In my lifetime accepted capitalization has morphed several times. I’d like to know the present status of legal documents such as Trust Funds, Wills, Deeds, and suchlike, and also whether the word Penthouse should be capitalized or not.

Edited to add: That would be the ritzy apartment and not the magazine! LOL!


TIA - Jesse.

There is no need to capitalize any of the nouns you mention (except the magazine) if they appear in the body of the document. As a part of the title, however, they may well be.

Last Will and Testament of John Q. Psmith
Riverdale Penthouse Apartments.


G’morning and thank you, Mister Micawber!

So (I require the “Dummy Version” of everything), it would be incorrect, in your view, to say, “She owns a Penthouse Apartment in Manhattan.”?

Shabbat shalom - Jesse.

Absolutely incorrect. You sound like a 19th century real estate agent.

Aw shucks! It’s too early in the morning for compliments like that one. :wink:

Just to be clear, one of the people my publisher has proof read my novels (a lady who taught English for forty years) disagrees with you. It didn’t look right to me, however, so since I stumbled upon this forum I thought I’d solicit a second opinion.

Writing in American English is challenging for me. I hail from the north of Scotland (where we don’t speak English), live in the Coastal Mountains of British Columbia in Canada with my family, and have to write for a mainly American audience. The attitude that anything goes these days, with the exception of a few foundational rules, makes it difficult to decide which route one should follow. Generally I write what reads well to me and hope my audience feels the same way.

Thanks again for your input. I like this forum. If I’m spared, I hope to stick around for a while.

Have a spectacular day, and may God bless you. - Jesse.

Rule One: Obey your publisher.

How far into the bush are you? I spent a long time in Victoria.

Hmmm… at the highway’s end. We live at 5,000 ft. in the Coastal Mountains about ten driving hours north of Vancouver. We lived in Whistler for almost a decade but it went from a sleepy little mountain town to… what it is now. (I’m being kind.) :wink: We lived in Aspen, Colorado for years, and it took twenty-five years to do what Whistler managed in four. It’s discouraging. What people won’t do for a dollar. :roll:

We have twenty-five full-time residents in our little hamlet and surrounding mountains, it’s perfect. After raising five kids and being a grandmother now, I’m an enormous fan of peace. My husband and I have been missionaries for over thirty-three years. Remote is a word I’ve grown terribly fond of. :slight_smile:

Love - Jesse.

As a former proofreader, I disagree. Sometimes the publisher has editors or proofreaders who don’t know what they’re doing. I even had a “supervisor” in a proofreading department who had gone right from the doughnut counter to the proofreading office without passing through college. She insisted on all kinds of things that were wrong, then quit to go to college, and after a year she came back and apologized to us.

Also, just because someone taught English in the United States – I don’t care how long – it doesn’t mean they know English. In one copyediting department where I worked, a degree in English teaching was considered a NEGATIVE credential, unless the person had taken a lot of linguistics or foreign language classes.

To me, one of the danger signals is when the proofreader slaps you in the face with some credential, such as “forty years in teaching” or “degree from the University of Chicago” instead of backing him- or herself up with hard data from an authoritative reference.

Jesse, you should ask for just this kind of backup. Ask your publisher – not the proofreader – which style manual they require their proofreaders and editors to use. If they’re a dumb publisher and haven’t assigned one, you need to get one to back yourself up.

For your purposes, two very good style manuals would be The Gregg Reference Manual (which has EVERYTHING), and a less useful but still useful one is The Chicago Manual of Style, or whatever has superseded it. There is also Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. If you’re a writer, you should preferably have all three of these books at home.

Your proofreader is obviously not well versed in English capitalization rules, and part of your job is to make sure your book doesn’t come out with mistakes that will make you look bad. For that reason, it’s important to fight these battles with your publisher – in a civilized way, of course. Make sure you have the style manuals and can back yourself up with chapter and verse.

Afternoon Jamie!

Thank you for all the time and thought you put into your response.

I’ve been writing in one form or another (songwriting/singing/playing, writing poetry, children’s stories, yada, yada, yada,) since I was eleven years old - that’s forty years. I won (I disagree with that definition) the British equivalent of the National Book Award (the Brooke Bond Award) at eleven and have been writing ever since.

I agree with everything you’ve said and I’ve always fought for the end product to be what I intended it to be. My attitude, unfortunately always considered arrogant, was, and is that the people critiquing my work ought to have the ability (and preferably a history) to produce the same quality of work that they’re critiquing. I find your story about the donut proofreader hilarious! :lol: I’ve always maintained that publishers hire based on the Peter Principle. I’m not complaining, I have a great editor who permits me creative freedom and allows me to argue my point when I have one.

