no-caps does not mean no-value January 18, 2005 6:51 AM   Subscribe

We've been over this before. Some people prefer typing with the shift key. Others prefer all-lowercase. For the record: can we stop bitching about this in threads? No-caps doesn't detract from the quality of a post or comment. The bitching about it does.
posted by caution live frogs to Etiquette/Policy at 6:51 AM (131 comments total)

perhaps "bitching" is too strong a word here - but seriously, isn't our energy better spent elsewhere?
posted by caution live frogs at 6:52 AM on January 18, 2005


No. Frankly, the effort involved in properly punctuating and capitalizing is such a small one that it is not unreasonable for a community that is centred around text to ask that its members actually put out that effort. The boost in clarity far outstrips the loss of their time. Failing to do so demonstrates a depressing degree of contempt for your intended readers.

With regards to the snarks that come up in-thread, I suppose it's a balance thing. If a new MeTa thread were created each time some semi-literate post was made, MeTa would scroll faster than AskMe. Also, I suspect that a significant fraction of the posters who cannot be bothered to properly format their posts also cannot be bothered to check MeTa. Hence the comments.

This is not IRC, caution live frogs. We do have standards.
posted by ChrisR at 6:56 AM on January 18, 2005


Our energy would be better spent using the damn shift key.

Capitalization is part of writing, if you can't be bothered writing properly, don't bother commenting.
posted by DBAPaul at 6:58 AM on January 18, 2005


'bothered writing properly' should properly be 'bothered to write properly'.
posted by DBAPaul at 7:01 AM on January 18, 2005


i agree with dbapaul no capitalization and or poor punctuation makes things difficult to read and easy to misunderstand i wouldnt fault someone for minor errors but forgoing the shift key is just lazy

God. I can't believe that people can type like that at all.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:02 AM on January 18, 2005


viva la revolution!
posted by Stynxno at 7:02 AM on January 18, 2005


I AM SORRY FOR ALL THOSE TIMES WHEN I FAILED TO CAPITALIZE AND PUNCTUATE PROPERLY PLEASE ACCEPT MY APOLOGIES KTHX
posted by brownpau at 7:03 AM on January 18, 2005


OH NOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111!!!!!!1111!!
posted by Stynxno at 7:07 AM on January 18, 2005


I am in the capitalization camp. Not capitalizing is akin to junior high school a la dotting "i" with a heart, star, or circle. This type of writing gets in the way of effective communication as it gives the impression that the writer is not too bright or literate. Not only is it poor style, but it is difficult to read.
posted by Juicylicious at 7:19 AM on January 18, 2005


Why you should capitalize:

When people read, they do not read words by the individual letters but by the shapes of the words. Messing up the shape of the word (e.g. 'I' or a proper noun) makes reading harder.

The full point (period)-space-capitalized letter format for a new sentence breaks up text making it easier to read and understand. Again, messing up this ease of use makes reading harder.

If you want to get your point across, use a format that is easier to understand. If you want your point to be less clear then carry on with the crappy formatting although you can get away with the odd sentence with no caps.

[Having paragraph breaks in long chunks of text helps too. If the reader sets their browser window to a narrower width then line lengths are shorter & easier to read.]

Personally I nearly always skip posts without caps/para breaks & the like. What's the point in reading 'em?
posted by i_cola at 7:20 AM on January 18, 2005


If you want to get your point across, use a format that is easier to understand.

easier for who? you?
posted by Stynxno at 7:28 AM on January 18, 2005


Over the years I've read enough interesting comments that haven't been properly capitalized to believe that jumping on people for that sin alone is boring and stupid. It's like being a spelling nazi but more long-winded. If you have to bitch, keep it short.
posted by furiousthought at 7:38 AM on January 18, 2005


easier for who? you?

I think i_cola meant easier for fluent English readers. Which includes both him and me.
posted by Plutor at 7:40 AM on January 18, 2005


The larger audience.

The majority of people find it easier to read that way which is why the conventions have developed as they have. The actual reading of words is subconcious most of the time which is a good thing as you are trying to understand the meaning(s), concepts, ideas etc. that those words are trying to convey, not the individual words themselves.
posted by i_cola at 7:40 AM on January 18, 2005


Messing up the shape of the word (e.g. 'I' or a proper noun) makes reading harder

Bulllshit. why is Apple easier to read than apple? Do you struggle when I talk about the fruit, because you're so used to reading the proper noun of the computer company? What about your own name? Surely it should be I_Cola, no?

Capitalisation is changing, people, learn to accept. I appreciate its usefulness in delineating sentences but beyond that it's all up for grabs.
posted by bonaldi at 7:55 AM on January 18, 2005


i'm all for good punctuation and spelling, but come on. save the bitching for *really* annoying things, like the fact that 1 out of 3 ask.me posts starts with the annoying ____filter prefix.

most of us are pretty smart, and can figure out what the topic of your question is without you having to resort to a joke that is multitudes lamer than any pancake/pony/vibrator/overlords joke ever was.

(preemptive whinefilter post, because i know one of you mofos was going to do it)
posted by adampsyche at 7:57 AM on January 18, 2005


Capitalisation is changing, people, learn to accept

It's not changing that fast. I don't think your English teacher will accept a paper with "u" for "you" and l33t caps with the excuse that "the world is changing." Usernames are an execption - just copy the way the user wanted it capped. And, yes, "Apple" is easier to read than "apple." I don't think it's "struggling", but it just flows more naturally.

Call me old-school, but there is a value in standards.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 8:00 AM on January 18, 2005


who cares about capitalization i read books and magazines without capitalization or proper punctuation all the time it doesn't make them seem any less well thought out and i still get the impression that care and diligence have been taken in their production form and content are completely separable right
posted by driveler at 8:02 AM on January 18, 2005


Bulllshit. why is Apple easier to read than apple?

You're missing the point. It's not easier to read by itself, but a sentence that uses the word capped is easier to read than one that doesn't. "i like my apple" is ambiguous; "I like my Apple" is not. Of course context usually disambiguates, but that takes extra fractions of a second and bits of brainpower. And even if it doesn't cause ambiguity, it's still not what the brain is used to seeing, and an effort has to be made to adjust to it. Each individual instance is a minor annoyance, but over the course of an entire paragraph, comment, or other larger chunk of text they build up to a drag on the system. If someone likes using lower-case for reasons of their own, that's their business, but it's childish to pretend it doesn't make any difference to the reader. Own your selfishness, self-indulgent lower-casers! Say "Yeah, it makes it a little harder on the reader, but I don't care!"

And no, it shouldn't be be I_Cola, because that's not how the name is spelled; wrong capitalization causes the same problems as wrong non-capitalization. Obviously.
posted by languagehat at 8:04 AM on January 18, 2005


Option 1: no capitalization. savings to the writer (not having to use the shift key): 20 seconds (to be generous).

Option 2: Capitalization. Savings to each reader: 2 seconds. Total savings, for 1000 readers: 2,000 seconds.

So for those who don't want to capitalize: how much do you really care about other people? And is that in theory or in practice?

