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Re: [Czechlist] Capitalization (was: Here at the Department we...)

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  • James Kirchner
    ... The cheapest, simplest, free website editing program produces pages that do not look like they were made in the 90s, and I m not talking about all the
    Message 1 of 32 , Sep 27, 2012
      On Sep 26, 2012, at 8:05 AM, melvyn.geo wrote:

      > (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?

      The cheapest, simplest, free website editing program produces pages that do not look like they were made in the '90s, and I'm not talking about "all the latest bells and whistles". Anyway, I won't get further into website issues (I use them to screen potential clients). Suffice it to say that you guys are always presenting me with cheesy sources (one teacher at an obscure community college) that support your contentions but will sometimes reject authoritative sources that don't.

      >> 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?

      A factor in this may be that we have different backgrounds. I spent years in editing positions where my acknowledged role was to "fix" the writing of executives, lawyers and even writers (who don't always write well). Basically, my job was to save them from their own weird quirks, using justification and even intimidation. (People in that position who could not make an executive comply and did everything he said were considered "incompetent", even by the execs themselves, who would later deny they'd insisted on some improper usage or other.)

      So I don't necessarily jump every time the client tells me to, and I haven't received any complaints for forcing conventional writing rules on legal documents. Not only that, but the clients send me more and more of them, generally checked by English-speaking attorneys, so I guess they don't have a problem with it.

      >> Going to a British source, the Oxford Style Manual
      > The Oxford Guide to Style

      No, sorry. I have it right in front of me. It's called "The Oxford Style Manual". It's from Oxford UK, not Oxford USA. Would you like me to photograph the cover?

      >> seems to support
      > supports

      No, it actually is not clear that it supports the specific situations we're talking about. It supports something more like what a lawyer told me yesterday:

      "My thought is that if the term in quotation marks is being used in replacement of something that would otherwise be capitalized (for example - General Motors Corporation, hereafter referred to as "the Company") it makes sense. But for something like red delicious apples, hereinafter referred to as "apples," it doesn't make sense."

      However, it doesn't seem to support usages such as "the Supplier" in reference to Podvod Industries Inc., or whoever, or "the Sub-Supplier" in reference to nobody in particular.

      And, the lawyer continues: "So do what seems best to you. There should be no legal ramifications."

      Thus, I checked with two random attorneys, and both think there's nothing wrong with writing legal documents in conformance to the stylistic rules of ordinary English.

      I also checked two manuals on legal writing, and they both said something to the effect of "do not write in all caps, and avoid initial caps whenever possible". They claim this is a throwback to the typewriter days and is no longer necessary.

      Furthermore, one of these manuals went so far as to say that legal writing should differ as little as possible from ordinary English writing. It was claimed that this manual was "radical" decades ago, but that it's not considered the standard for legal writing.

      >> 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,
      > http://pages.citebite.com/v3u2i7o0yikr

      In the manuals I used as a magazine editor, the rule was that in titles you capitalize all words of four letters or longer, plus all forms of "have" and "be".

      > 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.

      Four letters. They just have to look in the manual.

      > And then IMHO long titles using this title case look like texts from the seventeenth century.
      > The solution? Sentence case.
      > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentence_case#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.

      Sentence case is commonly used in the US if the house style calls for it or if the graphic designer has a reason to use it. (As an editor, I used to let designers do almost anything they wanted.) It is also used with very long titles, such as in master's theses, etc. I often use sentence case just because.

      The statement, "If it's good enough for the Economist, it's good enough for me," strikes me as typical American sycophancy toward the British. After all, the Economist isn't always well written. It would be the same mentality that thinks all British comedies are inherently funny, so if an American doesn't find them funny he must not be "intelligent", or the mentality where an American writer derives a feeling of superiority when using a British slang term that he knows 98% of his readers won't understand.

      On the other hand, she could have been saying she's okay with adhering to British style in publications intended for Britain.


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    • 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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