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Dr. Shoe

Tightening Up On The Titles!

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I have noticed that we seem to be getting a lot of sloppy titling just lately. Apart from the spelling mistakes I am seeing a lot of punctuation howlers too:

No punctuation at all. A title that poses a question but is not ended with a question mark. Too many question marks and/or exclamation marks. Omission of punctuation marks, making the title ambiguous.

I know not all of us have high level qualifications in English and I am aware that many here are not native English writers either, but I have noticed that it's the non-english speaking members who are most likely to get it right.

Here are some tips:

Keep it simple! Try to avoid amusing or "clever" titles, puns or plays on words, unless you really know what you're doing! Avoid multiple exclamation marks or question marks. One is quite enough, especially when the question mark follows a statement rather than a question. If you want to emphasis a question then one exclamation mark followed by a question mark is usually ample. The normal rules of punctuation apply to titles as they do to text. However, it is fine not to end a title with a full stop (period) but in this case each word must start with a capital letter. So: "My New Shoes" or "My new shoes.".

I know it's picky and most people won't care but some do find it annoying! LOL

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Oh my dear Dr. Shoe, we're online. People hardly follow the regular conventions here ;) That said, I definitely appreciate strong grammar and good punctuation--I just wouldn't go to the extreme of requiring a question mark on a title for questions, and the like, because title don't require punctuation. That's in my opinion, of course. Yours obviously differs :)

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I must admit, I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Shoe. Punctuation was developed because writing makes it difficult to give many of the nuances you can pick up in speech. I don't mind people getting it wrong, but I do mind sloppiness or carelessness because misunderstanding can create bad feeling. Your list of tips reminds me of Orwell's list of advice for writing decent English (Politics and the English Language, 1946): (i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. (ii) Never use a long word where a short word will do. (iii) If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out (iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active. (v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. His point was, think before you write (or speak). Don't expect the words to do the job for you, you can't trust them. Sangue, you write beautifully. (vi) Break any of these rules rather than say anything outright barbarous.

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OK, this is very nearly a year old and I am glad to see that people do seem to be taking notice!

We had things like: "Do you wear heels to to the dentist.". Note the fullstop (or period) instead of a question mark. Now, "Do You Wear Heels To The Dentist" (no punctuation, title case) is perfectly correct as is "Do you wear heels to the dentist?" (question mark).

Just because we're online doesn't mean that we can't have standards. What is correct when delivering your dissertation should be just as correct here. As Megan says, punctuation is there to convey meaning. We use punctuation in much the same way as you'd use a smile or a nod of the head in a face to face conversation, you need it to convey a point. It tickles me that people go so far to program in BBCodes and smilies to "convey meaning" and yet they don't consider punctuation, grammar, syntax and spelling to be too important just because they're online! With accurate grammar, syntax and punctuation, you can convey meaning well enough without smilies.

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Sorry, Dr Shoe, I hadn't noticed the date on your original post, but we obviously agree. The trouble is people think online isn't real life, but for many it is their life, apparently. You know the childish retort, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me'? It might be more properly said, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart'. I'd just always urge people to handle their words as carefully as they can. I know most do. I include the link to Orwell's essay for those who can be bothered.https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

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My view is that text messaging has made people lazy. In addition, grammar and punctuation are often not taught very well. I found that myself, and it was only when I learnt other languages that I understood anything about English grammar!

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Or in later life when you start to realise how important it all is.

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I agree with Tacchi Alti and you, Dr Shoe. I tried for years to teach English properly, till the indifference of my colleagues and the ill-informed interference of government made me give up in tears. But I do read better than I write. I hope my posts don't read too badly.

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I fully agree with Meganiwish, the good Dr and Tacchi Alti about good English. I enjoy reading it and attempt to write it. But let's not forget that this is a High Heels Forum, not an English Language Forum (deliberate use of capitals). There are also members for whom English is a foreign language, some may be dyslexic and others may be less able to write good English. My own pet hates are ALL CAPITALS and walls of text.

