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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Nevermind the world . . .

Some of my regular readers work as editors, so maybe they can help with answers to these questions better than others, but anybody can answer:

Since when did the letter T become something you frequently capitalize?

How do you properly cite a blog or a website?

I remember the Associated Press writing style in college, but to my knowledge, that style is always being tinkered with. So I wonder: did I miss a memo about the letter T? Are blogs and news websites still not worthy of italics?

I bring all this up because of a book I'm currently reading. It's called Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash and it was written by Pat Gilbert, a former editor at British mag, MOJO. I'm firmly well aware of the differences between American and British writing styles as I read this book, but I keep noticing the letter T being capitalized in spots where they normally wouldn't. I'm talking a line like, "Musically, there wasn't that much separating The 101'ers from The Pistols . . ." I could chalk this up to the writer coming from a British style of writing, but I've seen this done in numerous American online and print publications in the last year or so.

To me, when mentioning a band with the word "the" before it, it remains lower-case except when it starts off a sentence. I'm talking "the Rolling Stones," "the Beatles" and so on. Now, with a TV show, the "the" is always upper-case: "The Tonight Show," "The Hogan Family" and so on. Yet more and more, I keep seeing T's being capitalized (great example: "T-shirt" instead of "t-shirt"). I thought the letter T and the word "the" were not supposed to draw attention, so why do more writers keep doing it?

As far as the website stuff goes, I've seen the following in print publications: "CNN.com," "MySpace," "Gorilla Vs. Bear" and "Perfect Sound Forever." I know I'm talking about four different websites here, but is there a distinction between citing them? With CNN also being a cable-TV network, telling the difference between it and its website should be as simple as "CNN.com." With MySpace, it's really up to the eye of the beholder as to what it is. Some call it a great networking site while others view it as a dangerous waste of time and in several cases, it's a forum for press releases and album previews for bands. So, I think it should stay as "MySpace." With blogs, since I view them like paper fanzines, they should be in italics. Yet the jury is still out on blogs and websites in a number of print publications. You're gonna see "he told zine Forced Exposure" but not "blogs like Gorilla Vs. Bear and Largehearted Boy."

So this all leads me to the bigger question at hand: is there no right or wrong writing style? Each writer is unique in his or her own ways (as are editors) but are we in the wrong if we write in a way that isn't universally accepted? For me, the book that I keep referring back to is Our Band Could Be Your Life. Nevermind the fact that the book's topic speaks to me on a number of different levels; the writing style is very close to how I like to write. The language and writing style are not out of left field, but it's not all prim and proper like PR copy. The book is very conversational, but not overly-conversational. Plus, the spelling is not distracting. It's "the Minutemen" instead of "The Minutemen." It's "punk rock" instead of "Punk Rock." And it's definitely "t-shirt" over "T-shirt."

A part of me thinks just shut up and write and not worry about this stuff, but I argue this is less of a worrying stance and more of a curiosity stance. I read Stephen King's On Writing a month ago and found it insanely inspiring. Talking about language and his interpretation of it, he wasn't stating law; he was stating his well-informed opinion. As Post nears its beginning editing stage, all this stuff is swirling around in my head and it can be very confusing. I can't let this all blurt (as Lester Bangs said), but I can't play defense and offense all the time.

5 comments:

Robo-Pirate said...

Dude, I probably read On Writing at least twice a year. That book is a shot in the arm.

Mr Atrocity said...

I confess to using T-shirt, rather than t-shirt because the T describes the shape of the item and it definitively isn't t-shaped, not unless you have some waist and neck disfigurement anyway.

Regarding the Rolling Stones versus The Rolling Stones I suspect it's the product of the marketing industries who have clearly decided that merely using the definitive article is not enough and it must be capitalised to add extra emphasis. In twenty years time, when they will still be touring of course, it will be THE ROLLING STONES. Mark my words.

amy said...

i've always had that same question too. maybe that's why i just use all lowercase letters, all of the time.

Rich said...

I always capped the T if it's part of the band's name. The Beatles, the Toadies, which even then i don't think you'd say. But that's just me. My philo is, if it's on the album/cd that way, then that's the whole name.

:-D

Eric said...

When the word the is part of the band's offical name, cap it. As in 'The Ramones' or 'The Strokes.'

If I was writing about Bands like Doves or Cold War Kids, I just wouldn't use it. Using it when saying or typing 'the Ramones', either implies it is acceptable to call the band simply 'Ramones' or worse yet that 'the Screeching Weasel' is acceptable. You dig? My punctuation is non existent here.