A Capital Idea.

It is fun to remember that, as a youngster, I was looking forward to a career as a writer. Writing an unedited blog can have serious consequences for those hopes. Nothing cuts deeper than the e-mails I get from readers about an occasional grammatical or spelling error. I even had a blistering comeuppance from a reader the other day on my errant ways of using capitalization.

In defence (or defense) let me remind you that there is no authority on the English language in Canada. No doubt William Shakespeare received harangues on his sonnets in his time. What might be an errant use of the language today might be common usage tomorrow. English is a living language, subject to constant change, new words and evolutionary pressures.

Have you noticed, for example, in the Toronto Star, certain writers are allowed to capitalize the skin colour black with a capital ‘B.’ Aboriginal friends, whom I have asked, really do not give a damn if indigenous is spelled with or without a capital ”I.”

I, for one, have been trying to join the trend to fewer capital letters. There is still a need for capitals when you mention the White House in Washington as opposed to a white house. Though the current resident president in that white house is hardly deserving of capitalization.

I find that capitalization in headlines is a matter of choice. The use of all caps is still a form of shouting—quite unnecessary. Recently I have been experimenting with lower case for political parties. People seem only to use capitals to differentiate between a person who might be liberal and the Liberal Party—and that should be obvious by context. I must admit that I could be causing confusion between the colour ‘green’ and the ‘green’ party. I might also be abusing some rules in French grammar if I write about a Quebec block party instead of the Bloc Québécois.

It comes down to a very simple rule. You can use capitals where and when you want but their purpose is to avoid ambiguity for the reader.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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