Why All the Capitalization Lately?

I read a lot of other people’s writing, in both my role as a teacher, grading papers students hand in, and as an editor at lifehack.org, preparing contributors’ work for publication on the site. Lately, I’ve been noticing a strange phonemenon: the gratuitous Capitalization of random Words.

It’s as if suddenly we’ve returned to the days of Pilgrim’s Progress, where Words are capitalized to show that they represent Important Concepts — except the words That are capitalized are often not All that important. Or it’s like we suddenly adopted German Grammar, where all the Nouns are capitalized — except it’s not Just nouns. In fact, I’ve searched in vain for a pattern, and can’t find one.

All I know is that I’m seeing words capitalized where no capital is needed, and that it seems to be becoming more and more common. I’m reading applications for a job opening right now, and 4 out of 14 were disqualified for mysterious capitalization — I don’t reckon with that sort of nonsense!

But am I alone? Am I the only one that’s seeing this? Am I some kind of magnet for awkward capitalization? And what oes it mean? Is this simply the outcome of poor schooling, or is it the first sign of the impending breakdown of all civilization as we know it? Or both?

5 comments to Why All the Capitalization Lately?

  • Anonymous

    Haha, this is funny.
    Haha, this is funny. Actually, i am German, and we really do have a funny Way towards Capitalization. I’ve actually noticed the Things you listed in your Article – Capitalization of random Words – but i always thought there was some Kind of secret Grammarrule that i didn’t know of. Obviously, there doesn’t seem to be One, does there? But to my Knowledge, Englishspeakers don’t take Orthohraphy very seriously, right? So why bother about Capitalization?
    ;D

  • Anonymous

    It should probably be noted
    It should probably be noted that such a wide-scale shift in spelling and grammar is happening in more areas than one (do u lik txt?). The question shouldn’t be “why is this happening,” but rather “who is it happening to?”

    What specific category or categories of people is this phenomenon most prevalent in? Additionally, is there some economic or social factor that links people that demonstrate this behavior?

    These, and similar questions, might shed more light on the subject.

  • Anonymous

    Dustin,
    I work for an
    Dustin,
    I work for an advertising agency. This is definitely turning into an epidemic. We get copy from clients all the time that’s chock full of gratuitous capitalization. And the worst offender? My Creative Director, of all people. Not good.

    And you’re not alone in being annoyed by it. Don’t get me “started” on gratuitous “use” or “quotation marks” either. :)

  • Anonymous

    Jesse: Glad to see I’m not
    Jesse: Glad to see I’m not alone! Gratuitous “quotation marks” I can understand — there’s a long history of people using them incorrectly. The Capitalization thing gets me because I don’t remember ever seeing this say 10 years ago, and the rules for capitalization are pretty simple in English: the beginning of the sentence and proper names.

    Evecor: Germans might be funny, but at least they’re consistent: if it’s a noun, it’s capitalized. It’s true, Americans aren’t much for spelling and punctuation — getting it right would be too much like learning something, and if we started itnegrating learning into our education system ,who knows what would happen?! But it’s strange to see what seems like a spontaneous mass degradation of a rule that is, as I said, really quite simple. I expect to see oddly-placed quotes and apostrophes, bizarre commas, and words spelled like they sound (taking things “for granite”, for instance) but to see people suddenly and apparently individually start making the same weird mistake…

    Shakes my faith in humanity, it does!

  • I just found your article when I asked why I don’t understand why my boss of 17 years has all of a sudden started capitalizing numerous random words when he writes. They make no sense, are totally irrelevant and I wasn’t sure if it was a sign of early on-set Alzheimer’s or not. It’s so aggravating and makes me want to scream and every time I correct his writing, he just puts it back as before.

    I was glad to find that it irks someone besides myself. haha

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