Caveat: If someone wants to skip capitalization, accurate spelling, good grammer, etc., in a one-to-one conversation (IRC, chat, whatever), that could be very efficient, particularly if the other person is fluent with abbreviated English. But that's not Metafilter.
posted by WestCoaster at 8:08 AM on January 18, 2005


heydudesletsdoawaywithspacestoobecauseittakestoomuchspaceontheserverandcausesunnecessarybandwidthlosskthxbi
posted by dflemingdotorg at 8:11 AM on January 18, 2005


Add me to the proper upper/lowercase camp. It's easier and faster to read. And if it's too much trouble for someone to use the Shift key, it should also be too much trouble for them to post anything.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:18 AM on January 18, 2005


What languagehat said, basically.

Proper capitalization and punctuation is about respect for the reader, valuing their time as much as your own. People who make occasional mistakes in grammar and spelling? Whatever, everyone makes them. People who exhibit constant laziness and a disinclination to even try to write properly, I have no use for, and wish they would get that little bit more lazy and stop posting completely.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:18 AM on January 18, 2005


what pretencious crap, you silly c (oh, the temptation is so strong) ow.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:25 AM on January 18, 2005


ok, a flame with spelling mistake is not cool.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:25 AM on January 18, 2005


I like it when people complain about word capitalization.

That way, I know which pedantic jackass to laugh at.
posted by crunchland at 8:28 AM on January 18, 2005


No, languagehat, you're giving i_cola a new point for me to miss. He claimed that since we read by word shapes the words themselves are harder to read when not correctly capitalised. I'm saying that, as the apple/Apple distinction shows, proper nouns do not need to be capitalised just to be readable.

The capital clears up exactly which is being discussed, but it doesn't make the word easier to read. i_cola thought it did, so I asked why his name wasn't spelled by him as I_Cola, since those caps make it easier to read, apparently.

I do wish everyone would stop categorizing this as laziness. It may be for some people, but for a great majority it is simply how they communicate via computer. Are you all scared because you are being drowned out as the internet fills with people who just batter the keyboard?

Demanding capitalisation is menacing, elitist prescriptivism and I hate it.
posted by bonaldi at 8:29 AM on January 18, 2005


WestCoaster, your logic makes zero sense. The 2,000 vs 20 seconds argument might hold water if there were a time limit on reading Metafilter posts. But there's not. The extra "2 seconds" spent by each reader (which is pretty doubtful) is irrelevant.

People who don't use proper capitalization are fine. A straightforward, insightful post without caps is still a straightforward, insightful post. Neither me, nor anyone else, has ever buckled under the strain of reading such a post and just given up. It's a complete non-issue.

On the other hand, people who complain about the lack of caps, especially in post, are derailing the thread and making it significantly more difficult for the discussion to progress.

So the real lesson here is that for "a community centered on text" you should keep your pet peeves to yourself and be quiet unless you've got something to contribute.
posted by nixerman at 8:31 AM on January 18, 2005


the easier to read argument comes from seeing where sentences end, i think.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:33 AM on January 18, 2005


Nowing ones complane of my book the fust edition had no caps I put in a Nuf here and thay may peper and solt it as they plese

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
posted by kenko at 8:36 AM on January 18, 2005


Option 1: no capitalization. savings to the writer (not having to use the shift key): 20 seconds (to be generous).

Option 2: Capitalization. Savings to each reader: 2 seconds. Total savings, for 1000 readers: 2,000 seconds.


ooooh. can i make up statistics too?
posted by Stynxno at 8:38 AM on January 18, 2005


Back when I was new online and just learning to type (about 8 or 9 years ago), I didn't bother to use the shift key. I've evolved. I've realized that it's easier to read, and is more 'presentable'. I also usually use full words & phrases and try to avoid lots of abbreviations and acronyms because they can prevent people from understanding me, and they can be exclude people. (If your new here, do you know what the heck IANAL means?)

I'd prefer it if everyone got on that boat. But I also realize that not everyone needs to do things my way. Just because I prefer something, it's not up to me to enforce it on everyone else. I am free to skip over things I find unreadable, uninteresting, or otherwise disagreeable. I hope that I can kind of 'lead by example', but I agree with the orginal poster: the annoyingness of the lack of punctuation is much less than the annoyingness of shitting on people because of it.
posted by raedyn at 8:40 AM on January 18, 2005


I think it's reasonable to ask people to compose their posts with a minimum of correct spelling, grammar, etc, so as to make them readable. Now, in some cases, that correctness can impinge upon creativity. In those cases it can slide, no problem. But all it would impinge on in this case is LAZINESS.
posted by scarabic at 8:44 AM on January 18, 2005


No-caps doesn't detract from the quality of a post or comment.

Of course it does.

The 2,000 vs 20 seconds argument might hold water if there were a time limit on reading Metafilter posts. But there's not.

Of course there is. Life is finite.

I do wish everyone would stop categorizing this as laziness. It may be for some people, but for a great majority it is... stupidity.
posted by rushmc at 8:47 AM on January 18, 2005


Demanding capitalization is menacing, elitist prescriptivism and I hate it.

Failing to capitalize tells your readers that they're not worth the trivial effort it requires. It's contemptuous of the audience and I hate it.
posted by normy at 8:49 AM on January 18, 2005


No-caps doesn't detract from the quality of a post or comment. The bitching about it does.

That's one opinion. Here's another: both are detractions, but the former is more so than the latter. Proper capitalization is in the same arena as proper fish refrigeration. You don't have to do it, but it really stinks when you don't.
posted by naomi at 8:49 AM on January 18, 2005


bonaldi:

WRT Apple/apple, it's about distinguishing the different possible meanings. Apple the brand & apple the fruit. It's not about 'harder to read' per se, but harder to understand, to differentiate. Sorry if that wasn't clear but languagehat backed up what I intended to mean.

I recognise 'i_cola' easily as that is the way it is written & what I am used to. I'm less used to 'I_Cola' as I don't write it or usually see it that way. I'm seeing the shape of 'i_cola' & it's an instant match with what I know. I do realise that we're talking in fractions of a second but it does build up.

Demanding capitalisation is menacing, elitist prescriptivism and I hate it.

OK, you seem to have your knickers in a twist over this. I'm not demanding anything. I pointed out what is easier to read/understand. I'm a graphic designer by trade so this sort of thing got drummed into me at an early stage.

If I had more time I'd search out links to back this up (maybe someone else can?) but I have end-of-day-deadlines and a bunch of underlings to git goin'. At least they do what they're told ;-)
posted by i_cola at 8:52 AM on January 18, 2005


This is just another classic example of people passionately arguing against something, not arguing *for* anything. So it's elitist and prescriptivist and pedantic and severe and uptight to want capitals, eh? Well, maybe so. But are you really advocating all-lower-case writing? Stop getting huffy about the authroitarianism of one's request for readability. If you think it's over-reacting to want better prose, here, just look at yourselves all hooting and hollering over the GALL one must have to suggest we use correct punctuation. Pathetic.
posted by scarabic at 8:52 AM on January 18, 2005


pot calling the kettle black, scarabic? seems to me you're hooting and hollering too, or is your "pathetic" just an neutral observation? Wanker.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:57 AM on January 18, 2005


Alternately,youcouldjusttypewithoutspaceswhichisashardtodoasitistoread (",)
posted by DBAPaul at 9:10 AM on January 18, 2005


No-caps doesn't detract from the quality of a post or comment.

