Bloody Well Write

July 16, 2009

Mom and Dad

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 11:49 am
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Dear, old mom and dad; they’ve treated you so well, looked after you when you were sick, provided clothes, education, fun and love unconditionally, and all you can do to say thank you is relegate them to a simple noun? Come one. Where’s the love?

What’s being called into question here is how you write (or type or text) mom and dad. Should they be uppercase or lowercase? Mom or mom? Dad or dad?

As with just about everything else in life, it depends.

Go ahead: Bribe me with Chunky Monkey (I'll bite)

Go ahead: Bribe me with Chunky Monkey (I'll bite)

You want easy answers? You got ’em.

If you’re referencing your folks as if you’re using their names (not their given names, as most kids don’t ask their folks, “Yo, Johnny boy and mamma Mia, what’s for dinner?” but instead the names you have called them since you could talk: Mom and Dad), then you uppercase the terms:

• Hey, Mom, can I have some ice cream?
• I love Dad because he lets me stay up later than Mom does.
• I don’t know if I should take the convertible; I guess I should probably ask Dad.

If you’re referencing your folks (or your friend’s folks) with an adjective in front of the word, then you lowercase mom or dad:

• My mom gave me three ginormous scoops of Chunky Monkey ice cream.
• I love my dad because he lets me stay up to watch “Saturday Night Live.” My mom would have a cow if she knew.
• Should we take the convertible? In theory, we should ask your dad.

Would your dad hand you the keys?

Would your dad hand you the keys?

That’s it — no adjective, uppercase. Adjective, lowercase. Now go tell your mom thanks for all the frozen treats she’s let you snarf.

Happy trails!



April 6, 2009

Down with capitalization aggravation!

If you want to sit around and chat with like-minded folks who are concerned with the state of the English language, especially the capitalization conundrum, you better pull up a comfy chair and get yourself (and others — hey, you’re not rude) an oversized bottle of red zin, because it’s going to be a long discussion.

In a relatively fruitless effort to be short and sweet on a subject that is neither short nor sweet, here are a few (!) AP Stylebook rules. Sit back, grab your glass and enjoy.

What needs to be initial-capped:

• Internet and Web  (when referring to the World Wide Web: Web site, Web browser), no matter where it lands in the sentence

• Places and their derivatives (America, American, Americanism)

• Days of the week and months (Thursday, Saturday, May, November)

• Organizations and their abbreviations (American Kennel Club, AKC)

• Geographic areas when referred to as areas (the Northwest, the East Coast)

• Rank, position and family relationship unless preceded by my, his, their or other possessive pronouns (President Obama, Professor H. Higgins, Uncle Albert, Dr. Doolittle)

• Most titles and works of art (initial-cap the first word, last word, each important word and each pronoun/article of four or more letters), including titles of books, plays, pamphlets, periodicals, movies, radio and television programs, operas, ballets, records, tapes, CDs, sculptures and paintings, and the names of ships, airplanes and spacecraft. Some examples follow:

•    The Chicago Manual of Style

•    “On the Road”

•    “West Side Story”

•    The New Yorker

•    “There’s Something About Mary”

•    “Seinfeld”

•    “Swan Lake”

•    “Room at Arles”

•    Voyager 2

What doesn’t:

• The seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall)

• Words that indicate direction (We flew west to get to Los Angeles)

• Family relationships w/ possessive pronouns attached (my uncle Ivan)

• Multiple titles directly in front of a person’s name, even if each title on its own would normally be uppercased (J. Crew chairman and CEO Millard Drexler)

What about headlines?

Well, friends, it may as well be a crapshoot, as far as I’m concerned. The AP Stylebook explains that headlines only get the first word initial-capped, plus any proper nouns (as in someone’s name or a specific city or such). Fine. But then I check out The Washington Post’s Web site: Its headlines show every major word uppercased. Same with The New York Times’ Web site. But then I look at the Chicago Tribune’s Web site and presto! They follow AP. Same with the Los Angeles Times. And any number of other sites have any other number of alternate capitalization options. It boils down to each company’s particular or chosen style guide.

So what’s a writer to do?

Well, if you follow AP, you have your answer: Uppercase only the first word and any proper nouns. If you say, “Pooh-pooh on AP,” then you’re left to your own grammatical devices. I don’t know exactly why some papers choose to follow AP and some go rogue; my guess would be that they either do not know better (highly, highly unlikely) or they simply choose to uppercase every major word because it looks good, more prominent — as a headline should look. Maybe old habits simply die hard. Who knows?

Here’s what I do know.

The ad agency I work at (Jajo, if you’re interested) likes the AP format. I’ve come around to being OK with that. I’ve got old-school-itis, in that the all-caps thing looks more headline-ish to me. However, I get why the fewer-caps style makes sense. After all, most headlines are meant to read like sentences, albeit stilted ones, so why not cap them accordingly?

So yes, that’s my recommendation: Initial-cap the first word and any proper nouns. No more, no less.

Warning: Diversion ahead!

I do have to moan a bit about one headline convention that I do not get: punctuation. To me, punctuation includes periods, question marks, exclamation points, etc. So if you’re not supposed to have ending punctuation marks, why do question marks squeeze in? Granted, they help make the point of the question. But it’s selective punctuation.

And worse than that, I sometimes see a headline that has two (count ’em, two) sentences; the first sentence ends with a period but the second doesn’t. Good grief! That bugs the bejeebers out of me. If anyone has the answer, by all means, leave a comment so I can learn to just let it go.


Happy trails!


December 31, 2008

To uppercase or not to uppercase

Filed under: AP Stylebook,grammar,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 9:23 pm
Tags: , , , ,

There are about nine hours left in 2008 if you’re in the Central time zone (and you’re reading this right now, which is not likely the case). And, wherever you are, you are possibly thinking about asking all of your e-mail buddies and Facebook friends and Twitter followers what they have planned for New Year’s Eve.

Or is it “New Year’s eve”?

Maybe “new year’s eve”?


I know. I know exactly what you’re going through: the great spelling dilemma of the ages — how to correctly spell/uppercase/lowercase your query so as to avoid seeming like a complete and utter oaf.

Here is your answer, short and sweet, lifted straight from Page 167 of my AP Stylebook:

These are correct: New Year’s, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. This is also correct: What will the new year bring?

Ah, lovely. Now we can all raise our scotches, mojitos and hot chocolates in a unified toast to the new year, 2009. May it be a year full of good health, lots of laughs, a decent amount of inspiration and fully proper grammar.

Happy trails!


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