Thursday, March 31, 2011


When I worked at newspapers, I never liked it when I received press releases that WERE IN ALL-CAPITALS. WHO WANTS SOMEONE SHOUTING AT YOU AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS?

The other problem with Capitalization is that writers capitalize words indiscriminately. I recently saw that a guy taught Composition in high school. That's great, but why does a subject need to be capitalized? I took journalism in college and never felt the need to say that I took Journalism.

I recently was Proofreading a non-fiction Book, and I found hundreds of Words that were capitalized incorrectly or indiscriminately. Yes, you would uppercase General as in General Norman Schwarzkopf; otherwise, it's Norman Schwarzkopf, a former general.

But the ubiquitous uppercasing of words doesn't bother me as much as poor grammar. I just found "You've probably heard Wilson and I talk ..." online, and, frankly, "Wilson and I" just doesn't cut it. Would you say "You've probably heard I talk about this or that?" No, you'd say "You've probably heard me talk..."

Same with further and farther. Farther is distance -- you ran farther than I did today. Further has more of a time element -- after further review, for instance.

Then there's "between you and I." Two men of letters were arguing in the 1993 remake of the movie "The Sea Wolf." The late Christopher Reeve was playing protagonist Humphrey van Weyden, and the other man was ready to fight a duel. The man said "between you and I," and that fueled van Weyden's final volley. He said something like, "For my weapon, I choose words, and, between you and me, you're out of ammunition."

It was great to hear a snooty guy on a bad version of a classic novel using language correctly. It's a never-ending battle, though. As Rosana-Rosana Dana said so eloquently, "It's always something."

Contact: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

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  1. I tend to dignify academic disciples with a capital - like proper names. So Maths, Philosophy etc. Otherwise I agree. But what about those words which are sometimes names and sometimes general nouns referring to the same person? In my current novel, for instance, I have:
    "For goodness' sake, Dad, don't bring that one up again."
    Later, in narrative: His Dad was always ready to remind him of silly juvenile mistakes.
    The question that exercises me is, how to get it right and still appear consistent.

  2. I disagree on the disciplines, Rob. I didn't need to take Journalism; journalism is fine. I disagree with others on a lot of things, and that doesn't bother me at all. As for uppercasing the word dad: Hi, Dad, is fine, but I told my dad that I'm coming back soon. There's no reason to uppercase dad in that instance.

    If you'd like a sample chapter edit, let me know. I get writers to pay for one chapter to see what they think. So far, they've always liked the editing.

  3. Might take you up on that sample chapter edit offer at a later stage - after completion and several passes of self-editing. I did have my previous novel edited by a professional and found his work first rate - money well spent and a definite lesson in serious writing.