Of course it does.


that is a an opinion, not a fact.


The 2,000 vs 20 seconds argument might hold water if there were a time limit on reading Metafilter posts. But there's not.

Of course there is. Life is finite.


heh. nice one.

on preview, dbapaul, scroll up. you're late to the party.
posted by Stynxno at 9:12 AM on January 18, 2005


It is amusing that people are actually defending lower-case writing.

What's next, "a/s/l"?
posted by smackfu at 9:15 AM on January 18, 2005


The extra "2 seconds" spent by each reader (which is pretty doubtful) is irrelevant.

*shudder*
posted by kindall at 9:17 AM on January 18, 2005


You're perfectly free to write without proper capitalization or punctuation. I cannot stop you, nor should I try. But I'm perfectly free to think that people who cannot or do not capitalize or punctuate properly are cretins.
posted by mcwetboy at 9:17 AM on January 18, 2005


H o w   a b o u t   w e d n e s d a y   s p a c i n g ?
posted by kenko at 9:23 AM on January 18, 2005


I usually prefer properly written posts/comments, however, I can't for life of me see the point of insisting everyone feel the same. Sure, careless writing can look lazy or uneducated, but so what? Do we refuse to speak to people in real life who don't measure up as well? Also, I'm sure not all, but much of what is written online is done a certain way for eFfecT! Welcome to the 21st century, where diverse and many are we!

Honestly, I think if you can't bear reading what IRC and instant messaging have done to our method of communicating thoughts/ideas/etc, shut the fucking computer off.
posted by LouReedsSon at 9:24 AM on January 18, 2005


Bitching about the bitching, how so very meta!

I, personally, don't mind the non-capitalization. I have read enough books, met enough people, and been on the Internet long enough to grasp the thought behind a written sentence despite its typographical, grammatical, spelling and other errors. I'm sure most people here are the same.

Some would argue that this is a community, a community has standards, we must keep up a certain level of discourse. Coming from the vantage point of it not being my first language, English is certainly the great equalizer when it comes to the Internet. We've all come together to share the best interesting/informative/wacky/thought-provoking links and our thoughts on the subjects contained within, but with the interface being so uniform, I think many people forget that everyone comes from such different backgrounds and varying levels of education and cultural influence. Yes, yes, we prize proper capitalization, spelling, punctuation, and good websearch skills. But just because the community values these and this is a self-moderating community doesn't mean that EVERYONE MUST COMPLY, OR ELSE! Oh, there will always be deviants.

This is a very volatile community, so why can't we just let natural selection work? Improperly-written sentences get glossed over and ignored, and therefore won't get as many desired replies. If posters want attention and respect, they MUST post in well-written and well-formatted way, then. Let people learn this at their own pace. Let it run its course.

Call-outs for non-capitalization is nitpicky elitism at its worst, not to mention quite oppressive. The gist seems to be: "If you can't bother posting in the format we are used to and prefer, don't post at all!" To police the community so harshly would be a disservice to it. It discourages people who would have otherwise very worthwhile thoughts from speaking up, or having spoken up "improperly" (for whatever their reasons), keeps them from being heard. And that, in the end, is what will kill the community.
posted by furious blush at 9:24 AM on January 18, 2005


I'm not planning to stop bitching about proper English usage. I submit that there are only three reasons why people write poorly: laziness, affectation, or ignorance.

It's just plain lazy and discourteous for a person not to write in the best possible English that person does know the conventions of the grammar and usage. When a writer doesn't use standard English, it puts a greater burden of working at comprehension on me, and I don't accept the burden. For those of us who read and write frequently, carelessly written English is a real distraction. Readers either ignore badly written posts completely, or deeply discount the weight of the opinions therein.

I forgive the occasional slip-up because I make those myself, in haste. But many people seem to believe that it's in some way cute, rebellious, or admirably unconventional to write sloppily. To undertake a different writing style as a way of declaring your individuality is an affectation, and I have little tolerance for posing of any kind.

Or perhaps it's just ignorance. If so, I am well justified in not considering the content of the post at all, because it's clearly written by someone who does not value knowledge. How well thought out can I expect that opinion to be?

Certainly those who disagree can continue to write commentary that wouldn't merit a 7th-grade C. But then it's awfully difficult for them to complain when none of the rest of us take them seriously. Fortunately, there are plenty of chat rooms where that kind of thing is welcomed.
posted by Miko at 9:36 AM on January 18, 2005


Proving my own point about haste, make that "WHEN the person does know" in line 2, paragraph 2.
posted by Miko at 9:38 AM on January 18, 2005


Proving my own point about haste, make that "WHEN that person does know" in line 2, paragraph 2.
posted by Miko at 9:39 AM on January 18, 2005


For those non-capitalizers, what is the benefit to not capitalizing? Seriously, I'm curious. Is it merely time saving? Is it stylistic (if so, I'm sorry to tell you it's not terribly impressive).

Anyway, I'm with languagehat.

on preview: Call-outs for non-capitalization is nitpicky elitism at its worst, not to mention quite oppressive. The gist seems to be: "If you can't bother posting in the format we are used to and prefer, don't post at all!"

AWezoME d u d e %% I toat-uLLy UHgree! P:e"o,p-l;e sHOuld d i s re g a r d ~l~a~m~e~ FoRmATTinG ' ' 'rules' ' ' And just XPR ess THemSeLVeS!!1!
posted by pardonyou? at 9:41 AM on January 18, 2005


...yeesh.
posted by Miko at 9:41 AM on January 18, 2005


MetaFilter: contemptuous of the audience and I hate it
posted by LouReedsSon at 10:20 AM on January 18, 2005


Do we refuse to speak to people in real life who don't measure up as well?

As far as possible, yes.
posted by stet at 10:29 AM on January 18, 2005


Jesus, I'd hate to see you guys at a party ...

"I'm sorry, please don't talk to me with that stammer. If you can't take the time to seek medical help, why should I make the extra effort to understand you?"

"I'm sorry, but did you really just pronounce 'Tao' as taw-oh? I can't possibly continue with this conversation. If you don't value knowledge well enough to pronounce properly, how well thought out can I expect your opinion to be?"

There are more people out there who, for whatever reason, have poor written English. Just because you have good written English doesn't mean that they're being sneaky and lazy not writing in it. It in *no way* devalues what they're trying to say. Unless you really are the sort of person who won't listen to anything an illiterate has to say.

I'm an editor, making people's writing correct is one of the things I do. For publication. Here, though, we're talking about things. If I can listen closely to someone speaking with a quiet voice, I can slow my reading down to understand different writing styles.

Most importantly, I wouldn't interrupt someone speaking to make the conversation entirely about how they speak. It's rude.
posted by bonaldi at 10:33 AM on January 18, 2005


In most of the IRC channels I've been on, the morons who fail to capitalize properly are universally derided by all present until they conform or leave. Personally, I would prefer to torture them a little as well for their transgression - but the Internet is not yet sufficiently advanced to grant my wish. Perhaps in time they will come to love Big Letter.

