Avoid the Caps!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Photo Credit | Recite.com

Wayward capitalization is one of my pet peeves.

(Granted, I have made my own share of capitalization mistakes, but it can still be a pet peeve even if I sometimes make that mistake, right?)

When I’m reading along, a Writer who adds capitals to a general noun has my attention. But that Person has received my Attention for the Wrong Reasons. In reality, I’m looking for the next item that is capitalized and forget about the Plot or the Characters or the Author’s Important Information.
Instead, I enjoy reading authors who use a style manual* that suggests lowercasing job titles, especially those with modifiers:

tennis coach John Bee** versus Coach John Bee and definitely not Tennis Coach John Bee

In my experience, capitalization often occurs when the professionals in the sentence request their titles are capitalized. In doing so, the subjects of those sentences are communicating more about themselves and feelings of importance than they are about their knowledge of style.

The capitalization, to me, screams THIS IS IMPORTANT. But with all the caps, it would seem that nothing is important.

Instead, a fictional character should not appear as Badminton Coach Josie Cee*** because badminton is modifying coach. Josie Cee, badminton coach, may be introduced with no less importance, but simply with the proper lowercase style.

Job descriptions are best situated after the subject’s name so the reader may remember the person’s name and not the large letters lurking in front of the name, blocking the reader’s view.

I don’t know why errant capitalization bothers me so much. I just know that I like the smooth lines of lowercase titles. 

Do you like capitalization? Or are you a lowercase-aphile?

Elizabeth King Humphrey, Editor and Writer, lives in Coastal North Carolina. Just kidding! Elizabeth King Humphrey, an editor and writer, lives in coastal North Carolina.

*In my experience, the Associated Press or Chicago styles
** I do not know a John Bee, tennis coach or otherwise. In no way did I mean to disparage any and all capitalized John Bees of the world.
*** I do not know a Josie Cee, badminton coach or otherwise. In no way did I mean to disparage any and all capitalized Josie Cees of the world.


Amber Polo said...

I know usage has changed but it's still hard for me to get used to not capitalizing some words. President when it's clear it's the President of the United States not just any president. University when it's clear it's a particular one not just any one.
In a report Badminton Coach may be a job title, not a description.
(Sorry but I was trained as a librarian. :) )

Angela Mackintosh said...

I have the same pet peeve, Elizabeth! I get asked all the time too, mostly by advertisers, and usually just give in and capitalize. For my own editing, I go by CMS and they say no capitalization of job titles, but I think--and I could be wrong--there's an exception in there somewhere about capitalizing for courtesy…because in the case of most clients, they want their titles capitalized for importance!

Okay, I found it:

"In promotional or ceremonial contexts such as a displayed list of donors in the front matter of a book or a list of corporate officers in an annual report, titles are usually capitalized even when following a personal name. Exceptions may also be called for in other contexts for reasons of courtesy or diplomacy. (8.19)"

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