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Old 09-26-2010, 10:33 AM   #1
galavanter
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Style Question - Capitalizing entire words

ARE the first word or words in a section of a book ever capitalized in a book like I have just done?

TWO PDF files of books I would gladly purchase as ebooks, but are not yet available (actually one has become available and I purchased it from Amazon) have the first, or sometimes first two words capitalized.

IS THIS some funky stylistic gimmick or just a conversion error of some sort?

I was certain it was the latter and changed them all manually with Sigil after converting to epub with Calibre.

Then yesterday I purchased a Kindle book from Amazon, published by Simon and Schuster, and the ENTIRE FIRST LINE AND TWO OR THREE WORDS from the second line of every beginning chapter in a subsection is capitalized. This is just in the first chapter of a subsection, like VIII or IX, of the book.

I know ebooks, even from Simon and Schuster or Amazon, are not always perfect, but now I'm not sure if this is intentional or not. Seems goofy to me if it is...

If you have a Kindle app you can download the sample and see exactly what I mean.

http://www.amazon.com/Never-Enough-e...=AG56TWVU5XWC2

Last edited by galavanter; 09-26-2010 at 10:39 AM.
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Old 09-26-2010, 10:50 AM   #2
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It used to be the thing in 18&19 C books; certainly the first word (or three) of the first sentence in each chapter.

Others will have a more definite history of its use, but I see it often at PD.
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Old 09-26-2010, 11:13 AM   #3
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The same way the first letter is often larger and ornate, the first word, few words, or even the first line can be formatted in capitals. It is purely a formatting custom, to make the books look "nicer", it's not a spelling rule or similar.

Quote:
Then yesterday I purchased a Kindle book from Amazon, published by Simon and Schuster, and the ENTIRE FIRST LINE AND TWO OR THREE WORDS from the second line of every beginning chapter in a subsection is capitalized.
This is an example of when it goes wrong. It's OK to have the first line in caps or small caps, but only if you can ensure it will be just the first line. Hardcoding in caps the first dozen of words is dumb. Moreover, hardcoding the caps should be avoided, and CSS styling preferred.
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Old 09-26-2010, 12:01 PM   #4
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The ornate first letter I get, even the first word. But the inconsistent first 3 word in caps then first 4 words I don't, and that McGinnis book, well forget it. Maybe the web has something to do with it to. Caps are now shouting.

"A GREEN HUNTING CAP squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head." How could I forget that green hunting cap? Thanks for the replies.
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Old 09-26-2010, 12:48 PM   #5
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It could be the first word (sometimes the first two, if the first one is a single letter), this often includes more words if it's a proper name, or the first semantic unit ("A GREEN HUNTING CAP" is fine, "A GREEN HUNTING cap" is no), or, as I said, the first complete line, and this means that if the last word in the line is broken across lines, you get one half in caps, the other in lowercase.

Personally, I'd prefer smallcaps instead of caps, but I've seen caps in printed books too, something like:

[size=+7]A[/size] [size=-1]GREEN[/size] [size=-1]HUNTING[/size] [size=-1]CAP[/size] squeezed the
top of the fleshy balloon of a head.

As most things, it gets awkward and ugly when it's badly done, that's probably what you are experiencing. But as a formatting resource, it's legitimate.
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Old 09-26-2010, 08:53 PM   #6
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As a retired typographer, my advise is: DON'T DO IT.
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Old 09-26-2010, 09:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by galavanter View Post
... But the inconsistent first 3 word in caps then first 4 words I don't...
It may be inconsistent in terms of the number of words, but it wasn't visually inconsistent on the printed page, at least in the classic books where is was the current convention. The style was to capitalize roughly the same percentage of the line (e.g. first third of the line, one half of the line, ...). When the words are shorter more words are capitalized.
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Old 09-27-2010, 03:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SensualPoet View Post
As a retired typographer, my advise is: DON'T DO IT.
i also agree with this idea,....its helpful,...
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Old 09-27-2010, 04:18 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SensualPoet View Post
As a retired typographer, my advise is: DON'T DO IT.
Is there something like an argument associated with that advice?

I always thought it was one of those parts of typography that some people considered esthetically pleasing, and others consider either unnecessary or ugly. Personally it's something I like when it is in combination with ornamental drop caps in classic works.
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Old 09-27-2010, 06:01 PM   #10
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I think it adds an extra element of design of the book, instead of the boring Heading then text. And hardcoding, is, well, a means to an end when ADE doesn't display through the use of CSS.
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Old 09-27-2010, 11:31 PM   #11
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Fearless Typography

Here is an even more annoying instance of CAP/non-cap sentences:

M Y U S E D - B O O K store had been open for just about a month when the police showed up.

This is the opening sentence of Walter Mosley's novel, Fearless Jones, the pdf version. Notice the spaces between some of the letters of the first three words. It doesn't stop there. Paragraphs in the middle of chapters are also victims of this clever typography. I just couldn't take it anymore, and just re-edited the file to conform to modern standards. At least a text-search now works.
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Old 09-27-2010, 11:56 PM   #12
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I've seen some books that have a certain length of characters in all caps (or in bold, or itallics, or some combination) and then stop, even if it is in the middle of a word. A bit of searching through recent reads (I remembered seeing something like that not long ago) turned up this one. The Accidental Time Machine has the first line of every chapter in bold-- and a few times that means one word is half bold, half not. Look at this example, where it ends up with

Wednes-
day

http://books.google.com/books?id=Z-E...page&q&f=false
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Old 09-27-2010, 11:59 PM   #13
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By the way, if anyone has a first edition of the Kelmscott Chaucer and are annoyed by the giant first letters, don't throw it away, I'd be glad to pay postage to have it sent to me!
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