"I'm sorry, but did you really just pronounce 'Tao' as taw-oh? I can't possibly continue with this conversation. If you don't value knowledge well enough to pronounce properly, how well thought out can I expect your opinion to be?"

Due to the fact that I carry out most of my communication with other humans over the Internet, rather than in person, I am frequently in this situation. People always call me on my mispronunciation, and I always politely thank them for it, and then the conversation continues.
posted by Ryvar at 10:36 AM on January 18, 2005


LAZINESS...I hate it....stupidity...Pathetic...Wanker...cretins

Er, this is about 'how to make marks on a page', right? Not 'an exercise in making ad hominems'....
posted by dash_slot- at 10:37 AM on January 18, 2005


Look, people, all the same things could be said about spelling mistakes or misused words, but if I wrote three paragraphs of outrage every time somebody said "Here, here" instead of "Hear, hear" you would rightly think I was kind of a douche, or maybe just old.
posted by furiousthought at 10:39 AM on January 18, 2005


Can't stand it when people don't capitalize. Can't stand it when it's called out in the thread.

If this is important to Matt, he should add a comment by the posting form saying please use caps. If it's not that important to him, then I don't think it should be important enough to us to ruin threads over.
posted by xammerboy at 10:40 AM on January 18, 2005


Wait, Ryvar, so people who can't capitalise (perhaps because they spend most of their time using spoken language) are "morons" ... but people who can't pronounce correctly (because they don't spend much time using spoken language) are jolly good fellows to be gently corrected?

Hypocrisy much?
posted by bonaldi at 10:44 AM on January 18, 2005


It's an affectation. E. E. Cummings got there long before you, and did it better.
posted by punilux at 10:51 AM on January 18, 2005


For those non-capitalizers, what is the benefit to not capitalizing? Seriously, I'm curious. Is it merely time saving? Is it stylistic (if so, I'm sorry to tell you it's not terribly impressive).

I'm kind of a tweener on this issue so am not sure if my posts irritate people or not, as I often don't bother capping names/titles, sometimes don't bother with the first word of a new sentence, but pretty much always cap "I".

As I've said elsewhere, it is not exactly a conscious choice, and having been made aware how much people are bothered by it, I've tried to become a bit more cognizant of my habits, but the basic impulse is that lowercase letters are generally friendlier, more easy going, less formal, which is the voice I tend to speak in on forums like this (as opposed to in writing research papers, beg). I also use words like "dunno" or "kinda" instead of "don't know" and "kind of", for the same reason. Is that also irritating? To me, it makes things more conversational.

So that's my story. Am taking heed of the complaints, though. (is that sort of fragmentary sentence also annoying? See, I would never write like that in a formal paper, but I consider bulletin board postings a different medium from scholarly essays, and the low-key [literally:)] attitude is part of that difference.

FWIW, I am more annoyed by people who don't break up their long paragraphs, as I find that harder to read than missing punctuation.
posted by mdn at 11:00 AM on January 18, 2005


There are people who come to MetaFilter (as both members and lurkers,) who do not live in English speaking countries. Learning to read a language constructed in ways that defy logic is often hard enough, and the lack of capitalization, poor punctuation, and slang makes comprehension that much harder.

There could also be those who are dyslexic or have other reading handicaps, and rely on others being concerned enough about their words to have care in presenting them.

As the site is about the sharing of ideas and information in a text based format, it would behoove us to make it accessible in the medium it's introduced.

We're all supposed to be intelligent. If we can't act that way on any regular basis, we can at least write as if we are.
posted by FunkyHelix at 11:00 AM on January 18, 2005


(as opposed to in writing research papers, beg)

I have no idea how that "b" got in there.
posted by mdn at 11:02 AM on January 18, 2005


Apparently this is one of those "east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet" sort of things.

Since it's plainly evident that no minds are being or going to be changed, can't we agree that people who eschew capitalization are lazy boors with no regard for the reader, and people who think that are elitist nazi pigs who must impose their desires on others, and just call it a day?

(It's so interesting to see the hypersensitive to grammar and punctuation making all these typos and then falling over themselves to correct them. Hoisted by their own petards, much?)
posted by crunchland at 11:04 AM on January 18, 2005


Hmm. It's occured to me lately that if someone wants to indulge themselves with the affectation of an adolescent moron souting inanities, then maybe they're doing everyone a service (though not intentionally, I'm sure). Then again, maybe not.

No-caps is no more and no less a self-indulgent affectation than is l33t or all-caps or seperating every "sentence" with six periods or being willfully a very bad speller. We generally don't tolerate any of these things because they look like crap and are awkward or even quite difficult to read. Why should no-caps be treated any differently?

Also, something to consider: you can't defend no-caps on both the "an informative, well-written sentence is an informative, well-written sentence even if it's not capitalized" basis (that is, that it doesn't matter) while at the same time claiming that no-caps is a meaningful stylistic decision. I don't know if anyone above has made mode both claims simultaneously or not, but they both appear in this thread. To the latter claim: if you're trying to say something with the no-caps, put it in the damn writing like a literate person and stop relying upon no-caps to do the work for you. It doesn't work anyway: the reader can't rell if you're being "informal" or if you're a ninth-grader who's flunked English.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:08 AM on January 18, 2005


Well, I'd rather point it out before someone else does. At least I can see it -- and it resulted from MeFi crashing on me, anyway.

A point that seems to be escaping the laissez-faire is that most of us object to the bad writing when it's intentional -- that is, when the writer knows it's wrong, and just doesn't care. If it results from English as a second (third, fourth) language, from learning disability, from neoliteracy -- well, I think we can tell when that's the case. When it's from an obstinate desire to be different, and be noticed being different, it's obvious and tiresome.

"I'm sorry, but did you really just pronounce 'Tao' as taw-oh? I can't possibly continue with this conversation. If you don't value knowledge well enough to pronounce properly, how well thought out can I expect your opinion to be?"

You know, I do react to people that way. In fact, so do a lot of people who aren't sharing that reaction publicly with you. I probably wouldn't say a thing about it at a party, but yes, I cringe at mispronunciations. One of my favorite quotes from an excellent college professor I had was "pronunciation is the bane of the autodidact". Very true, and I've been corrected on some words and been the better for it. Take the time to learn. Be open to change. Be willing to recognize and correct a mistake.

All this claptrap about 'I'll write how I want to write, damn the ideologues' is the direct result of the extension of 1970s I'm-OK-You're-OK relativist thinking. The truth is, you are judged on your verbal and oral presentation! This language is a beautiful thing, and it's just not okay to knowingly write and speak poorly, in my eyes. If you don't believe me, send me your resume, and then come in for an interview. We'll see how far the relativist thing gets you.
posted by Miko at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2005 [1 favorite]


oh, and to the people who have posted how much non-capitalization annoys them ... you've just given ammunition to people intent on tweaking the shit out of you.
posted by crunchland at 11:28 AM on January 18, 2005


Bah. I just realized I'm arguing about proper grammar and such being used on MetaFilter, which is sort of like critiquing porn for it's dialogue.
posted by FunkyHelix at 11:28 AM on January 18, 2005


Wait, Ryvar, so people who can't capitalise (perhaps because they spend most of their time using spoken language) are "morons" ... but people who can't pronounce correctly (because they don't spend much time using spoken language) are jolly good fellows to be gently corrected?

