Saturday, July 02, 2005

a weird thing about me and Capital Letters

One of my weaknesses that makes it hard for me to be a writing teacher (other than spelling--we've already talked about that) is that I am a slow reader. When I read, I "say" each word in my head--I actually need to "hear" the sound of the word to fully comprehend what is being said. I don't understand how some people "speed read" by glancing at a group of words and understanding the meaning. But my reading speed has picked up out of necessity, as I usually grade about 550 essays in one 13 week semester.

One of the things that hinders the speed of my reading certain items is the use of capital letters where they don't usually belong. I'm talking about the use of Him and He in the middle of a sentence when referring to Jesus or God. Usually it's pretty easy to pick out a proper name in the middle of a sentence and not have that interfere with my reading, but I'm having a lot of trouble training myself to recognize He and Him as proper names. When I see one of those words coming up, I have already geared myself that it will be the first word of a new sentence, so I read it that way, and then when I discover that wasn't the case, I have to go back and re-read. It takes me forever to read my BSF notes because of this. And you would think that since I've been a Christian all of my life since at least the time I was learning to read that I would have gotten used to this, but I haven't.

Sometimes a student of mine will want to write about a Christian topic and will want to know if "he" and "him" are supposed to be capitalized, and I say that that was a convention invented a very long time ago that we really don't have to do. But I also tell the student that if he or she feels bad about not using a capital letter, then by all means please do so--but God isn't going to get mad at us if we don't use the capital H.

So if you ever are reading my blog and see that I don't use the capital H, it isn't meant to be disrespectful. Also, I have noticed that I usually don't use the capital B when referring to the bible, but I don't know why that is. Again, it isn't meant to be disrespectful.


Tony Arnold said...

Up early this morning I see, like me working on the blogs. I always capitalize pronouns when referring to God or Christ, but never thought about it causing a reading pattern issue. Interesting.

I do it out of respect, not convention. I have noticed my NIV is inconsistent on this rule so that ought to give others comfort.


jettybetty said...

I know I am not consistent about this--but I usually do capitalize--out of respect--I know I don't have to--I could feel bad about my inconsistency-but if the NIV does it, I suppose I am in pretty good company. (When I write I usually don't use them, I go back and edit them in on purpose--and so I know I miss some that way.)

I hope I don't mess your reading up toooo much! I don't know if I could pass English comp in college if I had to take it again! I have so many quirky habits now!


JMG said...

JB, I have noticed since I started this blog that I do things that I used to mark on students' essays--like using a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence. Now I have a dillema: do I continue to grade my students down for this, or do I allow it? It's funny how when you start to write consistently, you start breaking the rules. Oh well, it's my blog; I'll do what I want!

Tony, you're up awfully early today. I got up because Husband did. He couldn't sleep anymore because he has some new John Deere equipment that he had to go play with.

David Kear said...

Ok, I am going to be a little nervous about writing on an English teacher's blog. But, here goes. I have always used capital letters when referring to God in any form. I guess I learned that just through reading it in the Bible and other literature. When I was an undergraduate in seminary I turned in a paper with the "He" in lower case by accident. I received a lower grade on the paper for not using proper capitalization. I took the hit knowing that I had intended to capitalize.

I have noticed since I started bloging that there seems to be a different set of writing etiquette rules for the internet. So, maybe it depends on the venue that the writing takes place.

People, especially myself, get away with things online that would never fly in school. I am getting ready to start a Master program at Bahnsen Theological Seminary. So, I had better start brushing up.

Great site by the way.

JMG said...

I only grade blog comments if you are one of my students!


Tony Arnold said...

I get up early every morning, usually about 5:00 AM.

I have a great reference book for writing and he labels many writing no-no's as myths. Such as ending a sentence in a preposition, using a conjunction to start a sentence, etc. He mentions there are good reasons for avoiding these things at times in your writing, to cast them in stone as sins is wrong. I love him for it.

He is a professor at Harvard and UT, had an amazing career and is from Loudon County, TN. His name is Richard Marius. The book is A Writer's Companion


JMG said...

I've seen that book, Tony, but haven't looked through it.

I agree that there is a time for following the rules (college freshmen should be held to the rules for the most part), and then there are rhetorical situations that call for breaking the rules. The more I write informally, the more I see the need for breaking the rules.

Little Light said...

I figure God can handle whether or not we use a capital. I don't make it a habit.

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

I believe that it is acceptable to start a sentence with a conjunction. And another thing that can help us to boldly write, I believe, is to split infinitives.

JMG said...

You know, to thoughtfully insert an adverb into the infinitive can enhance the meaning tremendously. Yet I do believe it is prudent to limit the use of conjunctions at the beginning of a sentence. And one should never use a preposition to end a sentence with!