Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another mark of the amateur

This is "bling," as Theresa calls it, junky typography:
Inappropriate capitalization. You're writing in English, not German. Generally only proper nouns (names, titles) and the first letter of a sentence are capitalized. If you have the slightest doubt, check. Capitals really stand out, and a first pageful of seemingly random capitalization will make your opening look unprofessional. Just get it right unless you have a reason to get it wrong.



rachelcapps said...

This is a bit off topic, I hope that you don't mind. I think this is also the mark of an amateur.

At the shops (mall?) yesterday, a man approached me (I had my kids with me) and asked if my boys would like a book. Of course they would! He hands me a free book titled "A Days Fishing with Pop". I look and think, shouldn't there be an apostrophe in the title? (perhaps that's a post to add to the list - proper use of apostrophes).

The man tells me he's a local author. A particular big bookstore has returned four boxes of his books and told him they can't sell them and he may as well toss them. Instead of tossing them, he was giving them away to shoppers.

I'm horrified. Toss books! Then I realise, this is a SELF-PUBBLISHED book. And this author has it all wrong. It's a children's book approx 8" x 8". It looks like it's marketed for 3-5 year olds, except this book is 21 pages of text with illustrations for I'd guess 8-10 year olds.

I begin to see why the bookstore couldn't sell it. And, with a healthy reality check, I am reminded why agents, editors and publishers are experts that shouldn't be ignored.

Eva Gale said...

I'm guilty of that. I have a contemp I wrote ...I think I used Captain Jealous and some other intermitten caps--I took them out before I subbed it, but I wanted the internal narration to show how we talk and think today. In my brain, when I snark (I don't ever SAY it) I give my thoughts caps. Worst. Dress. Ever.

I did take it out, really, but that's how it sounded in my head as I wrote it.

Phyllis said...

You're writing in English, not German.

I laughed out loud because I'm German. Capitalization of nouns is the the only thing Mark Twain praised as a good idea in "The Awful German Language." And the Germans get it wrong.

Be happy without the Junk. It makes Things so much easier.

Edittorrent said...

Was this in response to my email last night using caps to poke fun at Victorian theories of the Purpose of Art?

who suspects she has just been a victim of her own blog

fictionforge said...

I had to laugh too! I am a native English-speaker, living in a German-speaking region, and I find the capital letters creeping into my writing and typing all the time.

Falen said...

LMAO - oh my gosh i do this all the time!
BUT not because i think the words are supposed to be capitalized, i just have a shifty pinky that likes to hit the "shift" key when i'm not watching it.
I fix the words during revisions.

Edittorrent said...

Eva, I wanted to say "Inappropriate Capitalizaton." :)

But if it works, it works. But it's only going to work very occasionally, and I wouldn't do it on page 1!


Jm Diaz said...

I don't Know what You are talking About? SomeTime emphasis Is neeDed.

SphinxnihpS of Aker-Ruti said...

This isn't perhaps coming from a fantasy submission, is it? As a fantasy writer, I use capitalizations for made up species names, special occupations, or different use of a real world word but giving it an entirely different meaning. I do that in the first draft; later drafts I start looking at that a lot closer and lose most of them.


Sierra Godfrey said...

Well said. I have been trying my best to stamp out random capitalization at work for years. It's nearly a subculture in itself. I like to imagine what the person writing is thinking when they capitalize certain things, it's a fun game.

Eva Gale said...

I did take them out! Really! :-)

I do like it when people cap like that when we talk on forums-I can hear their voice and tone -I can tell when they're joking or angry when they do it instead of me guessing as to the tone of their comment.

But I swears I took them out of my sub.

Jami G. said...

I'll admit I do this, but my WIP has a lot in common with an urban fantasy, so there's all that world-building stuff going on. When I introduce one of those terms, my MC (an outsider) comments about it (usually along the lines of how the other character emphasized the word, as though it was an important title or something). And I have only a handful of terms, so hopefully it doesn't hit the annoying level. :)

Jami G.

Edittorrent said...

And proper names are capitalized usually.

What sticks out as amateur to me is capping things like seasons and positions.

In the Fall, I hope to be promoted to Director of my Company.

Dave Shaw said...

ah, another problem i'm not prey to. thanks, alicia.


Seriously, this bugs me, too. I usually blame it on my OCD flaring up. ;-)

Eva Gale said...

"In the Fall, I hope to be promoted to Director of my Company."

Huh. Well. That's...interesting. *scratches head*

Jami G. said...

I'll admit that the season one trips me up some of the time. A part of my brain argues with me: You capitalize days of the week and months, but not seasons? What's up with that? :) Sometimes, I make the mistake of listening to this argument. (Using some type of logic is easier than just plain memorizing! LOL!)

Jami G.
(*ahem* Murphy, Chapter 11: fix 'spring' *blushes* :) )

Murphy said...

Okay Jami, that isn't funny! I checked. Don't you mean, change it back to the way I originally had it? Sheesh! And how the heck would you remember something like that, unless you and your little neurotic state of perfection - got together and did a find and replace on the darn thing? *OCD, OCD!* Did I say that out loud? ;)

Gee whiz! How do you expect me to be perfect if you keep making mistakes on my stuff? :D


Jami G. said...


Yeah, that change... The one back to the way you had it, and that I left after the first round, but by the second round, I'd second-guessed myself and changed it (wrongly). Uh huh, that one. :)

And you want to know why I remember it? Because I remember arguing with myself about which way it should be (hence the one time I left it one way and the other time I changed it). LOL!

Jami G.

Murphy said...

@ Jami: You see? This is what I love about you. You feel this need to explain, when a simple - piss off - would do. :D

And hey, here's a thought. If an editor gets to the word 'S'pring in chapter ELEVEN, I highly doubt they'd reject the MS based on that error. Now, if they read: The Birds chirped in anticipation of Spring, on the first page and then on the second page, they were treated to: She tucked the sheet between the box Spring and Mattress . Well, then I'd be thinking they may want to rethink asking to see more from this author.


Mistakes happen. The first time I read your comment about this, I read it as Spring bushes. And there I was scratching my head thinking, what the hell? My story takes place in the dead of winter - there are no spring bushes! Maybe a: He sprang toward her bush. He sprang at her bush. He sprang into...nope, I’m definitely not going there. :D So you see, it was only after I read your comment a second time, I got it. Good thing, eh? That really could have been embarrassing. ;)


Jami G. said...


Naw... I'll save the 'piss off' for email. Here in blogland, I'll pretend to be all nice and stuff. LOL!

Really, I'm just humiliating myself in public here because I'm trying to get through to my subconscious that if I'm debating a rule, I should freaking look it up!!! *ahem* Okay, I'm better now... :)

Jami G.

em said...

You guys crack me up!:) Murphy, spring at her bush? LMAO!

Dave Shaw said...

**Wakes up.**

What's that, something about a spring under a burning bush?