Hypocrisy much?


Absolutely not. People who do not capitalize despite reading are making a choice to appear stupid. People who have never heard a word spoken because they have only read it are not when the mispronounce it.

One is a choice, the other is not. Chosing something, and simply not knowing something are not the same thing on the planet I come from. Are things so different on the planet where they jump down peoples' throats at the slightest provacation?
posted by Ryvar at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2005


Sure, Miko, you cringe, but do you loudly stop the conversation until all and sundry are agreed that it was a terrible mispronunciation and the lazy no-goodnik speaker is sufficiently contrite? Because that's what's at stake here.

This thread isn't about whether capitalisation bothers folks, because we know it does. It is about whether we should keep bashing people for it. I don't think we should. Let nature take its course -- People who are long-winded or mumble or commit any one of a million deliberate speaking offences generally find themselves with nobody to talk to.

On Preview: Ryvar, sorry, I thought that was your planet, you know, the one where the sans shift typers are deserving of "torture".
posted by bonaldi at 11:36 AM on January 18, 2005


bonaldi: Interesting. In what Earth year did the government on your planet outlaw hyperbole for the sake of humor?
posted by Ryvar at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2005


Look, dammit, screen text is hard enough to read anyway, especially for those of us who grew up reading actual printed text. The only reason I can see for not using proper capitalization (stylistic considerations aside) is that you don't care enough about what you're typing to make it accessible to your readers. If that's the case, why post at all?

Those who read lots online scan multiple words, even multiple sentences in a glance. Not having caps at the right places slows that "skimming" behaviour down quite significantly.

Now, don't get me started on omitting double spaces after periods. Stupid html spacing conventions...

(And for those of you maintaining the position that caps don't make a difference, YOU'RE WRONG!)
posted by Aquaman at 11:40 AM on January 18, 2005


Oh that was hyperbole? Like exaggeration of the truth for effect? So you mean you would only like to cause them a little bit of pain, not actual torture, for ... eh ... not using capital letters.
posted by bonaldi at 11:41 AM on January 18, 2005


I think a little pain every time any person ever makes a willful choice towards ignorance in any fashion whatsoever would be useful, yes. Sentient creatures we might be, but we are still subject to Pavlovian conditioning nonetheless.
posted by Ryvar at 11:48 AM on January 18, 2005


Coo, if that happens I sure hope you start looking up pronunciations on online dictionaries before going out each day, lest miko gets his hands on that buzzer
posted by bonaldi at 11:52 AM on January 18, 2005


Next, let's start on those damn people who use British spelling!

I'm pro-capitalization, pro-pronunciation, and anti-bitching about it. I cringe, I call you names in my head, I curse your entire lineage, but I don't waste my time commenting about it. (Except in MeTa threads.) How many seconds does posting or reading a flame about capitalization cost us, Westcoaster?
posted by goatdog at 11:55 AM on January 18, 2005


There are more people out there who, for whatever reason, have poor written English. Just because you have good written English doesn't mean that they're being sneaky and lazy not writing in it.

You're confusing wilfully lazy writing with run of the mill bad writing. We're not talking about dyslexia here, or rudimentary vocabulary, or poor grammar. All of those things are excusable, and vary highly between individuals. But the only excuse for omiting caps is that both your pinkies have been amputated.

It in *no way* devalues what they're trying to say.

Unfortunately, for them, it does in that it makes them harder to understand. It doesn't make their *point* invalid, but in the marketplace of attention and communication, poor writers are at a serious disadvantage. This is a good reason for everyone to write as well as they can. Systematic errors made out of laziness or disregard for the norms really hurt the person who makes them most of all.

Pathetic.

Fine, I withdraw my one-word judgement of those I was addressing, but my detailed explanation of why I think they're wrong stands. Thanks for the free insult, andrew_cooke, especially right after you accuse me of being hypocritical about them. That's some recursive lunacy!
posted by scarabic at 11:59 AM on January 18, 2005


Demanding capitalisation is menacing, elitist prescriptivism...

Because poor people have keyboards without shift keys?
posted by LarryC at 12:09 PM on January 18, 2005


You can eliminate the two second rule by not bothering to read any posts with more than three sentences, like I do.
posted by adampsyche at 12:12 PM on January 18, 2005


viva la revolution!
posted by Stynxno at 7:02 AM PST on January 18


Oh you are so cool and unconventional and free-thinking. But why stop here? English alphabet is so constricting, don't you think?

Dumbass.
posted by c13 at 12:13 PM on January 18, 2005


Unfortunately, for them, it does in that it makes them harder to understand. It doesn't make their *point* invalid, but in the marketplace of attention and communication, poor writers are at a serious disadvantage. This is a good reason for everyone to write as well as they can.

To play devil's advocate here, since I've already made my actual stance clear - if people want to disenfranchise themselves out of laziness or stupidity I say let them. Isn't it in the best interest of our species, from a genetic perspective, to permit them to do so unhindered?
posted by Ryvar at 12:14 PM on January 18, 2005


Oh you are so cool and unconventional and free-thinking. But why stop here? English alphabet is so constricting, don't you think?

Dumbass.


Er, c13 - I agree that it's pretty important to judge people immediately without even considering the possibility that they may be being sarcastic or snarky . . . but is name-calling really called for?
posted by Ryvar at 12:16 PM on January 18, 2005


just to keep languagehat happy, i'll capitalize from here down.

lowercase letters are generally friendlier, more easy going, less formal

...Which is probably why I started doing it. it came out of the "all caps is shouting" meme. I've always taken lowercase to represent a friendly tone.

nixerman nailed my point here exactly: I didn't put this up here as an excuse to go back over the "should we or should we not use capitalization" argument. All I really want is for people to realize that arguing about it isn't going to change a lot of people, so it might be better for us to just let it go rather than complain every time.

As for arguments for not capitalizing? How about "I type with two fingers and it really does slow me way the hell down to find the shift key"? We can't all touch-type. Some of us [like me] never learned. Some of us [like my advisor] do not physically have enough fingers to touch-type.

I do however use proper caps when posting, just not generally when commenting, because I really feel that an FPP is a more formal thing than the usual offhand thread comment. Many people come here for the links, not for the discussion. When I'm writing formally, I capitalize.

In terms of energy better spent, I'd much rather see people complain about text-message abbreviations and poor link quality. I do realize that it is harder for some people to read lowercase. Well, y2karl probably knows that it's damn hard to read tiny font, but that's his thing. No amount of MeTa bitching has changed that. We seem to have gotten to the point where we all just say "well, that's y2karl..." rather than complain every time. So please, I ask you: can we do the same here, and put this issue to rest?

