The Efficient Editor: When Do You Capitalize a Word?

The Efficient Editor: When Do You Capitalize a Word?

Video transcript

Why does it seem like no matter how you capitalize things, you’re wrong?

Because you are wrong! But you’re also right!

Welcome to today’s episode of the Efficient Editor.

Let’s say you have a document with this sentence in it.

There are nine words that could be capitalized differently depending on the style you’re following.

Do you capitalize a lower-cased letter in a name at the start of a sentence?

Do you capitalize the first word of a sentence after a colon?

Do you capitalize unofficial regions…

…or commonly defined eras?
It can depend on your choice of Chicago, APA, AP, CP, NYPL…

…and on which dictionary you’re using, too.

Some capitalization practices may seem weird but are pretty consistent everywhere, such as capitalizing just the first word of a scientific name…

…while some are pretty much up to you, as long as you’re consistent.

But in some cases, you have to be careful not to be too absolutely consistent, because some words, in most styles, are only capitalized when they’re part of an official title.

That’s a key question in capitalization: Is it the official name? Is it the branding? Or is it just a word for the kind of thing it is?

As we all know, corporate environments tend to expand the practice to “Capitalize it because we think it’s important and that’s company policy.” Well, they are capitalist…

And some writers, for the sake of cuteness, like to capitalize specific words just to give them an extra… thingness.

As editors, no matter who and where we are, we have a lot of decisions to make, a lot to look up, and a lot to keep track of. Which is why we make style sheets.

It’s also why we use PerfectIt. It checks the capitalization in a document for consistency.

When it finds a discrepancy, you check the context. If the capitalization is intentionally different, such as specific versus general use, you just click Next. But if there’s a mistake then you can fix it in an instant.

You can check against a set style sheet. You can build in branding. And if a company really wants to capitalize important words, you can even enforce those too.

If you’ve never used PerfectIt before, it’s available for Macs or PCs with MS Word. It has a free trial so you can see how it speeds up your editing before you purchase.

If this video has helped you, please share it with your friends. And stay tuned for the next episode of The Efficient Editor!