6

I am creating an ad for a newspaper and want to emphasize a word. Can I use a capital for the word and follow with an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence?

Here is what I am saying:

CRC is Preventable!

  • 3
    For an ad, this is perfectly OK, FWIW. It wouldn't be OK in a book or essay, etc., but marketing follows different rules. It's pretty common to use title case (or whatever the style used for book titles, etc. is called) in ads. – Hosch250 Jan 15 at 19:08
  • This is not valid in standard English; I've definitely seen some Internet English that will occasionally capitalize words that need a Certain Kind of Emphasis. (The implication generally being that a capitalized word refers to a specific concept, rather than the general meaning of the word, kind of like a brand name). – Tin Man Jan 15 at 20:04
9

I'm afraid not. In standard English a capitalisation is only permitted under the following conditions (according to GrammarBook.com):

  1. The first word of a document and the first word after a period.
  2. Proper nouns and adjectives derived from proper nouns.
  3. Titles when they are used before names, unless the title is followed by a comma. Do not capitalize the title if it is used after a name or instead of a name.

Your audience has a high probability of misinterpreting the capitalisation as an error and read the advertisement with a furrowed brow.

Alternatively, use FULL CAPITALISATION or other tricks if possible, such as italicising or emboldening, or any other formatting option available.

You may instead want to ask this question over on the Writing Stack Exchange

  • 2
    British usage also would not permit this, although it is unfortunately a frequently broken rule. – DJClayworth Jan 15 at 16:39
  • 7
    This is overly prescriptive. One can disobey just about any "rule" in English for stylistic reasons. You address this to some extent by discussing how readers will interpret the capitalization but nobody has the authority to tell the asker that they Cannot write something (see? I just did that thing! You can't stop me!) and that it is "not permitted". – David Richerby Jan 15 at 17:55
  • 3
    @DavidRicherby I make sure to say standard English, one may always take the liberty to be unorthodox. – A Lambent Eye Jan 15 at 18:06
  • 3
    On the other hand, it's a lot better than emphasis via quotation marks. – Nathan Long Jan 15 at 19:16
  • 3
    Advertising, art, and poetry often do not follow standard rules of English. I'd have to agree with David Richerby here. – Kenneth K. Jan 15 at 19:19
4

Capitalization serves to elevate the word, in addition to its grammatical uses, when used sparingly. I'm thinking of Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse, who, when they say something like "this young man has Got Above Himself" it allows the reader to more accurately and dynamically hear the dialog, and to feel the disdain being applied to the poor lad. It also allows a colloquialism to be used without quotations within another piece of dialog.

Does this make it appropriate for marketing? Probably, because ads are stylized text as much as they are grammatical text, I would think.

  • 1
    There is a lot of this in Winnie the Pooh, too—this is part of what makes it so delightful to read aloud. The little children listening don't appreciate all of the irony and other subtleties, but the Adult Reader can! – 1006a Jan 15 at 23:48
1

What you are looking for here is what is called "Title Case", a perfectly standard way of capitalising English sentences under specific conditions.

Under standard use of title case (such as outlined in this document), your capitalisation would be widely considered as being incorrect, and should instead be "CRC Is Preventable!" (the "Is" being capitalised).

What vexes me slightly, tho', is that you say "in the middle of a sentence"; is "CRC is Preventable!" not the entire sentence?

Because if the sentence is something like "CRC is Preventable! using technique XYZ." then stylistically, the use of an exclamation point (and to a lesser extent capitalisation) is out-and-out nonstandard.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.