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As many of you can see, I've been a pretty terrible blogger lately! What can I say...Life.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Random Capitalization Syndrome!

Do you Suffer from Random Capitalization Syndrome!? I know the Entire Marketing and Advertising world does. I know my Mother does. So, ask Yourself again. Do You?

Random Capitalization Syndrome is the REAL DEAL! Ask any Editor and they will Tell you that some People like to Capitalize RANDOM Words for no apparent reason whatsoever. It's not Grammatically Correct, there is no pattern to their Madness, and usually there isn't any consistency either.

One day, the word Tree will be capitalized in a Sentence. However, in the following sentence tree is Left to Stand on it's own. All By Itself!
Is this getting Annoying yet? Do you Realize what I am doing yet? Are you confused by the Random capitalization that is occuring? I am.

So, to prevent this from ever happening again, at least with my readers, and mostly in their formal writing, here are the basic capitalization rules that we can all learn to live by, instead of confusing and frustrating ourselves and others with random capitalizations here or there and everywhere...

Capitalization Rules

Rule 1

Capitalize the first word of a quoted sentence.
He said, "Treat her as you would your own daughter."
"Look out!" she screamed. "You almost ran into my child."

Rule 2

Capitalize a proper noun.
Golden Gate Bridge

Rule 3

Capitalize a person's title when it precedes the name. Do not capitalize when the title is acting as a description following the name.
Chairperson Petrov
Ms. Petrov, the chairperson of the company, will address us at noon.

Rule 4

Capitalize the person's title when it follows the name on the address or signature line.
Ms. Haines, Chairperson

Rule 5

Capitalize the titles of high-ranking government officials when used before their names. Do not capitalize the civil title if it is used instead of the name.
The president will address Congress.
All senators are expected to attend.
The governors, lieutenant governors, and attorneys general called for a special task force.
Governor Fortinbrass, Lieutenant Governor Poppins, Attorney General Dalloway, and Senators James and Twain will attend.

Rule 6

Capitalize any title when used as a direct address.
Will you take my temperature, Doctor?

Rule 7

Capitalize points of the compass only when they refer to specific regions.
We have had three relatives visit from the South.
Go south three blocks and then turn left.
We live in the southeast section of town.
Southeast is just an adjective here describing section, so it should not be capitalized.

Rule 8

Always capitalize the first and last words of titles of publications regardless of their parts of speech. Capitalize other words within titles, including the short verb forms Is, Are, and Be.
Do not capitalize little words within titles such as a, an, the, but, as, if, and, or, nor, or prepositions, regardless of their length.
The Day of the Jackal
What Color Is Your Parachute?
A Tale of Two Cities

Rule 9

Capitalize federal or state when used as part of an official agency name or in government documents where these terms represent an official name. If they are being used as general terms, you may use lowercase letters.
The state has evidence to the contrary.
That is a federal offense.
The State Board of Equalization collects sales taxes.
We will visit three states during our summer vacation.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been subject to much scrutiny and criticism lately.
Her business must comply with all county, state, and federal laws.

Rule 10

You may capitalize words such as department, bureau, and office if you have prepared your text in the following way:
The Bureau of Land Management (Bureau) has some jurisdiction over Indian lands. The Bureau is finding its administrative role to be challenging.

Rule 11

Do not capitalize names of seasons.
I love autumn colors and spring flowers.

Rule 12

Capitalize the first word of a salutation and the first word of a complimentary close.
Dear Ms. Mohamed:
My dear Mr. Sanchez:
Very truly yours,

Rule 13

Capitalize words derived from proper nouns.
I must take English and math.
English is capitalized because it comes from the proper noun England, but math does not come from Mathland.

Rule 14

Capitalize the names of specific course titles.
I must take history and Algebra 2.

Rule 15

After a sentence ending with a colon, do not capitalize the first word if it begins a list.
These are my favorite foods: chocolate cake, spaghetti, and artichokes.

Rule 16

Do not capitalize when only one sentence follows a sentence ending with a colon.
I love Jane Smiley's writing: her book, A Thousand Acres, was beautiful.

Rule 17

Capitalize when two or more sentences follow a sentence ending with a colon.
I love Jane Smiley's writing: Her book, A Thousand Acres, was beautiful. Also, Moo was clever.

