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My pet peeve...
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1013

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 11:27 am    Post subject: My pet peeve... Reply with quote

Warning! A rant...

My pet peeve for romance titles is that the word "is" which is a verb--and one of the first words we learn as children, as in, I am, you are, he/she/it is--should always be capitalized but too often just isn't, like so: Silk is for Seduction; The Duke is Mine; The Reason is You.

Now of course I know that capping titles isn't on anyone's list of world problems, but two things make this stand out for me, especially as a reader and book lover:
(1) Depending on which list you look at, the USA is somewhere between 26th and 46th in ranking for literacy among the world's developed nations.
(2) On social boards that include those for whom English is not their native or first language, those posters are too often better users of English than too many Americans are.

The word "it," a pronoun, is often incorrectly lowercased too, e.g., Blame it on Bath. I think it must be a conspiracy against two-letter words, especially those beginning with the letter "i." Rolling Eyes

Capping titles is mostly easy: Cap everything except articles and prepositions (and okay, some conjunctions and infinitives). But every reader knows what a noun, pronoun and a verb is for cryin' out loud, right? Sigh...

Okay. Rant over; back to regularly scheduled programming. Confused
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1013

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought of a subtitle:

If Are and Was Get Capitalized, Why Doesn't Is?
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ladynaava



Joined: 11 Apr 2007
Posts: 938
Location: California

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh. Now I'm going to notice this. I tried to look up titles on Amazon, to see whether 'is' is capitalized. My first search: The Duke Is Mine. Was capitalized properly. Then there is My Sister is a Werewolf whch isn't capitalized.

Perhaps it is stylistic, to make the key words pop out?
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1013

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ladynaava wrote:
Heh. Now I'm going to notice this. I tried to look up titles on Amazon, to see whether 'is' is capitalized. My first search: The Duke Is Mine. Was capitalized properly. Then there is My Sister is a Werewolf whch isn't capitalized.

Perhaps it is stylistic, to make the key words pop out?


All lowercase (or all uppercase) letters on a book cover itself (meaning every single letter) can be a legitimate stylistic choice, like the book you noted, but what Amazon has is just a mistake because whoever entered the book into their database doesn't know title rules--or verbs. Confused

To make it more difficult, some books covers use the same case letters, say all caps, but in different size fonts, so if words like "an, the, of, in" and so on are capped but smaller that the other words (nouns, verbs, etc), that's good; the word "is" should be in the larger size font because of capitalization rules, but turns out hit or miss some of the time.

ETA: After looking more at Amazon titles, I decided they make their fair share of mistakes, so I deleted my original comment cutting them some slack. Looking at the actual book covers themselves on Amazon as well, I could see that some titles are about style and some are just illiterate. Who would have thought editorial budget cost cutting would extend to what used to be considered the all-important cover??


Last edited by Eliza on Tue May 08, 2012 7:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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MMcA



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 659

PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2012 5:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
...is" which is a verb ....should always be capitalized ...
The word "it," a pronoun, is often incorrectly lowercased too.


Okay, I feel really stupid now Very Happy , but could you explain the rule?

Quote:
Capping titles is mostly easy: Cap everything except articles and prepositions (and okay, some conjunctions and infinitives).


I suppose what I'm wondering is, is there a reason that's the rule, or is it just the convention - just something you should have learnt at school?

I'm in the UK, so can't blame the American school system, but I never know any of this kind of stuff. I think when I was in primary school there was an educational fad which suggested teaching grammar was old-fashioned, and that children would naturally pick up correct usage if they read enough.

Quote:
But every reader knows what a noun, pronoun and a verb is for cryin' out loud, right?


I literally only found out what a pronoun was when my own children were taught it. Also adverbs: who knew?
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1013

PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2012 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capitalization rules for titles is indeed standard, but there are style guides that may vary in some minor points (like hyphenated words or longer prepositions). The publisher picks which style, like the The Chicago Manual of Style, the one most often followed in the US. In the UK, it's The Oxford Style Manual, which is like Chicago.

Sometimes an individual publisher, like the NY Times, has its own "headline style," often for space reasons. But writers should know the style they are writing in. As for school children, it may vary over times and places, but I myself was taught title style for writing any papers that were required to have titles.

The Chicago Manual of Style rules are...

--Always capitalize the first and the last word.
--Capitalize all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions ("as", "because", "although").
--Lowercase all articles ("a", "an", "the"), coordinate conjunctions ("and", "or", "nor"), and prepositions when they are other than the first or last word.
(Note: Quite a few publishers choose to capitalize prepositions of five characters or more ("after", "among", "between".)
--Lowercase the "to" in an infinitive.

The most common mistakes are...

