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Capitalization (was: Here at the Department we...)

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  • melvyn.geo
    (Note to Charlie regarding the other thread: I asked my doctor student to clarify the situation with odborne and specializacni staze in his next homework, so
    Message 1 of 32 , Sep 26, 2012
      (Note to Charlie regarding the other thread: I asked my doctor student to clarify the situation with odborne and specializacni staze in his next homework, so Helena has not been entirely forgotten.)

      Jamie wrote:
      > Websites that look like they were designed with mid-1990s HTML technology don't inspire confidence.

      Do latest bells and whistles often improve the credibility of a text? Check out YouTube comments for that one. Does the work of a school architect reflect on the work of the teachers in his school?

      >It's nonetheless not appropriate to use German Gross- und Kleinschreiben in English when not capitalizing will not result in confusion. For example, if a contract only ever mentions one contract (itself), there is no reason to write "the Contract", because writing "the contract" does not result in confusion.

      OK this is very logical, but when logic comes up against house rules and entrenched conventions then where do you put your money? It can indeed look very silly to write Company even as an adjective, but then legal texts are a whole special domain with their own special (??sometimes silly) rules, conventions and lexis. The client says **** and we say what colour?

      >Going to a British source, the Oxford Style Manual

      The Oxford Guide to Style

      >seems to support


      >your preferred capitalization on page 77, but in the US this would often be considered extreme overuse of capitalization and would strike people as indicative of poor writing skills.

      So it will largely be a British v. American matter. Sorted.

      Talking of entrenched conventions, I keep coming across journals and other publications that traditionally use "title case" in their headings:

      Among U.S. book publishers (but not newspaper publishers), it is a common typographic practice to capitalize "important" words in titles and headings. This is an old form of emphasis, similar to the more modern practice of using a larger or boldface font for titles. Most capitalize all words except for closed-class words, or articles, prepositions and conjunctions. Some capitalize longer prepositions such as "between", but not shorter ones. Some capitalize only nouns, others capitalize all words. This family of typographic conventions is usually called title case. Of these various styles, only the practice of capitalizing nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives but not articles, conjunctions or prepositions (though some styles except long prepositions) is considered correct in formal American English writing, according to most style guides,

      I get the idea some editors-in-chief are quite in despair over consistent usage in their own house style. Should long prepositions be capitalized? How long does a preposition have to be before it is a long preposition? Etc.

      And then IMHO long titles using this title case look like texts from the seventeenth century.

      The solution? Sentence case.
      I told an American editor that if she converted to sentence case then she could cheerfully replace me as proofreader with any averagely well educated American, so she wrote back: " I'd be happy to go with sentence case, if it's good enough for the Economist then it's good enough for me and it certainly makes life less complicated." Another convert. But just how acceptable is this sentence case in modern American usage? I would be keen to hear you guys' views.


    • melvyn.geo
      ... Hardly a surprise considering the manuals disagree among themselves, as you point out, and users freely pick and choose among them. I am happy enough if
      Message 32 of 32 , Sep 29, 2012
        --- In Czechlist@yahoogroups.com, James Kirchner <czechlist@...> wrote:
        >There's no unity at similar establishments regarding usage.

        Hardly a surprise considering the manuals disagree among themselves, as you point out, and users freely pick and choose among them. I am happy enough if I can show that a particular standpoint is sometimes applied in practice.

        >I actually know a very good web designer whose own website is the trashiest thing imaginable. She says it puts her right at the top of the search engine rankings, and that clients who see her samples don't care about her own site.

        The one who designed my blog pages (and received praise from rival web designers for them) told me she just does not bother with her own site.



        BTW bloguje.cz recently shut up shop without warning and now I have to find a new home for my blog. Any recommendations, anybody?

        >I've also read that matchmaking sites do better if they look cheesy. Again, people think there are humans behind the site.

        Freelance translators and interpreters often stress the fact that they spare the client agency complications and fees. Plain vanilla puts this point over better than any slick razzmatazz.

        Serious point about the complications, actually. I have had enough of agencies where the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, so they repeatedly phone me up to find out what their colleagues are doing.

        >Nonetheless, if I see an agency site that is not well designed or is not at
        least an attractive, competently filled-in template, I tend to avoid the agency,
        thinking their standards are low in other matters also.

        Language would be my primary concern here. We all know of those outfits that brag about their own magnificence in broken English. If their texts look like they have been proofread then I
        can usually overlook the glaring yellow font on a goose-turd green background. You can sometimes spot the well-to-do by their grotty taste (viz podnikatelska baroka).

        >As an attorney told me yesterday, "You can't go
        wrong using standard English rules in a legal document."

        Does s/he ever use third-person "shall" in contracts? Hardly standard. You said previously that this is one of the rare places where "shall" is found in American English:
        >It is right that "shall" is almost never used in American English, other than in legal texts

        >This is not the way we did it at the communications companies. We kept about
        five style manuals in the drawer, and then we would do things the way we wanted
        to. If the exec, lawyer or writer complained, we'd pull out the style guide
        that supported what we wanted to do, take it to the person and point out that
        "the style guide" calls for our way of doing it. The people would immediately
        cave in, and nobody ever seemed to notice we were bringing them different style
        manuals in different situations.

        Now why does this not surprise me in the least? :-) I was going to make the point previously that all the complexities of title case present a nice opportunity to carve out one's own little fiefdom if one is so inclined.

        >>> Should long prepositions be capitalized? How
        > long does a preposition have to be before it is a long preposition? Etc.
        >> Four letters. They just have to look in the manual.
        >> NIVA prefers to capitalize prepositions of five characters or more.

        >I have never heard of NIVA, and a lot of web searching has not yielded any
        explanation of what it is or what its full name is. Do you know?

        http://www.niva.com/ ,
        which publishes

        And before you complain about how cheesy NIVA is as a source (pun unavoidable - or punavoidable ha ha), this was just one site I chose pretty much at random from several that basically say the same thing, e.g.:

        Capitalization of significant parts of speech of or more than four or five letters (preferences vary).

        Also, sometimes I am in the middle of a job and cannot go looking for cheese-free sites.

        >The kid watches this screwball English comedy for a
        while with a deadpan expression and then says, "Mom, that man's wearing a

        But we have been crossdressing like this onstage for centuries. :-) In English pantomime the female lead role is always taken by a male, and vice versa:

        The gender role reversal resembles the old festival of Twelfth Night, a combination of Epiphany and midwinter feast, when it was customary for the natural order of things to be reversed. This tradition is sometimes traced back to pre-Christian European festivals such as Samhain and Saturnalia.

        So now you see what the Pilgrim Fathers and all those puritans were trying to escape.

        > I am always amused by the way almost every real-world reference in the Economist is automatically followed by a brief explanatory clause, e.g. ...the Beatles, a 1960s rock group. For a long time I thought these helpful notes were an attempt at humour.

        >I doubt it.

        Of course not, but the effect of the indefinite article always amuses me. Queen Elizabeth II, a British monarch,...

        >Many of my American students born and raised around Detroit didn't know where Ontario was. If you go downtown and look across the straits, you see Ontario vividly on the other side just two miles away.

        Crikey, you could have spitting contests. Are Ontarians just as likely to be ignorant of Detroit?


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