I’m declaring a Free-For-All on capitalization. Capitalize However You Want, as long as you can give a Good Reason for it.
Don’t shoot the messenger. It’s just what we’re already doing. The rules for capitalization in English have always been shaky and inconsistent, there is no rule that doesn’t have some exceptions, and we’ve been going nuts with it for decades. We might as well admit it and claim the full potential of having two versions of each letter, one normal and one BIG.
Capitals are the neckties of the typographic world. Just as neckties are now a purely ostentatious and stylized development of something that was originally functional (to keep your collar closed before buttons were used for the purpose), capitals are a formal retention of the original letter shapes. The Latin alphabet was originally CAPITALS ONLY, AS YOU WILL SEE FROM MANY INSCRIPTIONS. In the medieval period, scribes developed flowing ways of writing the letters, and these became our modern “small” or “lower-case” letters. They also gave more shape variation, making reading easier. The original forms were retained for the most important letters and for ornamental capitals. And then when printing presses and moveable type came along, they had two cases of type, the upper one with the big letters and the lower one with the small ones. And so we developed habits and made some Rules.
But capitalization is not an essential feature in most contexts. Many forms and documents render names in ALL CAPS, and some would-be tax evaders have argued that a tax form naming JOHN SMITH doesn’t apply to John Smith, but the courts have informed them that oH yES iT dOES. And if you make a check out to lakeisha de haas, it can be cashed by LaKeisha de Haas. In other news, a person wearing a necktie is the same person as when they’re not wearing it.
Many alphabets don’t even have a capital–lowercase distinction. Since we have this decorative resource, we shouldn’t waste it. Let’s look at the world of possibilities opened up by exploiting the full potential of capital letters.
Old fashioned: Capitalize the first letter of every word except articles, conjunctions, and prepositions (or anyway short prepositions): How to Make a Million Dollars Through Writing about Language.
Current: Capitalize the first letter of every word, because Microsoft Word does it that way, or just capitalize the very first word, because Europeans do it that …read more