Friday, May 29, 2009

What Century is this?

I often see people write "19th Century" or "18th Century" or "21st Century." Why do they uppercase Century? Is a century special?

It's part of an epidemic of uppercasing. I've recently proofread books in which Nearly Half the Words were Uppercased. That's often an example of a non-writer trying to be cool or someone trying to make his writing seem important.

Miss Lula Mae Smith hit the Century mark today, it says in the newspaper. She turned 100.

What Century was Shakespeare born in?

She was born at the Turn of the Century. (Of course this makes us wonder which century is turning.)

If you see a story about the movie studio 20th Century Fox, then century should be uppercased.

Someone out there will probably give my an example why century should be uppercased; I half expect it.

But most of the time, there's no reason to uppercase century.

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1 comment:

  1. I've just been researching this and must say I'm surprised! I thought maybe it was a difference between American English & British English, because I was educated in Ireland, am a translator by profession, and regularly notice and take note of these kind of conventions ... and I have always thought "19th Century" was correct. Anything else looks wrong to me, although of course in your other examples where the word century stands alone (without a number modifier), it should of course be lowercase, without question. And yet I now find that even UK style guides agree with you and say lower case is correct, across the board. I stand corrected ... but I'll find it hard to change!