Words For Your Enjoyment: Capital Letters

This week, I would like to refrain from mentioning that it is Friday, that there is a new “Words For Your Enjoyment” coming your way, and that if you enjoyed this particular WFYE column, then you may want to take a little jaunt through the archives to look at the previous week’s WFYE installments.

I want to stay away from saying anything like that. Ok? OK.

This week, WFME neighbor to the Great White North, Crista, (who was in a mood when she submitted this idea) said, “Today I have something against capital letters. Why can’t I be against capital letters? Because everyone else does it, so too should I?”

So, true Crista. So true.

Now we must address some of the history that WFME has had with capital letters in the past, first. There were times when we wrote our posts in lowercase only as well as giving the ‘ol Caps Lock key a full-on smackdown. But never have we discussed the pressure one feels to use capitals in all their text and the way in which society insists you start every damn sentence with a CAPITAL.

Crista has a good point when she asks, “Why can’t I be against capital letters?” Crista, like other freedom fighters and revolutionaries throughout history have been known to ask THAT QUESTION (not that one in particular, but a question that sparks their life’s work) in the beginning. It is from that point forward, that the world begins to change at the hand of the revolutionary. In this case, Crista has taken the first step.

Really, what’s the need of capital letters? If we have punctuation, there’s no need. Check out these two sentences and tell me what the issue is. Tell me how it changes the meaning:

1. i went down to the corner and i bought myself a soda. damn, was it good!

2. I went down to the corner and I bought myself a soda. Damn, was it good!

There is only one difference between the first sentence and the second sentence. Anal people who have issues with other people who don’t signal when they’re changing lanes or who chew gum with their mouth open or who give slimy, weak handshakes or who insist that drinking straight out of the milk carton is par for the course — they look at the above two sentences and when they see #1 they say to themselves, “Well that sentence is ALL wrong! They didn’t use capitals!!”

Capital letters and the usage of them comes down to one silly little thing: habit.

Habit, that’s it. Silly little habit. It has nothing to do with grammar. It has nothing to do with meaning. It has nothing to do with anything that makes sense. Just because a book or a teacher tells you that using a capital letter is what you’re supposed to do doesn’t mean it’s necessary. There is a difference between the things we’re taught that ARE necessary and the things (like capital letters) that aren’t. Let me express my point here with these examples:

a. We are taught that by using contraceptives at the beginning of sexual intercourse, that this will prevent accidental pregnancy, disease and potential future wage garnishment while using a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence really doesn’t save us from any serious life issues…

b. We are told that by putting a protective cup in front of our hoo-hoos before a full contact sporting event, that we will protect ourselves from extreme pain, possible lack of damage and embarrassment
while shoving a capital letter in front of a word at the beginning of a sentence won’t save our hoo-hoos from shit.

c. We are informed that by using a motor vehicle’s safety restraints (i.e. seatbelts) correctly, we will protect ourselves and our families from potential danger out there on the highways while using capital letters correctly doesn’t safe us from anything.

I could go on and on. (And you know I could.)

But the bottom line is this — there is no need for capital letters any longer in society. It is an out-dated concept that has no bearing on sentence structure, sentence meaning or sentences in general. All it is, is a remnant of some capital-letter dominant past, where people did things because of the way it looked more than the meaning behind it.

So, I say to Crista — the revolutionary who stood strong against the lack of need for capital letters in today’s sentences and paragraphs — still, er, stay strong! For if you can continue to fight the good fight against society’s dependence on an ancient format, someday you too may be standing side by side the likes of other well-known revolutionaries like Genghis Kahn and Gandhi (who fought for some important stuff, too).

for who needs capital letters?

not me.

16 comments on “Words For Your Enjoyment: Capital Letters

  1. kristine - July 29, 2005 at 8:23 am -

    as an English teacher, i have no counter for this argument.

    i save my capital letters for special occasions.