They (those mysterious, unknown authorities) say that the average number of mistakes in any good novel to hit the shelves contains an average of two hundred mistakes, and I don’t doubt it. Apparently, even the classics don’t fare any better than modern literature. My publisher has all books read a minimum of nine times by a minimum of three different proofreaders, yet I still find minor errors after printing. So, it’s evident that I’m not going to be the one to reverse the trend. :roll:

The Chicago Manual of Style is what my publishers consider to be their Bible. Still, there are times when the rules simply don’t make sense, and at those times, I’ll go with what reads well and fight for it. This isn’t math; it’s a collaboration between the writer’s heart and the reader’s. If I have to break a rule or two to effect the pulling of a heartstring when I want it, I’m going to go with my gut and break that rule. Call me crazy but it’s worked for me thus far. I believe that the reader is always more important than the writer. Everybody reads the same words but the story they glean from those words is unique unto themselves, colored by their life experience and the space I leave for them to exist in within the story.

It’s a pleasure to speak with someone who is good at what isn’t my personal forte. I’m what’s called a “blood writer.” I write raw and from the heart, as quickly as I think, and I don’t worry too much about correct grammar and punctuation until editing, which I don’t bother with until I’m finished my story.

Shalom aleikhem - Jesse.

There’s another problem with some proofreaders, which is that they wish they were editors and try to second guess what you meant to say. Most proofreaders who want to be proofreaders and not something else, and stay proofreaders a long time, don’t get into it because they’re facile writers, but because they are nuts for spelling and punctuation. Often, they’ll completely miss the point of what an author was saying, because they’re too literal, too linear, and too obsessive-compulsive.

One time a woman wrote a letter to a magazine I worked on, in which she said, “On the average, my family receives a bazillion advertising magazines a month.” She was obviously being funny, because she made an official-sounding, statistical-sounding statement whose result was a number that doesn’t exist, except in kiddie slang. Anybody could see that – except the proofreader. She said the statement was illogical and deleted it. I put it back in.

This kind of thing is exasperating to me, because I have inherited my father’s habit of talking and writing in extended puns. I write sentences that sound like one thing but actually mean the opposite, or at least something much different. This device is common in Japanese, I understand, but it’s kind of rare in English writing. If I write something for publication, I have to watch it like a hawk, because a typical proofreader will think I’m simply misspelling and ruin my message.

The worst experience I’ve ever had was with a publisher somewhere near Prague. They’d asked me to translate a book of fairy tales, at which I’m evidently adept, but I had a problem with the editor. You see, in much of Eastern Europe, a native-English-speaking child can get a job that he would have to endure 10 or 12 years of instruction, mentoring, torture, punishment and hazing to attain in the US. Being as young and naive as he is, though, he’ll think he got the position completely on merit, he’ll get full of himself and become unbearable to deal with. He and I jumped into it with the translation of proverbs. He wanted the dictionary equivalent of each proverb, but sometimes the proverb books list only rough approximations, and a different proverb has to be used, or one has to be made up. In another run-in, I had a character “cursing a blue streak”. He claimed he’d never heard this expression and didn’t know what it meant. So I sent him its entry from the American Heritage Dictionary, but he still didn’t believe anyone used it. Then he pulled out the age difference thing, which immediately made me realize he was inexperienced. When that didn’t make me comply, he tried to slap me in the face with his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago: “Maybe you’ve heard of it?” He’d seen my r?sum? and wasn’t even able to tell I had superior education and experience to his. I realized this would get nowhere, so I threw the project back.

It’s interesting that you won a book award at age 11. I once had a student in a remedial writing class who was in there because he was fresh out of prison, had published a children’s book that was selling and getting fan mail, and he decided he’d better learn how to write, if he was going to be an author. His success was a big wake-up call to whining authors who complain that they can’t get published. The story he wrote was completely inane: A little girl gets picked up by her grown-up brother in his old Trans Am or whatever. They go to the lake and fish. Then they eat lunch. Then they fish some more, go home, and Mom cooks the fish for dinner. The girl says her prayers and goes to bed. There was absolutely nothing witty or imaginative in the whole book, and the illustrations were pretty retarded. However, as I read the book, I found myself getting tender feelings and even being soothed by the story. I wanted to read another one.

