In kindergarten we learned to capitalize our first names. It’s a proper noun, our teachers said, so it gets a big letter. The same went for our last names, street addresses, holidays, or the beginning of a sentence, no matter how short.
At some point in the next several decades of our life, we forgot the rules. (Or, at least, a majority of the population forgot.) People began capitalizing words at random. Verbs, insignificant nouns, even pronouns got the big-letter treatment.
For whatever reason, these words have been crowned, throwing all caution to the proper linguistic wind.
No one thinks to hire a copy editor.
Titles’ main words are capitalized.
I’m going to read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” one of my favorite books.
Only proper nouns get the big-guy treatment. This means names, holidays, and the first word of a complete sentence.
Jan Brady lives on Groovy Lane in Hippyville, Fla. She has a brother named Peter, with whom she likes to celebrate Arbor Day. They also enjoy eating applesauce on Tuesdays.
Common nouns should be lowercase; commercial businesses are the biggest offenders of this error.
Jan hates it when menus read “Pizza” when they should read “pizza.” (Me, too, Jan. Me, too.)
Home of the $15 oil change. Oil changes for only $15. Or as a standalone, oil change.
Job titles are capitalized only in a formal setting, and when the title reads before the name.
President Obama, or Obama, president
This also works one for proper titles; if you are a teacher, chances are your formal position name isn’t “Teacher Smith.” If it is, color me corrected.
Acronyms (NASA or SCUBA) warrant all caps; abbreviations (vs. or Tues.) do not.
Possible causes for mistakes
- handwriting, which can often mix capital and lowercase letters, regardless of intention
- Microsoft Word software, which automatically capitalizes the first word after a period, which does not always indicate the end of a sentence. For ex., that one right there.
- foreign languages, many of which capitalize all nouns
- stubbornness and/or lack of linguistic knowledge
- sticky caps lock keys
Whatever the excuse, let’s revert to correct capitalization; your shift key has more than earned its vacation.