Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trends in Capitalization

Capital letters are in interesting part of the English language. Famously, author e.e. cummings refused to use them, and in my recent copy ediing experiences, I've developed a new sympathy for his choice. Authors from all walks of life have developed a tendency to capitalize words they consider important. I can't blame this one on texting or Facebook, either - while I say authors "have developed," I don't mean it's a particularly recent development. I'm just surprised that, in spite of e.e. cummings' best efforts, this trend continues.

A capital letter at the beginning of a word does not determine importance, despite evident feelings to he contrary. Nor does a lowercase letter at the beginning of a word diminish the word's importance. The most important word in any given sentence is the verb - and, unless it is at the beginning of the sentence, verbs are not capitalized (except in cases of trademarks that have become slang - "I Bedazzled my jeans"). 

The noun is really secondary; the verb gives us the action, and we all enjoy action, right? Especially copy editors. I certainly love action, in reading and in life. What I don't like is overinflated ego, and I think, visually, that's how I interpret improper capitalization. Capitalization, though, should be reserved for proper nouns and the first letter of the first word at the beginning of a sentence. Instead of designating degree of importance, capital letters serve as a tool, one similar to the copyright or trademark symbols. 

An example:

"There aren't enough Apples this season."
"There aren't enough apples this season."

Speaking of overinflated egos...that first sentence makes Apple a proper noun, which indicates you'd like celebrity fruit names to become a trend. In the second sentence, we are referring to something that grows on a tree and feeds people. 

Is one of those nouns more important than the other? I would argue affirmatively...and it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it starts with a capital letter!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Travel Writing - A Copy Editor's Experience

I've decided to search for extra editing jobs on eLance. While editing was already a full-time pursuit, I've now completed my contract as an adjunct professor and will only be focused on editing. That enables me to open up my client list further, and eLance seems like a good place to do that.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Comma, Over Here

I've noticed missing commas in everyone's writing in recent years, and it really makes any narrative, fiction or non-fiction, pleasure or business, really clunky. Words jam together in the reader's mind, and the writing appears amateurish at best. The source of this trend is obvious; we frequently communicate through abbreviated mediums, including text messaging, Twitter, and others. In the interest of minimizing length, a comma is often the first punctuation mark to disappear.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Replace My WHAT?!

Language is a funny thing, and I can't imagine writing or editing without maintaining a sense of humor about it. Is 35 too old to think bodily functions are funny? Maybe being a parent to a preschooler has taken my humor down the juvenile path. Or maybe my sense of humor never grew up. Really, though, how is it possible to be an obsessive copy editor and not be amused by the following two words?

The punctuation mark, of course, is best used when followed by a list of one or more specific items. And the other kind of colon could be described similarly, if we want to be cheeky about it. Each kind of colon is a noun. What about a semi-colon, though? How does one partially extract a colon? Well, by inserting a comma, of course.

English is weird, period. Is my period in the right place? I'm not sure how the period ends. With a pregnant pause, perhaps? 

Does this mean two periods get together to make a colon? Can we call that the grammar version of a colonoscopy? Comma over here, let's see what we can make out of this... 

Friday, June 12, 2015


I just love it when Microsoft tempts its users with the "accept all" option. Corel used to do something similar; in any text based piece, when someone has made tracked changes in your document, you can choose to automatically accept all changes or you can go through them point by point, accepting or denying each one. Should you do that? If you have confidence in your copy editor, if you trust this individual to edit your book, document, or otherwise, doesn't this option make sense?