capitalist dictators


As November approaches, I find myself hankering to join in on that mad month of collective daily blog posting known as NaBloPoMo. I’ve been crazy busy with work and life, but having now participated for 4 years running, I still want to give it a go. The NaBloPoMo headquarters have been relocated from their previous home at Ning to BlogHer. I went to the page where I needed to go to list my blog for the November blogroll, and stopped short.

I found myself very irritated, perhaps unreasonably so, by the instructions “Please enter your blog name, capitalizing the words as you would any title.” The trouble is, I do not capitalize my blog title. My blog title is collecting tokens, not Collecting Tokens. I don’t really mind when people capitalize it, when, say, mentioning me in a post, or listing me on a blogroll. But I do mind being told that I should capitalize it when I list it somewhere.

Putting the title in lower case was a deliberate stylistic choice I made when I started my blog nearly 5 years ago. I can’t exactly say why, but given my Propensity for using Capitalization in a Tongue-in-Cheek way to signal Pomposity and Officiousness (c.f. The Ministry of Silly Blogs, which is decidedly Capitalized), I suspect that I wasn’t feeling all that Serious. This blog, my main blog, is an informal place for me to unload my thoughts, memories, creative outbursts, and so on. The lower case perhaps reflects the lower bar; this site is a work in progress. (For that matter, I also decided on the blogging name of alejna, which, while it bears a striking similarity to my legal first name, is not the same. The stylistic difference is meaningful to me.)

So, I was about to sign up for NaBloPoMo, but I have hesitated. I mean, I hate to look like I can’t follow directions. I am predisposed to Following Directions when dealing with Bureaucracy. But to capitalize my blog name feels just Wrong™.

Here’s the thing: blogging is a new medium. (Well, it may seem old in today’s whirlwind of social media, but it hasn’t been around all that many years.) It is a form of self-publishing that has been revolutionary. Individuals have the power to put their written words out there to reach potentially large audiences without the constraints dictated by traditional printed media. Yes, this does lead to a wide range of writing and grammar skills sharing space on the web. Sure, there may be plenty of downright errors. Spelling errors, word misuse, typos, and all that jazz. Yes, some people could clearly benefit from an editor. But this medium also encourages stylistic liberties. We can choose to boldly split infinitives. Use sentence fragments. Or we can decide to begin sentences with conjunctions. And dammit, we can choose how to capitalize our own freakin’ blog titles.

Looking through my blogroll, I see that I am not alone in my capitalizing choices. Many bloggers have even chosen to further eschew capitalization norms, such as the writers of baggage carousel 4, crib chronicles, Wrekehavoc.com. These three women are well-educated (highly educated, even), intelligent, and fantastic writers. They certainly know how to capitalize according to the style guides. (And my guess is that there are contexts in which they choose to go along with the capitalization norms.) They choose to write without capitalizing their sentence-initial words or first person singular subject pronouns.

Dictating how bloggers should present their blog titles is stylistic prescriptivism that I don’t feel should be part of blogging. If you publish a scholarly journal, by all means tell people how to capitalize and punctuate their section headers. Tell them, if you feel so strongly about it, what font to use and when, exactly, to italicize. But if you are a blogging hub and listing the blogs of many across the diverse blogosphere, respect the stylistic fluidity of the medium. (And dudes, with a name like NaBloPoMo, making an issue out of archaic style guidelines just makes you look Silly™.)

What about you? How do you feel about capitalization? If you have a blog, do you, too, feel that your choice of capitalization is integral to the blog name?

p.s. Having gotten this rant out of my system, I went ahead and just filled out the form. But I used lower case. Because I am a Rebel like that.

18 responses to “capitalist dictators

  1. Hi Alejna —

    Hmmm… and then there’s me whose blog title is written as all caps at the top of the blog itself… though it’s also true that I tend to think of my blog in the more conventional way as Webs of Significance… ;b

  2. I don’t have a blog, but I fully support your right to non-capitalize your blog title!
    This was a very well-composed rant, with excellent use of capitalization (and non-). I suspect that whoever wrote those instructions about capitalizing the title of your blog would be swayed by it. Indeed, if I should ever start a blog, I will have to give some careful thought to the capitalization I choose for the title.

    Also: brilliant post title.

    And I’m glad to hear you are participating in NaBloPoMo again!

    • Thanks for enjoying my rant, Sally, and for your support of my rights to not capitalize. (And yes, I did amuse myself with the post title.)

      Also, you should totally start a blog. Or two.

