It's just spelling

The Baltimore Sun

Looking for some diversion this afternoon before I must report to the paragraph factory for the impending Super Bowl tsunami of copy,* I turned to Twitter, to find that the only people not obsessing over chicken wings and football were arguing, some passionately, whether Internet should be capitalized.

I, as a copy editor, should be the last to suggest that other people should get a life, but, for Fowler's sake, it's just capitalization. It's just spelling. It's just house style. It's just a convention of writing. It's not bound up with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

I attended one of Alex Cruden's workshops on readers' responses to headlines in which one reader thought that a newspaper's failure to capitalize president in referring to the president of the United States was disrespectful, perhaps a calculated slight. No, it's just a stylebook convention.

We used, like the Germans, to capitalize all our nouns,and our adjectives and verbs too, when we felt like it. Over the past century and more, especially in American English, we have been reducing the amount of capitalization. But it's still just a spelling convention, one way or another. The Brits write colour and we write color, and nobody gets exercised over it, or should. 

I don't much care myself whether it's Internet or internet, since I know what the writer is talking about in either case. No doubt the arguments on either side are principled, but I don't much care to explore them, and I don't imagine that anyone with much sense would waste much time over it.

Of course, we do love to occupy ourselves with trifles. I gather that there are people who think, apparently sincerely, that Yahweh, the Creator, the Lord of Hosts, interests himself personally in the outcome of the impending contest between the Ravens and the 49ers, that the Almighty tilts more toward one Harbaugh than the other.

One will surely prevail, as surely either Internet or internet shall, insha'Allah.



*England expects that every man will do his duty, &c.


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