor Dodderidge when they were younger.

            In this case, it’s a title.

            Brand names.

            Brand names can be more tricky since sometimes brand names can be confused with the objects.

            For instance, crayon is a wax colored stick for kids to draw colors on paper.

            A Crayola is a brand of crayon which does the same thing.

            Then there’s Fred’s English way of saying it, “kuller kranz.” That’s not capitalized either!

ANNOYING CAPITALIZATION

            You can tell a rank Amateur because for some reason, they Capitalize random words for no apparent Reason. I’ve edited countless Manuscripts and have, for the Life of me, never figured out why the authors capitalized What seemed like every other word. Once in A while, they blame the software, but I have Yet to run across Software that does that.

SUMMARY

            I’ve given only a few brief examples, but there are plenty more. The Chicago Manual Of Style gives plenty more. Also, if you’re published, your editor will have certain standards they go by. Follow them.

            Happy writing!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Debra Caples permalink
    October 14, 2020 11:18 am

    Oops.

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