  3. I am, and have always been (online at least), azahar. Not Azahar. And my blog is called casa az, not Casa Az. I don’t know why I chose non-caps but I have had to eschew some blog themes that automatically capitalise the title and user name. And I would have filled in the form using lower case too.

    • Yes, I’ve had that issue with themes, too, az. It just doesn’t look right to me to have the title capitalized, and certainly not allcaps. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

      So, you’re not going to join me in NaBloPoMo this year, then? But you pretty much blog every day anyhow. (And I could certainly post every day without signing up. It’s just that I tend to need external motivation.)

  4. I never notice directions.

    However I did notice the phrase “stylistic prescriptivism,” which I’d never heard before. I googled it; this brought me to a blog post about the re-release of a dictionary; the post celebrates that the previous dictionary writer’s prescriptivist viewpoint has been changed, in the new release, to a descriptivist viewpoint.

    I’m not entirely sure what they mean, but I am going to try to include those new “isms” in my conversations henceforth.

    • Ah, it’s the linguist in me, Jennifer. Most linguists are interested in descriptive, rather than prescriptive grammar rules, and there’s lots of rollicking debate between linguists and “grammar police” types. The descriptivist linguist will consider language structures as they are widely used to be grammatical, including things like ending sentences with prepositions. Things considered ungrammatical are those that native speakers don’t ever say, or at least that they don’t intend to say. (There can be speech errors.) Descriptivists consider grammar to be how people do use language, while prescriptivists consider grammer how people should use it. But the prescriptive rules are often archaic, and used only by the few. Some may not even have much historical basis in English. I’ve even heard say that the prescriptivist rule to say “it is I” vs. “It’s me” is actually based on a Latin rule, and was imposed long ago by someone who felt that Latin rules were somehow more correct than English ones. (I can’t find a source on that, so can’t promise that it’s true.)

      One of these days, I’ll have to write about they, and it’s use as a nonspecific singular pronoun. It has an interesting history.

  5. I wonder why they were being so uptight?

    I do have a hard time reading blogs that use a lot of non-standard capitalization (by which I mean those that don’t capitalize at all). I find it distracting and it feels disorganized to me.

    • My guess is that whoever put together that form had a bee in her bonnet. Some sort of personal mission to improve the sad state of grammar in the blogosphere.

      I actually don’t have a problem reading without capitalization, as long as the punctuation is there. Actually, I think that capitalization is fairly redundant. Sometimes it can disambiguate, but mostly the context makes meanings clear.

  6. with you, sister. i once got banned for a week from gawker.com as a commenter simply because i refuse to capitalize online. i assure people, i have an english degree (with high honors!) from a major university; i am aware of the rules of grammar, puncutation, and capitalization. i just refuse to follow them completely in my own corner of the world. ah well.

    • I remember seeing you post about that on FB, sher. It’s funny how strongly people feel about it. I mean, I guess I feel strongly about it, in the sense that I feel strongly that we should be able to follow our own style guidelines. (Though maybe we should still mock people who write in ALLCAPS.)

  7. The title of this should earn you a gold star.

    I do capitalize my blog title, but don’t think others need to. Just like I write the kids’ names as KayTar and BubTar…mid-word capitalization is a style choice I make, and generally it is not the proper way to write things.

    • Yay, a gold star! I’m glad you liked the title, Kyla. I did amuse myself with that one.

      Also, I like mid-word capitalization. KayTar and BubTar are cool names. (But NaBloPoMo still looks silly, no matter how you capitalize it.)

  8. I too made the stylistic decision to not capitalize my blog title (it’s martinis for breakfast, not Martinis for Breakfast), similarly, all of my post titles are in lower case…I just like how it looks. I had a similar reaction when I went to sign up for NaBloPoMo, but just ignored it. I was kind of hoping they might think that I’m an anarchist – drinking martinis for breakfast and all : )

    • Hi, girlwithflask! I think ignoring the instructions and moving on sounds like a more sane approach than writing out a detailed rant. One of these days, I will try to consider a sane approach. On the other hand, I did enjoy writing this rant!

      Glad to find another capitalization anarchisht doing nAblOpOmO! I will have to check out you and your unconventional breakfasts.

  9. I do sentence caps for the title of my blog, Riding in a handbasket. I don’t know why…it just looked funny to me with an uppercase H. I kind of paused at the instructions on the NaBloPoMo blogroll page, too. And then I went right on ahead and typed my blog title the way I always do.

    • I heartily approve of your choice of capitalization style, Mary Lynn. It has a nice narrative look to it. And I’m glad that you weren’t swayed by the annoying instructions! (But it’s nice to know that those instructions also gave others pause.)

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