For the record: All y'all agree to stop complaining about those who go non-caps, and I'll start using them. (Feel free to call me on it if I forget.) Agreed?
posted by caution live frogs at 12:23 PM on January 18, 2005


Ryvar's right: Regardless of your actual stance ... Leave The No-Caps Fuckers Alone
posted by bonaldi at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2005


...Which is probably why I started doing it. it came out of the "all caps is shouting" meme. I've always taken lowercase to represent a friendly tone.

In my head it always sounds kind of uninflected and zombified. Just a datapoint.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:43 PM on January 18, 2005


Next, let's start on those damn people who use British spelling!

You mean us British people?!

bonaldi:
I often change the way I speak to make myself understood more easily. If I'm mumbling or speaking too fast I have no problem with being told or asked to speak more clearly.

Whenever I'm in the US I'll phrase things differently or de-Anglisize my voice as I know from experience that it makes me understood more often. It a pain in the ass* to have to ask two or three times for something in a store** so why not make a tiny effort the first time?

And I'll bet that you'd rather edit a few pages of double-spaced cleanly printed copy rather than some densely packed, badly handwritten scrawl. It's all about ease of use altho' I'm certainly not going to start demanding compliance from anyone.

I have to say that I think that posting here on MeFi has improved my internet writing, probably because the standard seems to be higher than a lot of other places. I do miss having a sub-editor sitting behind me, as I did in my last job, as it made getting stuff right a lot easier!

* arse
** shop
;-)
posted by i_cola at 12:50 PM on January 18, 2005


Just because you have good written English doesn't mean that they're being sneaky and lazy not writing in it. It in *no way* devalues what they're trying to say.

EXCEPT1!11 OMG WTF LOL TAHT IT IS A FARE ASUMPTION 2 MAEK TAHT SOMEONE WHO IS SO NON-RIGOROUS IN THERE EXPRESION MIGHT WAL B AQUALY NON-RIGOROUS IN THEYRE THINKNG MAKNG WT THEY HAEV 2 SAY OF LITLA VALUA11!1!1!

I think a little pain every time any person ever makes a willful choice towards ignorance in any fashion whatsoever would be useful

I'll be happy to administer it, if you give me the switch...
posted by rushmc at 12:52 PM on January 18, 2005


You guys are incredible. You know we had this exact conversation about a month ago right? That aside, the lot of you are also arguing the wrong point: regardless of your feelings on capitalization, bitching about it in threads is an unreasonable solution. Some of you are just going to have to man-up and deal with the fact that some people disagree with you. Life sucks that way, huh? Capitalization is, to me, such a minor point of presentation, especially in small blocks of text, that the derailments are far more destructive. You guys can talk about it here until you're grey in the face, and maybe you'll change a few opinions, but please keep your petty bickering out of the blue. It's as bad as the people complaining about y2karl's formatting in his threads.

To play devil's advocate here, since I've already made my actual stance clear - if people want to disenfranchise themselves out of laziness or stupidity I say let them. Isn't it in the best interest of our species, from a genetic perspective, to permit them to do so unhindered?

1. You think no capitalization is simply a result of laziness, not just a choice? I think you're making quite a jump.

2. You think laziness is a genetic trait, not a learned one? Perhaps laziness is our natural state and the mania for working more than necessary is a societal construction. Either way, your point is absurd.
posted by The God Complex at 12:53 PM on January 18, 2005


I also use words like "dunno" or "kinda" instead of "don't know" and "kind of

Writing in one's own voice is much friendlier in chat, yes and if a thread is chatty I'll write in lower case and use the 'friendly' tone. If a thread has a degree of seriousness to it, I'll use the shift key.

It's up to the reader as to whether they read what I've writ.
posted by kamylyon at 12:53 PM on January 18, 2005


EXCEPT1!11 OMG WTF LOL

Did it hurt much, writing that one out, rush?

*grins*
posted by kamylyon at 12:55 PM on January 18, 2005


If we want to talk readability can we PLEASE have a serif font as the default here? I mean, jesus, san serif for anything but titles is an immense typographical no-no.
posted by u.n. owen at 12:56 PM on January 18, 2005


TGC:
2. You think laziness is a genetic trait, not a learned one? Perhaps laziness is our natural state and the mania for working more than necessary is a societal construction. Either way, your point is absurd.

OK, that's a fair point, actually.
posted by Ryvar at 1:01 PM on January 18, 2005


No-caps is no more and no less a self-indulgent affectation than is l33t or all-caps or seperating every "sentence" with six periods or being willfully a very bad speller. We generally don't tolerate any of these things because they look like crap and are awkward or even quite difficult to read. Why should no-caps be treated any differently?

you honestly think there's no difference? reading this comment right now is as bad as if it was all caps, or as if i was using 733T speak? if you're being completely serious, i must say with 100% sincerity that i think you're fucking crazy and you must have all sorts of issues interacting with people. if i wrote perfectly constructed sentences, but did so without capitalization, i doubt my posts would be much harder to read.

but while we're on it, could you stop using contractions? in an academic paper they're wholly unacceptable and we should strive to the most rigid form of the language possible. writing with contractions is akin to writing for seventeen.

oh, and while we're on it, could the lot of you please start to italicize or underline the names of titles? it's so confusing when you just capitalize it, because it's not a very strong way of differentiating between the two.

yours forever,

+++tEH goD COmPLeX+++

(did i just waste two-thousand seconds? oh snap!)
posted by The God Complex at 1:03 PM on January 18, 2005


think laziness is a genetic trait, not a learned one? Perhaps laziness is our natural state and the mania for working more than necessary is a societal construction. Either way, your point is absurd.

OK, that's a fair point, actually.


Except that I had to somewhat contradictory idea and placed them beside each other, so it was sort of confusing. I just don't think laziness--if that even is laziness--necessarily jives with the whole betterment-of-society angle.
posted by The God Complex at 1:05 PM on January 18, 2005


argh "two" ideas. all that writing without caps melted my brain ;( ;( ;( ;( ;(

:)

:(
posted by The God Complex at 1:07 PM on January 18, 2005


You people are all be insensitive to those MeFites who have no pinkies.
posted by me3dia at 1:12 PM on January 18, 2005


In my head it always sounds kind of uninflected and zombified.

I usually imagine it as kind of a friendly coffeehouse drone, like Ira Glass or something.

As far as the whole affectation business goes, I don't mind it as much on forums. It helps me tell people apart. Of course, if a lot of people expressed their unique flowerness obnoxiously, I'd have to kill them, but all this slippery slope business is silly. We've had people who have been lax with the caps here before. We're not dead yet.
posted by furiousthought at 1:13 PM on January 18, 2005


u.n. owen:
Verdana was designed specifically for web-readability. Nice high x-height for starters.
posted by i_cola at 1:14 PM on January 18, 2005


I can't believe Stav is nowhere present in this thread. You can always count on that guy to say something bitchy about all-lowercase. Anyway, not that it matters, but my vote: I'm not bothered by all lowercaps in this particular forum as long as punctuation is up to snuff.

Whenever I've done all-lowercase in the past, it was for the sake of speed, and possibly also to communicate the fact that the writing was quick and casual (as apposed to well-thought out, edited, polished prose). The blue, the gray, and the green seemed like informal forums to me. But eventually I realized it was bothering other people so I more or less have stopped.

