Regarding Titles

The rules regarding which words get capitalized in a title are few, but there is enough complexity that mistakes can easily be made when decisions are rushed. The basic rules, though, are pretty clear, or so I thought. Note that I'm not a purist about this; I guess I might want to be, but I've already crossed that threshold. My new book is going to be called Think Like a Programmer. As I told my editor, it really should be Think like a Programmer, because like here is a preposition. If it were a noun (Programmers and the Like) or a verb (I Like Programmers), it would be a different matter, but prepositions are not capitalized, unless, of course, they are the first word in the title or some other overriding rule.

But the publisher believes that although lowercase-l is correct, it looks wrong, and there's something to be said for that. And it's not as though they were capitalizing the a. I mean, no one would do that. Right?

Perhaps not. I read a lot of articles over at the A.V. Club. I have discovered many books, films, and music from the side, and I am grateful. The site does have some editorial quirks, though. Previously, I would've said the most annoying quirk is the requirement that film articles refer to characters using the name of the actor, not the name of the character (a fake example: "In a surprising twist, James Earl Jones tells Mark Hamill, 'I am your father.'"). For whatever reason, they drop the idea like a hot potato whenever they review an animated film.

But now another quirk, which frankly I hope is just some sort of automatic formatting rule gone awry or editorial laziness rather than an intentional choice, has overtaken the lead for most annoying quirk at the site.

Titles have every single word capitalized. E.g. "Zona: A Book About A Film About A Journey To A Room." (see). Man alive, does that look weird. At first, I thought this was an anomaly, but then I noticed it was near-universal and that I just hadn't been paying attention. I saw an article (in the series discussing Billboard Number 1 albums) about "Briefcase Full of Blues" by the Blues Brothers, and thought, okay, calm down, everything will be fine. But then, right in the first paragraph, we see: "In this installment, he covers Blues Brothers’ Briefcase Full Of Blues,'..."

Now I think they're just messing with me.

It's actually a recurring pattern. Occasionally, whoever edits the article titles rebels and actually gets the capitalization rules correct ("The Shins: Port of Morrow") but is unable to enlist the actual writer of the article into the confederacy ("The Shins: Port Of Morrow").

Again, I love the site, but I hope the editorial staff hasn't fallen into cahoots with a gang of language simplification zealots.


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A Small Victory for Proper Capitalization

So I see the following headline in the Birmingham News:

IPad Released Today

Ah, yes! That's the way. In the first place, I've never understood why newspapers and other print media feel obliged to follow the stylizations of a company logo. This subject was covered in detail, and with more authority, by Washington Post copy editor Bill Walsh on his blog. While this sort of thing is bad enough, it's even worse when the logo style is followed even when it should be trumped by basic rules of grammar and composition. In this case, I imagine the pull to lowercase that initial I was strong. What would web people think of IPad? Are we giving up our street cred? After all, this is the same newspaper that has a regular feature that's nothing more than list of links to "interesting" web sites, even some that that the author of the piece himself admits no interest in. If that's not surrender, then I don't know what is.

So, a small round of applause for the News for letting common sense rule for one more day. If they really want to set things right, though, they should start writing I-pad.


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