Time of Capital Punishment

Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia), April 25, 2009 | Go to article overview

Time of Capital Punishment


A slow grammatical disease has intensified through the internet. It has spread rapidly down the tentacles of the world wide web. The epidemic could wipe out the capital letter.

Capital letters are now probably in about 17th place on the list of critically endangered species. The way we are heading, the shift keys on our computers will have to be redeployed soon or thrown on to the unemployment scrap heap, amid old typewriters and Betacord tapes.

The capital letter was once uncontrollable, peppering manuscripts in plague proportions and popping up in explicable places.

I have, for some reason, a copy of "A Full, true and particular account of William Taylor, the unfortunate man who was Executed on the New Drop at Lincoln, on Monday the 18th March, 1833, for the wilful Murder of William Burbank, on the road from Sleaford to Boston".

It's not a particularly striking example of over-use of capitals but does show the random selection - Full is capitalised but not true or particular.

Capital letters have been steadily knocked down in the print media for a century.

Clubs and businesses still dignify their President, Secretary or the Executive Director with a deferential capital but in the media the upper case tends to be reserved for the top brass. The Prime Minister is always capped but if we refer to a past prime minister we give him no capital. What to cap and what not to cap has always been the most difficult section of newspaper style books to master. Part of the reason is the amendments, because by the time the latest version of the style book is printed common use has knocked down a couple more upper cases. …

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