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I agree most wholeheartedly at9. This is not an English Language Forum but there is still no excuse for sloppiness. As I said before, I find that non-native English writers are better than those for whom English is their mother tongue. It is only the titles I'm bothered about because it takes comparatively little effort to get it right. We are bound to have grammar, spelling, syntax and punctuation errors in the post itself. Meganwish, you do write like an educated person so I am not at all surprised to see that you're a teacher.

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Dear doctor, on titles I think we are agreed. In other forums (fora?) unhelpful thread titles like "help please" or even worse "HeLp PlEaSe!!!!!!!!!!!!!" usually lead me to ignore the thread altogether. Do you realise how painful it was to type that abomination. To a large extent I reckon it's self policing. Unhelpful titles mean that many will ignore the thread so it will die early. As for smilies, I'll use them sparingly. Forum language isn't the formal prose of a book or even a newspaper. Few of us when posting have the leisure to choose our words with the same care that we might use in a piece of written work. Nor does forun language carry the fine nuances of the spoken word. Smilies are a shorthand for expressing emotions, can indicate a tone of voice and can even be a partial replacement for body language. Now I'm starting to sound like a teacher! I am not now, and never have been, a member of the............teaching profession. Americans and Tom Lehrer fans will understand that remark :wave:

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I agree with you, at9, this isn't an English Language Forum, but it is an English language forum. As you rightly point out, even the use of capitals can alter meaning. I know that people have differing levels of English and I was careful to hope that people handle their words as carefully as they are able. It usually shows when people have been careful, even if it's not all correct. It's a good habit to think before posting. And as Dr Shoe says, titles aren't very long.

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A few lines may not need a check read but when it's a few paragraphs then it is advisable to reread to make sure it still makes sense. I wish my writing was perfect english but so much "correct" grammer procedures have been sadly forgotten. Much of my scrpt work is pure technical instructions - short, simple and precise - "fit X using Y size screws in accordance with ****". Writing within this forum has improved my grammer thought processes but still with errors. Posting via mobile devices open spelling errors galore, more often due to the keypad size or location. My senior school english teacher (1967-69) taught in much in the pre war style (he was old enough that it could have been the 1914-18 war). A very strict gentleman gave no love to the subject. However I proud to say I never got into text speak. My wife being SEN teacher/Co-ordinator and now specialist advisory teacher for the County, I often get tasked to proof read lecture notes and Power Points. Al

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I wish people would be more specific in their titles. I'm less likely to read a post with a vague title such as: High Heels, Help!, Poll, or Online Shoes.

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I think even one word needs a check read. And I admit that there are people on this site who will testify that I've been guilty of not doing that effectively. And I'm a pedant! I'm casting no stones. .Yes, a good title should invite you to see what's in there. How much thought does it take to get four or five words right?

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Indeed. It is a good idea to think before titling. As At9 said, titles that just say "saw these" or "help please" only indicate the laziness of the author. If they can't be arsed then why should we be bothered to read their post? I mean they couldn't even punctuate the title properly! I also agree about the smilies too. We cannot convey body language and i don't think we all know each other well enough to think, "well, he was obviously joking.".

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Language please Timothy sorry Tara otherwise other mods will be chasing you :)

Dr. Shoe said "We cannot convey body language and i don't think we all know each other well enough to think, "well, he was obviously joking.". (2 errors :) I'm sure you did that deliberately ).

Fully agree with that also to add how long does it take to know someone face to face? I'm still learning after 15 years and STILL getting it wrong!

Yes even after numerous posts my perception of "X" can be inaccurate, plus the language variations, even UK to Yank doesn't always translate true meaning, then to place it towards a Spanard or an Italian or further afield what may be simple and well accepted/recognised becomes absolute garbage to those away from the home language.

