13/04/2018 Kdm Communications

The tyranny of capital letters

I had the pleasure of spending the Easter bank holiday in Bruges, Belgium. Like many an Englishman, I went abroad in the belief that I would try and speak a little of the local language. However, it soon became apparent that the locals were more than happy to relieve me of speaking Flemish and converse in English. This resulted in the interesting phenomenon of entering many coffee shops – after all, what are holidays for? – and finding that the menus were entirely in English.

Unfortunately, I find it difficult to read menus, signs and notices without proofreading everything I look at, thanks to spending the last year working as a copywriter. And this was a bit of problem when surrounded by Flem-glish. Now, it’s entirely forgivable to make mistakes in a language that is not your native tongue, but many errors I encountered in Bruges are equally as common this side of the Channel, which brings me on to the tyranny of capital letters.

Hopefully, everyone agrees that capital letters should be used for names, proper nouns and at the beginning of sentences. But what about titles?

There seem to be four approaches in the world of print and online publishing:

1. Capitalise only the first letter of the first word. Write the rest of the title as a normal sentence. e.g. The best coffee in Bruges

2. Capitalise every word. e.g. The Best Coffee In Bruges

3. Capitalise big words, but not small words such as ‘and’, ‘of’ and ‘in’, although it’s not always clear what counts as big or small. e.g. The Best Coffee in Bruges

4. Take a random approach to capital letters – after all, who actually cares? e.g. The best Coffee in Bruges

At kdm, we prefer the first option, but it’s now common for people to go for the second and third options – it’s a free world after all!

But these approaches often lead to titles such as:

Look For Long-Term Success
Look for Long-Term Success.

However, a hyphenated word consists of two words that are now one, so the titles should be corrected to:

Look For Long-term Success
Look for Long-term Success.

This now looks a little odd, which is why we tend to prefer the simplest option:

Look for long-term success

It’s tidy, easy to remember and never fails to be aesthetically pleasing.