  2. Pauly D - July 29, 2005 at 8:25 am -

    Does that mean, as an English teacher, you agree that the capital letter is useless?

    Or do you mean, as an English teacher, you cannot admit this fact or else the entire fabric of America’s educational institution would crumble and fall beneath such an admission?

  3. kristine - July 29, 2005 at 8:34 am -

    let’s just say that i’m in the midst of abdicating my English teacher throne for reasons that cannot be specified at this time.

  4. nic - July 29, 2005 at 10:04 am -

    iguesswedon’tneedspaces,
    either.wedo,afterall,have
    punctuation.thiscouldbefun
    andmaybepeoplewillpay
    betterattentiontowhat
    we’resaying!

  5. Glen C. - July 29, 2005 at 10:10 am -

    I think bash.org is right on this one.

    [Fashykekes] Capitalization 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..”

  6. Pauly D - July 29, 2005 at 10:15 am -

    Touche, Glen… Touche.

  7. thehorse - July 29, 2005 at 10:26 am -

    i’mstilllaughingatjack!

  8. greenhemic - July 29, 2005 at 1:55 pm -

    I’m a comma person myself, that is, I use it like it’s going to be blasted into extinction the next day, but most days, like today, I use it to avoid excessively using that other much hyped-about punctuation, which, you have to admit, is pretty, pretty useful, especially when you’re waiting for some dull comment to end, like this one. 🙂

    Love the examples. Drove home the point, as always.

  9. groovebunny - July 29, 2005 at 5:21 pm -

    First off, you said “shit” in your post. I am SHOCKED. I don’t remember you ever using “shit” in any of your previous posts and will mark this day on my Outlook calendar so I can remember this day with much fondness. 🙂 As for capital letters, I don’t mind reading other journal entries that are written in all lower case and same goes for emails. But for myself yep I’m a bit anal and can’t even do an all lower case IM session. But but boy do I know how to work the run on sentence. 🙂 As for for Jack and the horse and the uncle, I got a visual that just makes me shudder. lol

  10. Pauly D - July 29, 2005 at 5:36 pm -

    I said the S-word?

    Damn, there goes my goal about being the Bill Cosby of the blogging world.

  11. […] PROOF! […]

  12. hadashi - July 30, 2005 at 10:44 pm -

    i also actually TEACH English, and i write my whole blog in lowercase. see how my use of capital letters there got your attention? huh? HUH? capital letters get too much airtime, i say. only use them when absolutely necessary, like for saving your hoo hoo.

  13. patrick - July 30, 2005 at 11:47 pm -

    I am just pissed you didn’t accept the craptastic baton I passed you last week!

    http://mono-vision.net/page/2/

    Anyway, love your writing! It’s amazing that you manage to do it everyday…. now us slackers don’t have an excuse.

  14. Fun Joel - August 1, 2005 at 7:24 am -

    we’ll just call you e.e. davidson

  15. Andy - September 13, 2005 at 12:08 pm -

    using all lower case seems to me to be more of a cyber fashion statement than anything else. Its for the coolies ! Someday maybe I’ll be……… no I won’t .

  16. Mark Gaffney - May 14, 2008 at 1:59 pm -

    This is a really old thread, but I was searching for an argument against capital letters… this is one of the only ones on the Internet, apparently.

    But I am surprised. Really? You can’t tell that capital letters help you read faster? Your eyes search for them and allow you to jump to proper nouns and the beginnings of new sentences, while skipping the filling. Think about it next time you’re trying to read as much of a newspaper as you can on the commute — I personally jump around the articles looking for quotes, place names, references to official reports, government agencies…

    I say “read faster,” but I also mean that they help you get away with not reading. From the writer’s perspective, this is usually a good thing. I want people to be able to scan what I write and feel like they read it. If there’s something in there I want to make sure they don’t miss, I’ll use font style or paragraph formating (like bolding or bullet points) for emphasis.

    I doubt anybody will ever read this comment. The last one was 3 years ago.

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