One of the most interesting things about the book was that it was a redneck story written by a real redneck. Usually, children’s stories about rednecks are written by authors who rose above their redneck roots, got an MA or a PhD, and then write nostalgically about the noble savages they grew up among. This guy had a much different intention. He was writing his story to show how a non-dysfunctional family should behave, how kids should get three good meals a day, and how they should say their prayers at night. No nostalgia, because he never lived through that!

As for times when style manuals don’t make sense, I think they’re best used in hierarchical fashion. Go to the AP manual first. If that doesn’t answer the question, go to Gregg. That will always answer the question, but if it doesn’t, use the Chicago manual. If you flip the hierarchy over, you’re sure to get nonsense.

Evening Jamie!

Thanks for the anecdotes; they are entertaining. I do hope you’re writing for others and not just people like me who write full-length novels and have an ongoing love/hate relationship with what is considered to be proper grammar. :wink:

My story, when I was eleven, was a long essay or a novelette. I didn’t enter the competition; my schoolteacher entered the story for me, so I was surprised when I was honored with the coveted award. In those early days I wrote far more poetry than stories, and I wrote songs (and played instruments) which eventually led me to a contract with RCA, and subsequently to my present publishing house which produces literature, music, and photography - perfect for me.

I’m presently in the process of writing an epic saga consisting of seven full-length novels scheduled for publication in September, 2010. I wish I had you on the team of people who are proofreading (one novel at a time) this story. They’re not short books, averaging circa six-hundred pages each. I’m having a ball and am in love with the story so it pretty much writes itself. The idiocy involved in this is staggering. I’ll go back to something I wrote two years ago and still either laugh, or cry. I suppose I’m living in a complex imaginary world, not the Narnia kind, but for twelve hours a day I’m immersed in an alternate reality and the characters now seem real to me. The full realization of this hit me a few months ago when I made the short trip from our “thank you” room (otherwise known as the boudoir) to the bathroom, and couldn’t find the light because my mind was still halfway around the world in a completely different structure. LOL!

Have a sweet and peaceful night, Jamie, and may God be with you. - Jess.

I once won a prize for writing the worst first paragraph to a non-existent romance novel, containing a Detroit landmark. I worked at the local office of what was at that time “The World’s Largest Advertising Agency”, where the supplier reps often brought in goodies. When those goodies were not food and/or were too expensive, the recipient had to give them to the human resources department, which would figure out some kind of imaginative contest to decide who would get them. So I worked slavishly on this horrid paragraph and won dinner for two at a very ritzy restaurant. My girlfriend didn’t enjoy high dining, so I gave the prize to a coworker whose wife I knew would be delighted by the experience.

My first disciplined piece of writing was in first grade. We were supposed to write a story, but I put it into the form of an illustrated invitation, titled, “You Are Invited to a Junior Fatso Twist Party”.

Also, I’ve got a tip for you: If an 11-year-old home-schooled girl who has just finished reading The Lord of the Rings wants to tell you the plot of a novel she’s begun writing, don’t let her.

I’ve been slowly accumulating CD reissues of Detroit rock bands who were signed by major labels in the late 1960s and very early 1970s. They have all disappeared from the radio, even here. The first time I heard some of the music after decades, I pretty near dropped my teeth, as my dad would have said. It had been a really long time since I’d heard lyrics that were so obviously written by people who read books! The imagery and phraseology are so different from what’s come out over the past couple of decades. It’s much more literary.

Kudos on the contest, Jamie. :slight_smile:

Good marketing approach. Next, you’ll be reading “Early To Rise” and believing it, eh? :wink:

I would assume that 11-year-old, home schooled girl is bound by an iron clad contract which would forbid her from revealing such information. Wouldn’t you?

I agree.

My first song RCA picked up is entitled, “Bridging The Distance.” Hint: It isn’t rock!

Words and music by
Jesse Leigh Brackstone

Secrets never shared
Words never spoken
I am only words away
Yet lost to you
Starlight’s low beam
Barely bright enough to dream on
Holds me only slightly
More distant than you
Bridging the distance
If only I knew
If only I knew

Longing belonging
Things we all feel
Read me like a poem
I will not hide
Tears never noticed
Stream from dry eyes
Veiling the longing
So deep inside
Bridging the distance
If only I knew
If only I knew

Who are you - who am I
But ocean and sky
I never touch you
And don’t know why
Together only to watching eyes
On the horizon appearing to mingle
But it’s just illusion
Just one more lie
Bridging the distance
If only I knew
If only I knew
Bridging the distance
If only I knew
If only… I knew

© 1979 Hobo Mountain Music - used by permission.