The scourge of the random capital letter

Colorful newspaper alphabetAnd, yes, I do mean mid-sentence.

The appearance of random capital letters in the middle of sentences seems to be gaining more and more ground, to the point I am left wondering whether this proliferation is indicative of a generation or two who did not receive that most basic of grammatical lessons.

For some reason, which I have failed to uncover (I have a theory, obviously!), mainly PRs and marketers, although a host of other professionals from sales directors to lawyers (all of whom really should know better), can’t seem to stop themselves from inserting random and unnecessary capital letters into sentences.

Interestingly, these extremely annoying apparitions are more likely to appear in press releases or submissions to journalists; the very people who are most likely to have an apocalyptic fit at such a flagrant disregard for one of our easiest to understand grammatical rules. Honestly, it is really easy – apart from the start of a sentence, obviously, in general, capital letters should only be used for proper nouns, names, for example, ‘my name is Debbie Kirlew’ or names of countries, cities, towns, villages and companies, for example, ‘I live near London and I work for Amazing Enterprises’. See how easy it is?

Capital letters should never be used in the middle of sentences for job titles or departments, the main offences I have come across.

So, ‘We at business consultancy Whatever are delighted to welcome our new Business Analyst John Smith who will be based in our Finance department as well as working closely with our Sales team’, is a complete no, no (apart from ‘John Smith’ and ‘Whatever’). Some habitual offenders will even cap up ‘Business Consultancy’, ‘Department’ and ‘Team’, yikes!

The effect is to cause the reader to stumble along the sentence and metaphorically trip up at several points. It is like walking along a badly maintained pavement which sees your elegant swagger falter every couple of steps. Most of us would simply cross the road where the pavement is well looked after and where our pace remains even, constant and uninterrupted or, to put it bluntly, easy.

So, why PR and marketing people, do you insist in sticking out your metaphorical foot in order to trip up your reader? Whether it’s a brochure or website information about your all-singing and all-dancing product with the goal of netting a sale from a potential customer who is devouring your every word or a journalist whose attention you are trying to capture in the hope your carefully crafted words will appear in print, why would you interrupt the smooth process of your fabulously written prose? Seriously, to piss us off?! Have you entirely taken leave of your senses? Why would you do that?

Why, indeed? Well, here’s my theory: arrogance! Yep, that simple, head and derrière come to mind. But ask yourself (or more importantly your boss), dear PR, marketer and content producer, is it really worth tripping up and potentially turning off your target audience because the sales director, I repeat the Sales Director (see what I mean), thinks his or her role is of such huge importance that it warrants rewriting the rules of grammar. I mean does he or she seriously consider themselves up there with Shakespeare?!

Don’t do it!

However, English is never that simple and there are always exceptions, so in order to keep you on the capital letter straight and narrow, I refer you to the guide from The Economist and in the wise words of this renowned publication – if in doubt opt for lower case.

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