When I see others using all-lowercase it doesn't bother me in the least. To each his own, I suppose.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 1:31 PM on January 18, 2005


I mean, jesus, san serif for anything but titles is an immense typographical no-no.

That misconception was cleared up long ago. What was true in the print world doesn't always apply on the screen.
posted by rushmc at 1:33 PM on January 18, 2005


TGC, you make a fair point about bitching in the thread being bad, but this thread is an appropriate place to have this discussion. You rail passionately, here, against the people who are railing passionately, *HERE* on behalf of their opinion on the issue. You're not only as far off the handle as anyone here, you're not even taking a position, except perhaps that this conversation just shouldn't exist. Well, man-up and deal with the fact that some people disagree with you!

To play devil's advocate here, since I've already made my actual stance clear - if people want to disenfranchise themselves out of laziness or stupidity I say let them. Isn't it in the best interest of our species, from a genetic perspective, to permit them to do so unhindered?

Fair enough, but I would add two points:

1) As was said above, the content of what someone has to say might be good. It may merit the best presentation it can get. I see no problem with encouraging people to improve their posts.

...because....

2) Poorly-presented material does diminish the overall presentation of MetaFilter, to an observer. There's absolutely nothing wrong with setting some minimum standards around here. Have some pride.
posted by scarabic at 1:50 PM on January 18, 2005


My name is TimeF and I'm a stickler.

I don't mind no-caps. I won't do it myself but it's really only an occasional issue: at the beginning of sentences and proper nouns. I can deal with that. I can't stand ALL-CAPS because it is difficult to read; all letters are the same height and largely the same width, whereas in lower case letters have risers and dippers (OK, I don't know what they're really called) and are of very different widths. So ALL-CAPS is plain rude whereas no-caps is just sort of quirky.

It would be completely anti-social to use 733t spelling and AIM teen "speak" here and I'd support banning people who do either (or ALL-CAPS) regularly.
posted by TimeFactor at 1:55 PM on January 18, 2005


scarabic, while I think the discussion is somewhat irrelevant given that it happened just recently (and I contributed to that one), my point here is mostly that it should stay out of the threads in question. I don't mind people discussing it here--I think I said that, but I can't remember; I just don't want to see it in the blue. I actually commented about the shift-key link in the now-deleted thread when discussing the self-link yesterday. It's just bad form.

I still think the hyperbole about how awful no-caps ruins the site is wayyyyy over the top, though, especially when people suggest it's as bad as 733T speak.
posted by The God Complex at 2:00 PM on January 18, 2005


Capitalization is the difference between difference between "I had to help my uncle Jack off a horse" and "I had to help my uncle jack off a horse."
posted by armage at 2:15 PM on January 18, 2005


I'll read the whole thread later, but for now:

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The words you use, and how you use them, tell us more about you than what you're actually saying, sometimes.

If you insist on using no-caps in a non-ironic way, then I generally assume you're a) semi-literate b) pretentious c) undervaluing what you have to say, because you can't be bothered to format it according to community (and other standards) d) undervaluing other community members because you don't give a damn if what you write is hard to decipher e) assuming that Metafilter is the same thing as IRC or IM d) just not very bright e) convinced that it's 'literary' in some concrete-poetry ee cummings middle-school kind of way. Or some combination of the above.

Others may feel the same. In fact it's clear that many do.

Not that you should care what others think of you, of course -- you're a rugged individual, and you cut your own trail through the internets jungle! -- and if you really don't care, or you're posing to try and make an impression of some kind, that's your prerogative.



...ya big dumb-dumb.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:24 PM on January 18, 2005


No, it would be "i have to help my uncle jack off a horse". Wouldn't it be jack-off if you were going that route, anyway?

Besides, it's irrelevant is you punctuate it was I would: "I had to help my uncle, Jack, off a horse," or, conversely, "I had to help Jack, my uncle, off a horse".
posted by The God Complex at 2:25 PM on January 18, 2005


Wow, I butchered that some how. I can't seem to get mid-sentence editing down, and I'm still such a rugged individual that I forget to check it over.

"it's irrelevant if you punctuate it as I would"

Yikes. That's my sign to leave ;)
posted by The God Complex at 2:27 PM on January 18, 2005


I can't believe Stav is nowhere present in this thread. You can always count on that guy to say something bitchy about all-lowercase.

Shoulda read the thread. (I just woke up.)

I'm not bothered by no-caps either, much. Life's too damn short. I am bothered by people of varieties a) through e) in my post above, but then again, most people bother me, when it comes down to it.

I've said something about capitalization, that that I can recall, twice. In more than 4 years.

'Bitchy?' Bite me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:27 PM on January 18, 2005


If we want to talk readability can we PLEASE have a serif font as the default here? I mean, jesus, san serif for anything but titles is an immense typographical no-no.

What i_cola and rushmc said. Mortal computer display devices do not have the same properties (resolution is a big issue) as print -- serifs become clutter on the computer screen, and hinder readability.
posted by cortex at 2:28 PM on January 18, 2005


Demanding capitalisation is menacing, elitist prescriptivism and I hate it.

That's utterly inane, but I'll have to grant it to you because you used 'demand'.

I'd suggest 'request' as an alternative verb, or perhaps 'suggest' or even 'prefer'. In which case... you still feel menaced, punk? Well? Do ya?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:35 PM on January 18, 2005


My apologies chickenman, I must have been thinking of someone else. Maybe you just got in a good one that stuck with me, but I'm surely too lazy to search the archives.

p.s. do people tend to not use caps in email? i don't. don't know why, just don't do it. see how easy it is? easy breezy beautiful no-caps! the sentence fragments just fall off the keyboard. . . .
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 2:43 PM on January 18, 2005


By the way, u. n. owen, you can change the typeface all the mefi pages use in your user "customization" page. I like Georgia.

TGC: yes, there is a good distance between l33t and all-caps and whatnot and no-caps. But if I'll agree to that, will you agree that, as stav notes, it seems that no-caps is far more distracting and irritating to more people than its defenders are claiming? To me, no-caps is a very visible affectation. One which, lest we forget, is the whole point—see above—for some that use use them.

From context, I can often tell if the no-caps are intended as "caps are more trouble than they're worth and my meaning is clear anyway" or "no-caps reflects my casual conversational style".

But therein lies the whole problem.

Those of you who claim that it can't make much difference had better come to some agreement upon what you mean when you use no-caps. Because, since some of you want to convey "casualness" and some don't want it to mean anything in particular, you're forcing the reader to decipher your intention regardless. We're forced to evaluate your text stylistically in a way that we don't have to with everyone else. That's a pain in the ass.

But assuming that it only meant one thing or the other, it's still gonna bother me (and people like me) quite a bit. The "careless no-cap" intent just signals to me a deep, well, carelessness. I don't want to read writing that is that careless.