Now, you know what to do. No longer suffer from random capitalization syndrome!!! Save yourself from the urge to capitalize what you think should be capitalize and only what should be capitalized.
Rules and examples found at http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/capital.asp


  1. AubrieAnne, I applaud your attempt to stop this grammatical madness that has affected Americans! All joking aside, I see this all the time in my students' papers, and they're in college. It's because they aren't taught how to distinguish between common and proper nouns.

    1. That's when capitalization Syndrome really hurts me, when students do not know enough to prevent it from happening in their formal writing. It's an assignment for goodness sakes, one in which you are almost always graded on not only your content, but the clarity of that content. It's different when texting or even in a blog, but I'm starting to realize that many people nowadays no longer understand the difference between formal and informal writing! I don't think many of them even know those categories exist!

  2. This affliction goes hand on hand with the italic, underlining and bold sickness. Well known to be contagious ;-)

    1. Agreed! My mom also suffers from the need to underline almost everything.

  3. Wow, thanks. I really needed this! :)

    1. No problem. It really is a fascinating subject! (when you're a dork like me) :)

  4. This is quite a plight in society. I think with the second sign, they had meant to capitalize every word and just slipped on the shift key.
    I have issues with capitalizing certain abbreviations, like cd and dvd, which I don't consider to be abbreviations of proper nouns, and like you mentioned with advertising. Why is Scrabble capitalized, but not chess? Also, why is the "i" in "iPod" lower-cased?

    1. Also, some compound words might have each word capitalized, like with the game SoulSilver.

    2. Well, DVD and CD are acronyms, just like SCUBA, NASA, and PC. Acronyms are always capitalized. Now, when it comes to tv I agree with you. It's not an acronym and more like a shortened word that I don't believe should be capitalized.

      I'm not sure about the Scrabble vs. chess thing. Perhaps chess has become synonymous with any strategic game where Scrabble is just the one specific game. Or, perhaps Scrabble has merely been copyrighted with the capital letter.

      iPob and SoulSilver are forms of CamelCase/medial capitals/InterCaps/etc. and according to Wiki has been used for years, but not so much in formal English anymore.

    3. Actually, according to my linguistinc professor again, dvd and cd would not be acronyms. Acronyms can be read as words. Otherwise, they are abbreviations, which are read as each individual letter.
      And you could argue further about acronyms not always being capitalized, i.e. on the Internet. In another post, you typed "lol" without capitalizing. While some people might spell it out, it has come to be pronounced as a word by many.

    4. DVD and CD aren't acronyms as Matt points out but they are initializations and should be capitalized.

      The reason Scrabble is capitalized is because Scrabble is a brand and chess isn't.

  5. Except for in signs to get your attention (like the first two pictures you have here), I have never understood the Random Capitalization Syndrome. It kind of goes hand-in-hand with teens' (and some 20-somethings') habit of tYpInG LiKe ThIs (alternating capital and lowercase letters within a word). Annoying. And a little sloppy looking.

    1. I still feel like if you use it in a sign there is some sort of predictable/methodical way of doing it. In the first sign, I get why they may want to capitalize the stronger words to get peoples' attention, but to not capitalize "caught" or "leave," two of their strongest words, just baffles me.

    2. I agree with the annoying and sloppy thing 100%.

  6. Most of those I knew. A few of them I don't use often enough to remember easily.

    1. That's why it's always nice to have a refernce. I don't think I could ever remember all of these without having a list next to me when I need it.

  7. Are you just tackling improper use of capitalization in this post, or are you poking fun at improper use of apostrophes at the same time? I couldn't tell if you were being ironic about the "Left to Stand on it's own" remark. In that case, it is a possessive, so it should be "its" not "it's." "It's" always and forever means "it is" and is never possessive.

  8. Are you just tackling improper use of capitalization in this post, or are you poking fun at improper use of apostrophes at the same time? I couldn't tell if you were being ironic about the "Left to Stand on it's own" remark. In that case, it is a possessive, so it should be "its" not "it's." "It's" always and forever means "it is" and is never possessive.

  9. I find that I do this quite often with out being aware of it. I think that the random capitalization is just, in my case, something my hands do when I feel the emphasis. For example, I just randomly capitalized the "R" in "random", the "I" in "in my case" and the "H" in "hands", without intending to. It seems that those are places I might have added vocal inflection if I were speaking.

  10. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. To me, the worst is when it's in an emotional letter of some kind from one of my friends and the capitalization appears to have some sort of abstract meaning. For example, "he never called me back and I feel so Hurt and Betrayed". I have seriously lost respect for some of my good friends over this. I can't seem to look past the syndrome.

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