If I write your name in all capital letters do I love you more? If I start a word with a capital letter does it make it more important? Does it show my adoration more explicitly? These seem to be questions people inexplicably have begun to ask themselves to determine when certain words need a capital or small case letter.
Mother, father, mom, dad, and government seem to be words that drive normal, grammatically correct people over the edge. The emotion around these words seems to mix people up. They start throwing capital letters around as if they are darts with suction cups on the end- but can I warn you- all darts can put an eye out. Did your mother teach you nothing?
Some people (including my child’s English teacher- unfortunately) have attempted to impose a false structure with bizarre rules like -all of them are always capitalized. (What? Have you gone mad?) I think part of that is misappropriated love. Yes, I love my mother. Yes, I love my father. Yes, I love my government. BUT capitalizing does not equal love. You CAN love in small case letters. You can be important in small case letters. Look- death. Small case. Important. Okay?
Our local newspaper, for example, has developed a love affair with the government to such an extent that they can’t bear to see it in lower case letters.
Let’s look at some examples:
The Government of Botswana issued a press statement. (Correct)
The tender was late because of typical Government bureaucracy. (Incorrect)
The Government’s spokesperson, Rre Madibela, said the Government had no comment. (Correct- in this case it is referring to the Government of Botswana)
They said that all Government workers will need to abide by the new dress code. (Incorrect)
It’s not difficult. It has nothing to do with love or importance. If it is a proper noun, the name of a government, for example - you capitalize it, if not- you don’t. The same goes for your parents, if the word is their name, you capitalize it, if it is not a name you don’t.
Here are examples:
Dineo’s Mother always sweeps the yard first thing in the morning. (Incorrect)
If anyone could liven up this party I knew Mom could. (Correct)
If Father wants to talk about it, I’m more than happy to come over. (Correct)
His Father likes cooking sorghum porridge for breakfast. (Incorrect)
So, feel the love- but let’s do it grammatically, shall we?
Lauri Kubuitsile is a full time writer living in Botswana. She blogs at Thoughts from Botswana.