Al

Edited by Alsheels

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Thank you

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I refrained from making any comment on Dr Shoe's original post (more than a year ago) as I certainly agreed with the sentiment expressed and with most of the specific suggestions. But, as there have now been some further comments, I will add a few of my own.

1. It is very common for words to be given initial capitals unnecessarily in ordinary text. Unless a word is a proper noun, this is usually wrong and often arises out of a mistaken belief that the word has some exalted status, e.g. referring willy-nilly to a Doctor, a Company Director, an Insurance Company - none of which merit capitals. Cut out the caps, please!

2. Titles or headings (in posts or otherwise) only need a stop at the end if in the form of an exclamation or question. (It used to be normal British practice to end any title or heading with a full stop (period) but this is a very old-fashioned style, and wastes a keystroke.) And adding an initial capital to every word (or every noun) in a title is quite unnecessary and can be confusing - do it if you must but it certainly ain't preferred practice, whether or not a stop ends the title.

3. The proper and normal use of an apostrophe is to mark the concept of ownership or possession. It should be positioned correctly, according to whether the 'owner' is singular or plural, e.g. the boy's mother or the boys' mother: (And, please note: Mr Jones's mother, not Mr Jones' mother). It is not needed if the concept is merely descriptive, e.g. in infants school. An apostrophe is definitely not required in a simple plural, even though generations of greengrocers have displayed their cabbage's and plum's for sale.

No, I'm not an English teacher but I do love and respect the English language and earn a living by using it. A little care and thought when writing, even in an informal context, does pay dividends and will give any message greater clarity and impact. Sloppy language may only irritate 10% of one's readers - but why ignore them?.

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Actually, in British English a title is not considered a sentence (except when it is considered so!) and as Puffer says needs no stop unless a question or exclamation mark. The convention is that conjunctions, articles and prepositions are not capitalised except when they are the first word. But one needs to feel for what looks right.

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Somewhere between pedantry* and sloppiness have we not lost the soul (sole?) of this discussion? *From the Uxbridge Enlish Dictionary.... Pedantry: The art of fiiting footware to the Formicidae family

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I refrained from making any comment on Dr Shoe's original post (more than a year ago) as I certainly agreed with the sentiment expressed and with most of the specific suggestions. But, as there have now been some further comments, I will add a few of my own.

1. It is very common for words to be given initial capitals unnecessarily in ordinary text. Unless a word is a proper noun, this is usually wrong and often arises out of a mistaken belief that the word has some exalted status, e.g. referring willy-nilly to a Doctor, a Company Director, an Insurance Company - none of which merit capitals. Cut out the caps, please!

Agreed to an extent except that it's common usage that makes things "correct". English teachers are teaching usage which would have been considered appalling english a hundred years ago. A prime example of putting words in inverted commas like in my opening sentence woudld have provoked a ruler across the back of the hand for the recalcitrant schoolboy who did it. A more correct way would be to use a single inverted comma like 'so'. In years to come expressing terms such as 'Company Director' will be considered correct.

2. Titles or headings (in posts or otherwise) only need a stop at the end if in the form of an exclamation or question. (It used to be normal British practice to end any title or heading with a full stop (period) but this is a very old-fashioned style, and wastes a keystroke.) And adding an initial capital to every word (or every noun) in a title is quite unnecessary and can be confusing - do it if you must but it certainly ain't preferred practice, whether or not a stop ends the title.

Now this is where I disagree. I certainly would have got a rap across the knuckles from Mrs. Gaye had I titled without punctuation of any sort or, as an alternative, refrained from capitalising all the words apart from words like 'and', 'or', 'to', etc. also a stop after an abbreviation is not actually a full stop and should be treated as a comma so therefore no capitalisation, just like the 'also' you have just read. It is now common practice to start the successive word with a capital so therefore this practice may soon become correct.