Two-Letter Words
Some writers lowercase all two-letter words, probably by extrapolation from the short prepositions "of", "to", "up", and so on, and the word "to" in infinitives. But if a two-letter word is acting as a noun, pronoun, adjective, or adverb, it must be capitalized. For example:

Go Tell it on the Mountain
(wrong; "it" is a pronoun and should be capitalized)

When is a Spade a Spade?
(wrong; "is" is a verb and should be capitalized)

Multipurpose Words
Some writers lowercase words that can function as prepositions when those words are currently functioning in other capacities. For example:

The Man in the Moon Owns a Yellow Balloon
(correct; "in" is functioning as a preposition and should be lowercased)

Bringing in the Sheaves
(wrong; "in" is functioning as an adverb and should be capitalized)

Pheww.... What I really want is for the verb "Is" to be capped in book titles! Razz
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1013

PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2012 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A couple of headlines from today's NY Times where the basic rules for books also apply:

Bomber in Plot on U.S. Airliner Is Said to Be a Double Agent

As Car Owners Downsize, the Market Is Strong for Their Used S.U.V.ís

For Hard of Hearing, Clarity Out of the Din

Itís the Economy: Who Wants to Buy Honduras?

Republicans in Senate Block Bill on Student Loan Rates

Getting Lessons on Water by Designing a Playground

Bats: Pettitte to Start Sunday Against Mariners at Yankee Stadium
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MMcA



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 659

PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2012 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much. That's seriously fascinating.

I spent too much time yesterday peering at the spines of my books trying to infer the rules, but I don't think I'd ever have deduced them correctly.

It's a bit magical as well - I think I must always have assumed that publishers just capitalised whichever words they wanted the public to notice, and it's really pleasing to know that there's a secret (well, secret from me) system behind it all.

Thanks.
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LordRose



Joined: 25 Mar 2012
Posts: 87

PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2012 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I was in school, they actually just told us to make all the "little" words lower case, and while I've always known that is wrong, I generally don't pay all that much attention to the correct way.
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1013

PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2012 9:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LordRose wrote:
When I was in school, they actually just told us to make all the "little" words lower case, and while I've always known that is wrong, I generally don't pay all that much attention to the correct way.


Neither of your statements surprises me. I too had a couple of, um, shall we say, "greatly uninformed" teachers who wouldn't know a verb if someone smacked them between the eyes with a verb sign, even a couple of English teachers, I'm sorry to say. And a lot of people obviously don't care either and it generally shows.

What fries my bacon is when the people who don't know, don't care, or can't tell the difference say that a romance is "well written" when they should probably just stick with something like "I really enjoyed the book" or "great story." I too enjoy bunches of romances that have great stories and characters, but that can be ascribed to just storytelling ability. When I say well written, I mean an author's use of language since the other main meaning of well written refers to handwriting. An author can be a good storyteller or a good writer or both, but it varies and doesn't always go hand in hand, although it's wonderful when that happens.

And I won't even go into that territory where language, thinking and intelligence are linked even though some people are always pointing out that language is what sets mankind apart.

I do especially care about language as it relates to romances, though, because we don't need to give critics any more reasons to look down their noses at the romances we love. (I also care about politics where language can be intentionally misused to obfuscate rather than to clarify.)

Last thought: If a writer or publisher can't even get the title right, what the heck are they going to do with all the prose in the book?
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Eggletina



Joined: 06 Jul 2010
Posts: 404

PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2012 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
If a writer or publisher can't even get the title right, what the heck are they going to do with all the prose in the book?


I've even seen authors' names misspelled before (usually inside flap or on the back cover). I expect better out of the publishers.

I do wonder how technology and globalization are going to change usage and styles. I credit marketing and advertising with having the biggest influence and often being the biggest offenders. They often have their own (non-transparent) reasons for doing what they do, though.

I work for a business that has its own style guide, and we also are very ethnically diverse, which has influenced some of their stylistic decisions (use sentence case, not title case in ppt presentations, for example). When I was young, I could remember the major style guides (Chicago, AP, etc.) fairly well. These days, my brain stops short and I just can't keep track anymore. I think consistency is most important if you're going to use your own style, though.
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1013

PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2012 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All terrific points, Eggletina.

Publishers do indeed have the final say. But most authors see the cover as a separate entity before the books are pubbed, even Avon! And of course the authors see the edited manuscript pages, which generally have the romance's title as a header on the top right-hand page. So I don't entirely let authors off the hook, especially when I've noted trends among authors, some of whom always get it right and others with language mistakes both on the cover and within their prose.

