04 October 2016

Capital offenders

On 4 October 2010, production editor of the Guardian until August 2016 and leading contributor to the Guardian's "much admired, occasionally followed" Style guidepublished
IT'S OFFICIAL: CAPITAL LETTERS CAN BE DANGEROUS.

As a long-time defender of the 'min-caps' faith, I was delighted to discover, even belatedly, this article and the following gems by such an acknowledged expert:
At least, that's what the US federal highway administration believes. According to the New York Post:
"Studies have shown that it is harder to read all-caps signs, and those extra milliseconds spent staring away from the road have been shown to increase the likelihood of accidents, particularly among older drivers."
It won't surprise regular Guardian readers that I agree with them. The Guardian style guide has long encouraged the gradual move away from capitals. So do other newspapers and websites, although some venerable style guides are still agonising over whether to lowercase internet and world wide web. (Be assured they will do so, perhaps in time for the 22nd century.) 
In part, the switch from capitals reflects a society that is less deferential than in the days when the Manchester Guardian would write something like this: "The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER, Mr LLOYD GEORGE, presented the Naval Estimates to Ministers and Members of the House."
Most readers seem comfortable with a less formal style.
Capitals do have their uses, of course. As the Urban Dictionary puts it: "Capitalisation is the difference between 'I had to help my uncle Jack off a horse' and 'I had to help my uncle jack off a horse.'"
(Note carefully the three punctuation marks there at the end. I approve, indeed, Love it!)
****
Moving on now to another DAvid Marsh article, this one entitled
Capital letters out, swearwords in: one journalist's legacy, in which ‘The man responsible for the spelling mistakes in the Guardian’ looks back on a 42-year career that ends today. But first an delightful little aside:
You didn’t ask, but I’m going to tell you anyway: my favourite entry from this two-decade labour of love remains
meat loaf ... sings
meatloaf ... doesn’t sing.
Now, back on topic and to conclude:
If I have had any impact at all in my time at the Guardian, it’s a reduction in the incidence of capital letters.

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