Wendesday's are for Grammar (Capitalization)

Last Week's Homework:
Here are the corrected sentences. (The misspelling of grammarian was my mistake. As was the bizarre apostrophe in Mrs. Spit. Not sure where my brain was, sorry.)

There is a challenge in talking about grammar, and the way that people use it badly; one must make some sort of judgment about the person, who is, or is not using standard grammar. We necessarily make some sort of judgment about their intelligence, and possibly, their social standing. I prefer to assume that those who use poor grammar are ignorant, in the classical sense of the world. Not meaning rude or primitive, but unschooled, not knowing better. I am sure that they would like to do better.

The other challenge with English grammar is that standards of correctness vary. From time and country to the text book or style manual that you use. In my professional life, our style guide for writing often requires me to stretch the bounds of good English, to almost a breaking point. I have seen some awful mistakes and really bad wording.

Many of you have emailed me, from time to time, to ask me a particular grammar question. And I'm always happy to give answers. Really. But, sometimes, the questions are grey - it really is a matter of preference, or what country you live in. What Sam in the UK would find appalling, we would find quite normal. Sometimes you have to lay your expectations down.

So, with those provisos, I offer Mrs. Spit’s Grammarian Guide to Making Yourself Sound all Intelligent-like and making fewer mistakes.

Those who Get to Post The Coveted Button

Mr. Spit (Who is a first time participant, also!)
Sweet Camden Lass
Dreams Come True

And today, Ladies (and gentleman!) We announce a new, special prize. Especially for keeners, those that go above and beyond the homework, find silly mistakes of mine, charm me with compliments, or type such an amusing answer, I can't help but laugh.

Ladies (and gentleman!), may I pronounce, The Shiny Red Pencil, For Keeners.

This week, we are giving the award to Schlup. Who did not actually do the homework, but did point out that I used a grocer's apostrophe in provisos. We all remember that grocer's apostrophes are bad, don't we now?
A firm reminder, buttons are only good for one week. Keep it on your blog longer, and your finger nails will turn black, your toilet will fill with blue goo, and your car tires will turn to mush.

This Week's Lesson: Capitalization
I must confess, this lesson was supposed to be about what a complete sentence is, but as I was meeting an old friend for a cup of tea, I came across a sign with the most random of capitalization. It truly irked me. Alas, it was behind glass, so I couldn't haul out my trusty red sharpie, and begin correcting.

Here's when we capitalize:

1. The first word of a sentence

Mrs. Spit is not a fan of random capitalization.

2. Items in a list, where each item makes a complete sentence.
There were three reasons for Mrs. Spit's knitting failure. (1) She picked a pattern with a number of errors. (2) She lost her knitting needles. (3) Mr. Spit continually bothered her to go play Wii tennis.

We would NOT capitalize the following list, because the items in the list are not complete sentences

Mrs. Spit bought wool, knitting needles and a pattern.

3. Capitalize the first letter of a quotation.
Capitalize the letter even if the words preceding the quote don't make a complete sentence. Do not capitalize the remainder of the quote, if you have broken it up in the sentence.
"Dear", Mr. Spit said, "we noticed that you have bought more wool?".

4. Capitalize the pronoun I.
I cannot tell you how obnoxious it is when people do not do this. I might perhaps accept it from a 12 year old girl, it is completely unacceptable in adults, and renders your writing to be illegible gibberish. Readers are trained to expect certain words to be capitalized. Play along with society's expectations in this case.

Dear Reader, do I really need to give you an example of this?

5. Capitalize proper nouns and proper adjectives.
Proper nouns are a specific person, place or thing - they are not at all general classes. Place names, people's names, that sort of thing. So, you wouldn't capitalize the word cat, but you would capitalize your cat's name.

Proper adjectives are derived from proper nouns. For example, a Japan is a proper noun, and Japanese literature, where the literature is the noun, and the adjective Japanese tells us about a particular type of literature, it describes the literature. Trademarks are also considered to be proper adjectives.

Mrs. Spit only buys Primo spaghetti sauce, Guiness beer and Scotty paper towels.

Proviso: Some brand names like Kleenex, Band-aids, Post-it Notes and the like have become so common place, that we don't use the capitalization for them, because they don't necessarily refer to a particular brand of goods, but refer to an entire class of goods. This makes them just an ordinary adjective. Yes, I know, the makers of the goods likely don't like this rule, but there you have it.

6. The random capitalization for effect.
Ah, Dear Reader, this gets confusing. Mrs. Spit has no problems with using grammar for style. She's actually quite a fan. But, there's a difference between style and not knowing what you are doing. Do this insensibly and you will look like a pretentious git. Here are her rules to try to bring some order to the unordered.
- Be consistent. If you are going to capitalize a word in a piece of writing that would not usually be capitalized, do so consistently in the entire piece of writing.

- Use this sparingly. There's nothing worse than seeing higgledy-piggledy capitalization. Perhaps it would help if you imagined a reader moving their eyes along the screen. When they come to a capitalized item, their head moves upward. Now dear reader, I want you to imagine what it would look like if their head was bobbing up and down. Yes Dear Reader, you get the picture.
- Do not, under any circumstances, randomly capitalize prepositions or conjunctions. I assure you, Dear Reader, there is no reason to give particular importance to the words "of" or "to" or "and".

Your Homework:
Write me a sentence that utterly violates every rule of capitalization.