3. The proper and normal use of an apostrophe is to mark the concept of ownership or possession. It should be positioned correctly, according to whether the 'owner' is singular or plural, e.g. the boy's mother or the boys' mother: (And, please note: Mr Jones's mother, not Mr Jones' mother). It is not needed if the concept is merely descriptive, e.g. in infants school. An apostrophe is definitely not required in a simple plural, even though generations of greengrocers have displayed their cabbage's and plum's for sale.

Hooray! Someone who knows how to use apostrophes. However there could come a day when using a greengrocers' apostrophe is considered correct but I will have to be dead and buried before words such as 'cabbage's' will be universally accepted. However, it is quite correct to use an apostrophe to pluralise nouns of foriegn origin. Therefore banana's is quite correct! (source: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss)

No, I'm not an English teacher but I do love and respect the English language and earn a living by using it. A little care and thought when writing, even in an informal context, does pay dividends and will give any message greater clarity and impact. Sloppy language may only irritate 10% of one's readers - but why ignore them?.

Indeed.

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However, it is quite correct to use an apostrophe to pluralise nouns of foriegn origin. Therefore banana's is quite correct! (source: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss)

I don't have a copy of ES&L to hand but I would find it very strange to use an apostrophe in any plural. I try to avoid them even in plurals of acronyms etc. I agree that they are hard to avoid in expressions like: "Dotting of i's" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostrophe#Use_in_forming_certain_plurals

The good doctor is certainly right to say that usages have changed and evolved. It would now be considered very old fashioned to put dots between the letters of (say) BBC or UNESCO. Commas at the ends of lines of addresses now also look archaic.

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Agreed to an extent except that it's common usage that makes things "correct". English teachers are teaching usage which would have been considered appalling english a hundred years ago. ... In years to come expressing terms such as 'Company Director' will be considered correct.

Yes, Dr Shoe (not 'Dr.' with a superfluous stop, please!), usage brings about change, but not as quickly or markedly as many would believe or wish to be the case. And the fact that some current teaching is along unconventional (and sometimes ill-educated) lines does not in itself make it 'correct'. Giving initial caps to Company Director and the like is not 'wrong', just unnecessary, and I can see no reason other than sloppiness or misunderstanding that will make it more acceptable in future than it is now. (And I will disagree with any Member of this Board who continues to think that this is a Good Thing!)

Now this is where I disagree. I certainly would have got a rap across the knuckles from Mrs. Gaye had I titled without punctuation of any sort or, as an alternative, refrained from capitalising all the words apart from words like 'and', 'or', 'to', etc. ...

We will have to differ on this. I am older than you and I am surprised that you were taught to use titular capitalisation, which was considered somewhat old-fashioned when I was at school. Although common, it is certainly not mandatory and imho adds nothing. If one wants emphasis, larger or bolder type or all caps is better.

Hooray! Someone who knows how to use apostrophes. However there could come a day when using a greengrocers' apostrophe is considered correct but I will have to be dead and buried before words such as 'cabbage's' will be universally accepted. However, it is quite correct to use an apostrophe to pluralise nouns of foriegn origin. Therefore banana's is quite correct! (source: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss)

I have ES&L amongst my fair collection of books on English usage, although it is imho far from the best of its kind. Lynne does not say that the apostrophe is correctly used currently in a plural of a foreign word such as banana's, only that this was historically acceptable for reasons of pronunciation. In any event, could one really identify all the words (foreign or not) that might justify that treatment? I would add that the apostrophe is of course also correctly used to indicate a missing letter or letters, as in don't, can't, etc. So, when meaning 'it is', we must write it's, but it's hardly surprising that many people forget that its (meaning 'belonging to it') does not, exceptionally, require an apostrophe.

I don't have a copy of ES&L to hand but I would find it very strange to use an apostrophe in any plural. I try to avoid them even in plurals of acronyms etc. I agree that they are hard to avoid in expressions like: "Dotting of i's" http://en.wikipedia....certain_plurals

The good doctor is certainly right to say that usages have changed and evolved. It would now be considered very old fashioned to put dots between the letters of (say) BBC or UNESCO. Commas at the ends of lines of addresses now also look archaic.

