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Pet Peeve #3: Not Capitalizing “Is” in Main-Words-Up Heads

February 16, 2009

Wow. It feels great to finally get this off my chest. As someone who worked for a publishing company for 4 years, this is one of my biggest pet peeves of all time. I’ll preface this with the disclaimer that I am far from perfect when it comes to grammar and spelling. I know the difference between “its” and “it’s,” “their” and “they’re” and “there,” “your” and “you’re,” but I’ll still type them incorrectly from time to time. And I’ll even make the mistake I’m about to describe from on rare occasions. But I have to say it here. I beg of you:

Please, please capitalize the word “is” when writing a main-words-up head.

[Note: A “main-words-up head” (MWU head) is when you’re capitalizing the first letter of each “real” word in a title or subject line or any head.]

There are a myriad of rules about when you have to capitalize certain words in MWU heads–for example, some say that you should capitalize prepositions over four letters (“Because” but not “for”), some disagree. There are other debates as well. But people, “is” is a verb! Not just any verb, but the verb! “To be or not to be….” “Is this the man you’re looking for?” “I am Iron Man.” Come on!

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read an immaculately written, revised, and edited article, either online and in print, and then reached a MWU list where “is” is not capitalized. The most prestigious of subject lines can be degraded by this lack of capitalization. It’s not a careless error–the author truly didn’t even know it was an error. He just thought, “Oh, it’s a short word–I won’t capitalize it.” Would you not capitalize “I”? Would you not capitalize “Go”? Would you not capitalize “Alf”?!

I’ll get off my high horse as soon as the trainer comes back from his smoke break. I hope that this at least makes you think the next time you type “is” (or “am” or “be”) in a MWU head.

(One final note: “acknowledgment” and “judgment” don’t have the letter “e” after the “g.” I know, it’s weird, but they don’t.)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2009 4:07 pm

    Hi Jamie

    Great blog. Lots of good thoughts on writing.


  2. December 19, 2009 7:35 pm

    Thanks! I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to grammatical errors, but this is a big one that’s way too common!

  3. December 19, 2009 7:35 pm

    (Although, it’s more stylistic than grammatical, to be fair.)

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