Wick Communications

Shift to lowercase

In Editing on June 25, 2010 at 9:52 am

Have you noticed that many times the Big Governmental Agency or the Medium-sized Chain Store or even the Little Old Lady’s Bridge Club tend to give you information simply overrun with capitalization? “The Bridge Club played Crosstown Rivals the Young Men’s Bridge Club to a Tie on Tuesday at the YMCA Conference Room,” etc. etc.

Forget made-up examples. Here’s a real-life one from a press release (or is it Press Release) I received today.

The Controller’s Office has published its annual Property Tax Highlights. This publication contains useful information regarding the Property Tax process in our County, including property assessment, preparation of the tax roll, issuance of tax bills, and tax collection.  It also contains information detailing the apportionment and distribution of property taxes to jurisdictions in our County.

I think you can make an argument for the capitalization of the first Controller’s Office since it refers to a specific controller’s office, but everything else, save the first letters of new sentences, should be lowercase…

Now, not everyone agrees. In fact, the Associated Press “Guide to Punctuation” admits that all this is pretty murky:

“We now come to a subject that seems as large as the Grand Canyon and as spongy as Dismal Swamp. … Capitalization is largely arbitrary, a matter of style and preferences, which vary among publications.” (The guide is actually very helpful on the matter and runs through titles, government entities, proper nouns and a host of other reasons to capitalize.

Here’s what I think. If you are referring to something specific, if you are dealing with a title, you probably capitalize. But don’t always capitalize the word “county” or “president” or “property tax.” It’s self-important and silly.

I tell you, as an editor, little drives me nuts quite like this overutilization of the shift key. Rant over.

Clay

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