The "casual no-cap" intent signals to me that the person thinks I'm having an IRC or chat room style conversation. Well, gosh, if I wanted to have an IRC or chat room style conversation, I'd go to IRC or a chat room. I'm here because I don't want to have IRC or chat room conversations because the casual inanity of them drives me fucking crazy. Please, no, I don't want to know that you're eating a mushroom and pepperoni pizza right now. Whatever you may think, it's clear from both Matt and the community ethos that mefi is not a chat room. Don't write here as if it were.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:46 PM on January 18, 2005


People always call me on my mispronunciation, and I always politely thank them for it, and then the conversation continues.

See, that's adult behavior. We need more of it around here, and less "I'm a special flower and I do what I want."

Wouldn't it be jack-off if you were going that route, anyway?

No. You don't hyphenate verbs the way you do nouns.

On preview, what EB said:
I'm here because I don't want to have IRC or chat room conversations because the casual inanity of them drives me fucking crazy.
posted by languagehat at 2:51 PM on January 18, 2005


Capitalization is the difference between difference between "I had to help my uncle Jack off a horse" and "I had to help my uncle jack off a horse."

Armage wins! I wonder if I can get away with using this example in class?
posted by LarryC at 3:01 PM on January 18, 2005


the hyperbole about how awful no-caps ruins the site is wayyyyy over the top

True, if anyone's actually saying that. Not every ettiquette point has to be a Death of MetaFilter issue. This is a low-severity type of problem, but also a no-brainer and an easy-to-fix one.

Don't believe me? Look at all the no-brain in this thread!

/yuk yuk yuk
posted by scarabic at 3:03 PM on January 18, 2005


No worries, _sirmissalot_. I can be a little overcranky before my first coffee kicks in, I admit.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:21 PM on January 18, 2005


Er, c13 - I agree that it's pretty important to judge people immediately without even considering the possibility that they may be being sarcastic or snarky . . . but is name-calling really called for?

Dude, he does it most of the time.
posted by c13 at 3:32 PM on January 18, 2005



TGC: yes, there is a good distance between l33t and all-caps and whatnot and no-caps. But if I'll agree to that, will you agree that, as stav notes, it seems that no-caps is far more distracting and irritating to more people than its defenders are claiming? To me, no-caps is a very visible affectation. One which, lest we forget, is the whole point—see above—for some that use use them.


Yes, I'll agree to that. But for something so minor I would also say that part of the burden lies with those irritated to reign in their irritation for such a minor point of etiquette.

I also should note that I rarely use no-caps on here--although I use it almost exclusively over IM--except for very short comments.

Wouldn't it be jack-off if you were going that route, anyway?

No. You don't hyphenate verbs the way you do nouns.


Yeah, I knew that--not sure what I was thinking at that point. I'll call it the stavros syndrome: I shouldn't get up at 12:30 and get involved in discussions before I've even changed into my formal attire ;)
posted by The God Complex at 3:35 PM on January 18, 2005


See, that's adult behavior. We need more of it around here, and less "I'm a special flower and I do what I want."

Your inconsistency of attitude between punctuation and word meaning makes me giggle. One is no more (or less) consensual and arbitrary than the other.
posted by rushmc at 5:10 PM on January 18, 2005


They're two completely different things, as you know perfectly well. But whatever makes you giggle.
posted by languagehat at 6:16 PM on January 18, 2005


Not so different, I think. One can trace the changes over time in various popular forms of punctuation in much the same way one can with words. Granted, there are many more words than punctuation types, but the idea is the same. But there are no more God-given rules of punctuation than there are of definition or spelling.
posted by rushmc at 7:31 PM on January 18, 2005


I think the point of the thread is not about the rules of punctuation or capitalization, but about using those (punctuation and capitalization) in the first place. Rules might change, but commas, periods and capital letters are still with us. Again, if you think these two a superfluous, why not the sentence structure or the alphabet?
posted by c13 at 8:56 PM on January 18, 2005


Yeah, honestly LH, I don't see the difference. Punctuation and cap rules and the like are all conventions that are decided by consensus intended to convey particular meanings, increase readability, or enforce a social stratification. On the last, particularly, you should be attacking it, I'd expect.

However, a correct comparison would be someone using non-standard English deliberately in ways that obfuscated meaning and thwarted social expectations. I don't expect that you'd defend such a person; your tendency has been to defend those against whom a criticism of non-standard English has been used to protect social stratification, intentionally or not. Such people as you defend are not those who have perfect command of the conventions but flaunt them merely because they want to be different.

And that is, I suspect, why you have what looks to rushmc as contradictory positions. It's not that they are, in fact, two different things, two very unlike things (even though you claim they are); it's because they're two similar things in two very different contexts.

The use of no-caps is a stupid, self-indulgent affectation. That some people use non-standard English as their native tongue certainly is not.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:23 PM on January 18, 2005


"Rules might change, but commas, periods and capital letters are still with us."

It's no fun to potentially undermine my own position, but you do know, don't you, that punctuation and capital letters are all very recent inventions and that writers and readers made do without them until quite recently? So, no, it's not safe to say that they'll always be with us. They haven't been. Readers before a few hundred years ago did fine without them.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:25 PM on January 18, 2005


Readers before a few hundred years ago did fine without them.

There were very very few readers in existence, relatively speaking, a few hundred years ago and back.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:44 AM on January 19, 2005


In Elizabethan times the average sentence length averaged 49 words. These days it's around 20.

Lots of readability stuff in this classic: The Principals of Readability, William H. DuBay.
posted by i_cola at 3:00 AM on January 19, 2005


I think the point of the thread is not about the rules of punctuation or capitalization

Exactly. Except you missed the next part, where I asked not for a debate about the merits of using capitalization (because god knows we've been over that before!), but rather for a collective agreement that there will always be people who don't do it the way others would like, and that we ought to stop complaining in threads about capitalizing. There are so many other good reasons to complain about threads.

Damn, this is killing me. I rarely use my laptop keyboard (generally have an external plugged in) and finding the shift key today is a bitch.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:35 AM on January 19, 2005


Grammatical superiority, like soup, is best enjoyed silently. I believe that, all other things being equal, a person who goes to the very small trouble of writing correctly is superior to a person who doesn't. On the other hand, a person who attacks someone's usage rather than his or her content is, all other things being equal, inferior to one who doesn't.

If you write well, people well recognize that fact. Pointing out that someone else writes poorly will make people recognize that you're rude. Except in a discussion like this one, where it's the (or at least a) topic of choice.

Or, you know, if you do it entertainingly, but I reckon that to be entertaining, bitching about someone else's usage should be in verse. And haiku doesn't count.
posted by anapestic at 7:20 AM on January 19, 2005


I asked not for a debate about the merits of using capitalization (because god knows we've been over that before!), but rather for a collective agreement that there will always be people who don't do it the way others would like, and that we ought to stop complaining in threads about capitalizing.

I cannot agree to this. By remaining silent, we seem to be giving support for this behavior. It is no great hardship to use the shift key-- I think people just want to be seen as edgy and rebellious, the "Mavericks of Metafilter." There are better, smarter ways to demonstrate nonconformity.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:07 AM on January 19, 2005


there will always be people who don't do it the way others would like

Why do you wish to give those people a pass, but seek to constrain others who don't do it (keep their opinions to themselves) the way you would like?
posted by rushmc at 9:11 AM on January 19, 2005


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