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Capitals in titles
Posted: 09 December 2011 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve often wondered about this because I’ve seen all manner of capitalisation, and contemporary song title transcribers often go for blanket caps for initial letters of words (if that is the correct term) possibly through ignorance of the conventions or Because It Looks Better with no seemingly arbitrary peaks and troughs assaulting the eye.

LH, particularly, will know about this I reckon in his Capacity as an Editor.

I didn’t understand this part from the above link or why it should apply:

Capitalize all the other words except for a, an, the, and conjunctions and prepositions of four letters or fewer.

Why four letters or fewer? Who decided this and when and why? We Need to Talk About Kevin but not We Need To Talk About Kevin nor We Need to Talk about Kevin.

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Posted: 09 December 2011 07:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s purely a matter of convention, and every style guide has slightly different rules.  In particular, the “four letters or fewer” thing is idiosyncratic; other guides say to lowercase all prepositions, which I prefer as being more consistent.  (One thing that trips people up is that the same word can be used in various syntactical capacities, so “up” is lowercase in the hypothetical title “Moving up the Road” but not in “Moving Up Fast.")

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Posted: 09 December 2011 06:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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If in doubt, I capitalise everything.

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Posted: 11 December 2011 11:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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This has been on my mind for a while. Would you expect a title to be capatalised like this (one way or another)? In my manuals I deliberately write all titles with only the first word capitallised, also in the English version. But I wonder, would that look odd to the English speaking eye? Or is it just a matter of taste?

The Dutch spelling rule is to capitalise only the first word.

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Posted: 11 December 2011 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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In my manuals I deliberately write all titles with only the first word capitallised, also in the English version.

I am not a professional editor, though I have helped out frequently with some professionals. Disclaimer: I would have to consult with the Chicago Manual of Style to state anything definitively.

Having said that, as a literate and educated American with a lot of years of college work behind me, I do not respond well to a title with only the first letter capitalized. This is how Wikipedia does it and I’m not warming up to it.

[ Edited: 11 December 2011 12:32 PM by Iron Pyrite ]
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Posted: 11 December 2011 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The Dutch spelling rule is to capitalise only the first word.

But English is not Dutch, and it does not look good in English.  There’s a good summary of English usage here, with examples.

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Posted: 11 December 2011 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I can vouch for Dutchtoo’s Dutch examples, took me a while to work these into web texts with any conviction and I still have doubts about it though I am used to it now.

Perhaps I should explain: I learned the capitalisation in English purely from song titles, not so much from books and other printed media. It saved some time by not having to wrap titles in double quotation marks but did involve pressing the caps key for every tiny little word (no awareness or appreciation of four letters or less thing).

So in Dutch I still find it a bit jarring; there is no cut-off between the title and any words that follow or precede so it takes a bit of getting used to in tv guides and the like.

A case in point recently was a typical web page of a site called About Us in English. In Dutch: Over ons. It took me two days to feel secure about that on a Dutch language website. On an English language site it would always be About Us. I think.

I’m happy with the status quo as I see it in English. The Dutch way depends just a bit too much on pre-recognition of the title in question being known to the reader so they understand the syntax of the whole sentence if it comes up in one.

As a parting question, should all titles of books, songs, poems etc in English not also be encapsulated in double quotation marks to be sure to be sure? With capitalised individual words as well?

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Posted: 11 December 2011 07:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The Dutch spelling rule is to capitalise only the first word.

There are English style guides that do this too. The most noteworthy one that uses sentence case for titles that I’m aware of is the American Psychological Association (APA). You also see this style in a lot of metadata.

It’s a style thing. There’s no absolute right or wrong.

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Posted: 11 December 2011 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Certainly doesn’t bother me either way. The subject line of this thread used the “Capitalise first only” convention and it is not hard or unpleasant to read.

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Posted: 12 December 2011 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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It seems to be the same in French and Spanish according to this from the Guardian today:

“For its French release the film was entitled Trois fois Vingt ans and for its Spanish release Tres veces 20 años...”

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Posted: 12 December 2011 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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It seems to be the same in French and Spanish according to this from the Guardian today

No, it’s not that simple, though at the moment I don’t feel like taking the trouble to look up the actual rules in those languages.  (Furthermore, the Grauniad isn’t even a trustworthy guide to English, much less furrin tongues.  I say that with love.)

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Posted: 13 December 2011 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I doubt that the Grauniad used in-house translators for the film’s names - they probably just looked it up online and found this was how Late Bloomers was released in those countries. Quick googling shows Trois fois vingt ans and variations with numerals.

Just thought to check with IMDB which shows the Turks are big on capitals:

Also Known As (AKA)
3 fois 20 ans France (imdb display title)
Askin Ikinci Perdesi Turkey (DVD title) (Turkish title)
Flores de otoño Spain (imdb display title)
Late Bloomers - O Amor não tem Fim Brazil (imdb display title)
Priha meuheret Israel (imdb display title) (Hebrew title)
Tres veces 20 años Spain (imdb display title) (Castilian title)

It was a joint French/Belgian/British production and Joanna Lumley objected to the Brit title thus:

‘According to the Internet Movie Database, yes. “But I wrote to the director [Julie Gavras] who is French telling her that that would be a terrible title in English. She clearly doesn’t know that in English bloomers means big pants or mistakes.” For its French release the film was entitled Trois fois Vingt ans and for its Spanish release Tres veces 20 años – both meaning three times 20 years, so why Gavras went for the English idiom is anybody’s guess.’

[ Edited: 13 December 2011 08:16 AM by venomousbede ]
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Posted: 13 December 2011 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Heh.  The “big pants or mistakes” thing would never have occurred to me, but then I’m not British.

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Posted: 13 December 2011 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Exactly.  Late Bloomers is a perfectly good USn phrase meaning people who come to their own late in life.

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Posted: 13 December 2011 07:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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BlackGrey:

As a parting question, should all titles of books, songs, poems etc in English not also be encapsulated in double quotation marks to be sure to be sure? With capitalised individual words as well?

Back in the old days with manual typewriters, I think we underlined titles of books and put double quotation marks around academic articles. But I could be wrong.

Just to be clear, double quotion marks are what I as an American think of as ordinary quotation marks. The single ones ... I had a professor reprimand me once for using them so I have since been leery of them. Inverted commas. Sometimes also used as scare quotes. Just to argue back a bit to the professor, when you’re using a typewriter you don’t have access to italics, so the single quotation marks worked pretty well in that regard.

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Posted: 14 December 2011 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Again, this is a style question. Both MLA and Chicago recommend italics for the titles of long works (books, plays, epic poems) and quotation marks for short ones (short stories, articles, songs, sonnets). Underlining is out nowadays.

And the use of double v. single quotations is an American v. British thing. (Here in Canada, both styles are used.) But in no case should one use one type of quotation mark for quotes and another for titles or scare quotes. That’s just confusing. Pick a style and stick with it.

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