I too have thought about the effects of technology. Several of the changes I've already noted are...
---works broken (hypenated) in ineligible places
---where hyphenation is placed in words between line breaks, and sometimes even double hyphenation which used to be a no-no
---pages ending with just a single line of text from the start of a paragraph, or pages starting with the last line of a paragraph is now completely acceptable where it once wasn't
--"widows" or lines with just one two- or three-letter word on a line by itself which used to be an anathema for wasting paper
And things will continue to change, no doubt, not only because of globilization but because we have a living language that does change.

But some things are fairly consistent too, like some authors having trouble with things like adverbs, never mind gerunds. In fact I think even more of the editing may be landing on authors' these days what with publishers cutting back on editorial staff. I've noticed some authors' mentioning their using their own copy editors or perhaps beta readers.

Funny but I once worked at a business with its own style guide too, and I agree about consistency. Style guides don't change parts of speech though, do they; a verb hasn't changed with style as far as I've noticed.

And I agree that the effect of other languages is interesting too. It's one of the reasons I was upset to see English-as-a-second-language users more proficient with English than native users that I mentioned earlier.

Oh well... I did mention it's a pet peeve, right? Wink
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1353

PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2012 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I proofread a small journal for a couple decades, and as a programmer I'm routinely proofreading code, and I've recorded errata noticed during recreational reading since 2005, but if I was ever exposed to the capitalization rules you spelled out it was long ago and long forgotten. (My high school years ended in 1972, and I don't think title capitalization came up in any classes I took in college.)
I just pulled a few reference books, and a quick search for capitalization rules reminded me that I have looked into this in the past. I don't record violations of the title capitalization style you described in my errata log because it really is just one of several choices.
I found this footnote in one book (Words into Type):
The library style of capping only the first word and proper names of book titles is occasionally followed in bibliographies, but it is not generally favored by American trade book publishers. However, in many foreign languages it is the preferred style, in which case the original must be followed.
I found this in another book (The Columbia Guide to Standard American English):
Since the details of capitalization required to meet the style of a given press or publication may sometimes be idiosyncratic, you should consult a desk dictionary or your publisher's manual of style.
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1013

PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for sharing your experience. It mostly boils down to two basic types, though: Sentence style or title style. It's that simple.

--Sentence style is what we use everyday, with the first word capped, proper names capped (Jenny Jones), certain titles (President of the U.S., House of Representatives, etc), and so on. Most newspapers and magazines use this as AP style, a version of it, or their own guide..

--Title style has all grammatical words with functions capped (verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc) but not articles, prepositions, etc. Most books use Chicago/Oxford style unless it's a specialty like a math style guide, etc. The New York Times is alone, as far as I know, among newspapers in using this style, with some rules of their own added--as some book publishers also do.

Of course some publishers have their own guides.

Some publishers also have secondary resources like Words into Type, The Copyeditor's Handbook, etc., for help with knottier issues. One publisher I know checks the Library of Congess at times but prefers Amazon because they can see the actual cover of a book for the exact words of a title, and then apply style.

As for schools, classes or individual teachers, many use Strunk's Elements of Style, or any of many, many others, mostly published by English professors. Apparently some schools teach nothing? I wonder if that has any part in lower literacy scores or not?

For me, it often depended on whose class I was in when I was in school, so I had to know several different styles. That came in handy later because one business I worked for used AP, one used their own, and another used Chicago. For the periodical that had it's own guide, I was the editorial liaison with programmers, and we wrote style specs together that would be automated. I got that job because I had both editorial and programming qualifications.

I guess there are different styles for the same reason there are different languages: just because.

I do know that when anyone studies any language, the verb "to be " is taught and early on too:
I am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, you are, they are
je suis, tu es, il est, nous sommes, vous Ítes, ils sont

So when title style is indeed being used--as it is for the majority of romances--I still wanna know how on earth any English speaker doesn't know Is is a verb when they see it. I didn't start this thread about adverbs, gerunds or any other terribly exotic part of speech--just the most basic word "is."
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1013

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

More thoughts. Rolling Eyes I know...

I wonder if studying another language makes you better at your own. I had to know the French parts of speech, et al, in high school and college long before I could truly read French, so that probably couldn't have had anything but a good effect on my English, right? Maybe that's one of the reasons the Europeans I know are also so proficient in multiple languages. Just a thought.

This next point is sad. I decided to look at books on Amazon by book categories, and romances had far more title mistakes than did the other disciplines I looked at. Coincidence of my survey? Publishers of romances taking less care than publishers of science, history or literary books? Paperback vs hardback? Romance titles tended to be shorter by about half than many wordy non-fiction titles--so that's odd too. I hope this doesn't mean pb romances (and maybe some other genres) are the step-children of publishing. Confused

Thanks to all of you who took the time to reply to my, er, strong peeve.
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