Last time we took a look at capitalization. Several comments came up that deserve clarification.
First of all, I’m not ashamed to admit I got part of it wrong. Or at least, I wasn’t clear enough. I included endearments in the list of words that should be capitalized--honey, dear, sweetie. Most often those words should not be capped. Only cap them if they replace the person’s actual name. For instance, if I call my sister Grumpyface rather than her given name, I’d cap it. (In point of fact, I do not call her Grumpyface. I call her Runs with Bears. But that’s a whole ’nuther story.)
Regarding the names of relatives: If you call you father’s sister Aunt Alice when you talk to her, do you also capitalize aunt when you talk about her? Yes, you do. Hi, Aunt Alice. I’ll drive Aunt Alice to the store. However, there is an exception. If you’re talking about an aunt named Alice, don’t cap aunt. I’ll drive my aunt Alice to the store, and my brother will drive my aunt Gert to church.
Thanks to my gentle readers and fellow editors who questioned me on these issues and made me think harder and more clearly about them. Learning never ends.
The permutations of capital letters are nearly endless, especially when language is changing as fast as it is now. When I was learning grammar--heck, when my kids were learning grammar--a capital letter in the middle of word was unheard of. Now we have so many of them--LinkedIn, BrainBashers, InDesign--a new term had to be invented for them. Camel caps. When in doubt, do as I do and refer to CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style).
Next time, the most misunderstood punctuation mark of them all--the apostrophe.
Cranky Old Grammar Lady, aka Nikki Andrews, is an editor at Champagne Books and a writer of mysteries and scifi. Visit her blog here for more grammar fun.