A Farewell to Capital Letters…



I am sorry to report that the use of capital letters appears to be over.  No longer do you see capital letters on people’s names, places, websites, book titles or advertisements.

As a former teacher, I used to get very frustrated when students  did not use proper capitalization and punctuation by the time they got to me in middle school.  I could not understand it.  I knew that the elementary teachers taught them punctuation, but could not fathom why the kids would not retain and apply the rules. So, I did what most English teachers do.  I would explain the rule, have the students copy it in their notebooks (they HAVE to know it then), practice using the rule, play a grammar game, pick out examples of the rule in writing and then assess them.  But after all that, the kids were still not using these rules in their everyday writing (which, of course, is the main goal of learning punctuation, contrary to most students’ belief that it is merely a way for teachers to torture students).

One day, it hit me.  There are lower case letters EVERYWHERE from the titles and subtitles of shows to song titles and even people’s names.  I also noticed that many billboards and advertisements are also in lower case letters.  I suddenly realized that it was not my students’ fault for not knowing when to capitalize letters.  It is what they are surrounded with and subconsciously, they might have seen so many lower case letters that they just started using them for every word, including their own names.  But my question is when did this happen and more importantly, why?  Is it because of the use of the computer to check things for us? Did teachers give up?  Is it now considered “writer’s choice” not to use capitalization? Or to use all capital letters?  (I’ve seen that as well.)

I am all for technology but communicating through social media is having a very negative effect on our children’s writing.  As you may know, the majority of kids (and even some adults) using social media do not use any type of grammar, spelling or punctuation.   And social media seems to be the most common form of communication these days. Kids spend their free time read texts, tweets and blogs and when they see adults using  improper punctuation and grammar, they mimic us and our habits.

I don’t mean to completely fault social media and the entertainment and advertising industries, but one thing seems clear.  Kids need a good foundation of how to use proper grammar and punctuation before they decide to use slang. Otherwise, they will not know the difference and the use of capital letters will continue to dwindle until one day, we might have to bid them a permanent farewell.

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