Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I recently wrote a short blog for HONOLULU magazine on-line. I was reporting on specials that the bars are having for football promotions. The Yard House was having specials on bloody mary, mimosa, and other cocktails. At first I capitalized them all. I was following the e-mail the manager had sent. Then I was not sure if they should or shouldn't be. I had to go ask the editor. She said it was not in their style to capitalize the names of drinks, even if it is their proper name. Made sense after, but I am glad I asked.

I always turn to the Grammar Girl for her Quick and Dirty Tips.
So here’s the Quick and Dirty Tip on random or vanity capitalization: don’t.

One reason capitalization matters is that a word’s meaning can change depending on whether it's uppercase or lowercase.

“See those three domiciles over there? Well, I live in the white house.” That’s quite different from, “I live in the White House [capital W, capital H].” That White House is where the president lives.

In English, we capitalize words that are proper nouns—that is, they describe a specific thing or entity. They could be a title, a name, or a specific place such as the president's residence: [THEE] White House.

We lowercase words that are considered common nouns—that is, they can be used to describe many things, such as any one of the multitude of white colored houses in the world.

(As an aside, I'll note that in German all nouns and certain pronouns get uppercased; now there's a gratuitous “Das Kapital” reference just waiting to be made. And so I made one.)

1 comment:

Chad said...

That was interesting and helpful, Lisa! Thanks!