Agreed, at9. (See above re ES&L.) We no longer feel obliged to write of MP's, the 1990's etc, although we may well consider it clearer to mind our p's and q's (unless we prefer to refer to Ps and Qs).

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'Banana's' as a plural is simply unacceptable, as is Lynn Truss. A word borrowed from a foreign language is now an English word and subject to the rules of English. Writing 'Company Director' means something different than writing 'company director'. The first is a person's title, the latter the name of a job. I always put commas at the ends of lines in addresses, but I am, at heart, archaic. I was also taught that a paragraph shouldn't be just one sentence, hence this superfluous one. Anyone acquainted with Winnie the Pooh or the Reverend Awdry will know that 'a Good Thing' is sometimes a good thing. Pugilism isn't my style, but if anyone wants to go toe to toe with me on lingistics I'll see them outside LOL. :boxing: I may be little, but I'm tough! Capitalisation of titles; a quick scan of my bookshelves gives me: Under The Volcano, James and the Giant Peach, Maze of Death, The General in his Labyrinth, May Week was in June. In the end it matters how good on the eye they look. I don't think 'Under The Volcano' looks as good as 'Under the Volcano'. I think I'd have written 'May Week Was In June'. How the titles look does matter. They are our public face, as it were. We should be careful about these things. Look to the top of your screen: Forum and site Specific Announcements. I know, people are busy, that's why the world needs proof readers. Now, I don't want to get bitter... Megan

Edited by meganiwish

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Pugilism isn't my style, but if anyone wants to go toe to toe with me on lingistics I'll see them outside LOL. :boxing: I may be little, but I'm tough!

OK big girl, I'm up for it. Semicolons at dawn! And keep your filthy participles off my gerund. http://childrensbook...it-in-one-of-my

Back to capitalisation. First Direct are an excellent bank but surely spelling their own name without capitals is false modesty: http://www2.firstdir....com/1/2/��Does CaMeLcASe give you the hump?

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Writing 'Company Director' means something different than writing 'company director'. The first is a person's title, the latter the name of a job. ...

Megan

I will accept that, if used as a true title. But to write that 'John is a Company Director' [or 'a Solicitor' or 'a Dentist' etc] is giving undue status to a job description used generically. (And your 'different ... than' is US usage; 'different ... from' in the UK.)

... Back to capitalisation. First Direct are an excellent bank but surely spelling their own name without capitals is false modesty: http://www2.firstdir....com/1/2/��Does CaMeLcASe give you the hump? ...

A corporation or defined business entity or a collective group is a singular being and should be treated accordingly; we really need is and its in your sentence. (An exception is where the members of (say) a team are the true subject, rather than the team collectively. So, 'the team has played well' but 'the team have new kit'.) But the main thing is to ensure consistent subject/verb agreement in all writing - a point often overlooked.

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Not sure what happened to my previous post. I was having trouble posting and part of it seems to have been repeated. (Edit by Dr. Shoe: The post in question has no been corrected!) :)

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This is getting very serious now! Hope no one gets shot in the colon. I find apostrophes often get muddled up because the scripting dictionary misreads the correct sense, so often I have used company computers with latest word or office edition only to find the IT dept. had not set the dictionary to UK English during the install! With auto correct those of us with average english grades get very confused. Oh by the way I got dropped out of O level and didn't sit CSE. I think what needs to be remembered that there is a low percentage of pure UK english speakers within HHPlace compared to the rest of the world and in that larger percentage many are struggling to translate let alone punctuate. Al

Edited by Alsheels

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I will accept that, if used as a true title. But to write that 'John is a Company Director' [or 'a Solicitor' or 'a Dentist' etc] is giving undue status to a job description used generically. (And your 'different ... than' is US usage; 'different ... from' in the UK.)

I think that's exactly what I said. But you're right about my usage being US there. I can only apologise. I was wearing a towel at the time.

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