Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Capital Ship...


Choked when I read this: "Most writers have a tendency to use capitals unnecessarily."
Obviously this writer was speaking BI - Before Internet.
Suspect the opposite tendency is now the norm.
So here are the rules ( guides).

1. Capitalize the first word of a sentence. Capitalize the first word of any word or phrase that operates as a sentence.
Ex: He is her new boy toy.
Crap! No admittance?

2. Capitalize the first word of a direct quotation within a sentence, unless the quotation is a selected fragment.
Ex: He replied, "She prefers the hunky type."
He denied that he was "a neurotic editor."

3. Always capitalize the interjection O or the pronoun I.
Ex: Here I am.
Attend me, O Muse!

4. Capitalize all proper nouns and adjectives:
Ex: Italians, Chicago, Edwardian, Germanic, Scottish, Shavian, Australia, the Cabot family, George Clooney, Chaucerian.

However, the German von and the Dutch van in proper names are commonly not printed with a capital when part of a name, ie. Paul von Hindenberg, Vincent van Gogh, but usage varies.

Also the French particles de and du and the Italian di and da are commonly written in lower case when they are preceeded by a first name or title. Without the first name or title, the particle is sometimes dropped, sometimes capitalized.
Ex: Marquis de Lafayette - (De) Lafayette. Count de Mirabeau - (De) Mirabeau.
In English or American names these particles are commonly capitalized in all forms, ie. William De Morgan, Lee De Forest.

5. Do not capitalize words derived from proper nouns that now have a special meaning distinct from the proper name.
Ex: pasteurize, china, macadam, cheddar, muslim.
(Historical writers may strike an authentic note by using capitalization.)

6. Capitalize recognized geographical names:
Ex: Ohio River, Cascade Mountains, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Gulf of Mexico, Grand Canyon, Gobi Desert.
However, note that one writes: the Scacramento River, but the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers; the Atlantic Ocean, but the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Also, Lakes George and Champlain, but Malheur and and Goose lakes.
7. Capitalize compass directions when they designate particular regions. Also capitalize nicknames or special names for regions or districts,
Ex: East Tenessee, Middle Atlantic States, the South, the Far East, the Dust Bowl, the New World, Down East.
Do not capitalize merely directional parts of states or countries: e.g. southern France, eastern Ontario.

More, tomorrow.

22 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

Thanks, as always. Another great educational post.

I have a very difficult time with the compass points and directional nicknames.

Hmmmm...maybe that is why I'm usually lost in the fogs of life.

James Goodman said...

I prefer not to use capitalization, punction, or verify proper spelling. It makes for a much more challenging read. :D

Flood said...

I hope weekdays get addressed on friday. And I am having parentheses issue again too, if you are taking requests.

I must print out all your grammar/writing posts and keep them by the laptop. Thanks!

Scott said...

Seems hard to mess up on Capitalization.

Ric said...

What a capital topic.

When do we get back to sex?

Jeff said...

Thanks for the helpful information. :)

Bernita said...

Hope this stuff is useful, Erik.

Some do it with style, James.

Certainly, Flood. Will do parenthesis and brackets after.

You'd be surprised, scott.

Right after the walloping window blind, Ric. OK? All lower case.

Not that you need it, Jeff, but you're welcome.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Excellent advice as usual, Bernita! :-)

The writer who said most writers have a tendency to capitalize too much is correct when it comes to non-Internet writing. A lot of beginning writers use capitals for emphasis in the middle of a sentence (strange but true).

The worst offenders are titles (Chief Financial Officer, Human Services Director, Grand High Poo-Bah of Suite C-12, and so on). If the writer happens to have said title, he/she seems to feel it is not important unless capitalized.

Robyn said...

But, but...what about Regency authors (are time periods capitalized?) who use capitals to describe a Great and Terrible Personage, for example? I love caps used for emphasis.

Bernita said...

We'll get to that, Sonya. Have the sneaking feeling they are correct to do so.

Yep, Robyn. The use of capitalization as emphasis is a neat trick to avoid the use of italics and borrows from the conventional use of capitals for Important Events, etc. I love it because it's a character/voice tag as well.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Excuse me, Bernita...*smack* Ric, behave!

This is a great lesson. I printed it out and slipped it in my little book about writing techniques...Thanks!

Bernita...L
ol...Oh...btw...I think it's hysterically funny that the post is about when to cap...and in one of your responses to a comment you didn't cap Scott's name...LOL...your great!

Carla said...

I thought the use of capitals for important words, like a Great and Terrible Personage, was authentic usage in early 19th century English? In which case it would be exactly right in a Regency novel. Don't ask me for chapter and verse, because I've no idea where I read it. Anyone know if it's true?

Bernita said...

~howling~
Bonnie, you keep him in line.
Couldn't resist it, Bonnie. He did start it, the brat.

Now that you mention it, Carla, I believe you are right.They used certain abbreviations, too.

M.E Ellis said...

Thanks for clarification on the east/north business. That's always bugged me!

:o)

Gabriele C. said...

And capitalise I.

i hate it when i see people writing like that.

Bernita said...

Glad it's useful, Michelle.
See, my tech-child put up your icon this morning!

I, also, Gabriele. But noticed in e-mails lately, have to go back and correct - flying fingers, i guess.

Ric said...

Geez, go do some work and Bonnie attacks.

This is a great topic and clearly needed - I'm still a bit confused about the Regency stuff. It just screws with my head to see Great and Powerful Head Poobah. Not right, not right.

I do recall how cool it was to read e.e.cummings.

But poets can get away with so much more than mere novelists.

walloping window blind...
How kinky is that?

Bernita said...

Was thinking of him, Ric, and didn't post the poetry rule.
Don't let it dismay you or trouble your mind.

Kinky?
Here's the guy who wants something from "the bunk below" and he calls that kinky?
How about you suggest a sex topic, Ric?

Simon Haynes said...

Erik - Naughty Elephants Squirt Water ;-)

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