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Cian Ginty

[This post is in response to an anonymous viewer’s comment about our use of a lower case ‘the’ when writing about ‘the Movies’.]

Unlike what you may think or know many rules of the English are bendable, and evolve. Unknown to most readers, newspapers and other media outlets have their own style – usually outlined in a style guide, or style book.

For example, newspapers differ on capitals in headline. Practical examples would be - “After Riot, Sheriff Plans To Move Violent Inmates”, but a lower case ‘a’ “How a 'Fun' Priest Molested Boys” from LATimes.com, while theSun.co.uk uses “FALCONIO KILLER GIVEN APPEAL” and “HUGE HUNT FOR MISSING BABY”, and most UK and Irish broadsheets (and RTE etc) use the likes of “West Bank monitors to withdraw after attack” (from RTE) – with only upper case for the first word, along with the names of people, places, and things etc.

A more comparable example to our usage of ‘the’ would be the Guardian’s use of lower case for ‘the’ when it comes to newspapers, magazines, pubs, rock bands, and sports grounds. Although they use upper case for ‘the’ when it comes to books, films, poems, television shows, and place names - we made the apparently shocking move of extending the use of the lower case ‘the’ further they do.

Here’s a bit of what the Guardian’s Style Guide has to say about ‘capitals’ – “Times have changed since the days of medieval manuscripts with elaborate hand-illuminated capital letters, or Victorian documents in which not just proper names, but virtually all nouns, were given initial caps (a tradition valiantly maintained to this day by Estate Agents). A glance at the Guardian of, say, 1990, 1970 and 1950 would show greater use of capitals the further back you go. The tendency towards lower case, which in part reflects a less formal, less deferential society, has been accelerated by the explosion of the internet: some net companies, and many email users, have dispensed with capitals altogether“

“Our style reflects these developments. We aim for coherence and consistency, but not at the expense of clarity. As with any aspect of style, it is impossible to be wholly consistent — there are almost always exceptions, so if you are unsure check for an individual entry in this guide. But here are the main principles…”

As I say, we differ from them with some things, so please don’t go quoting them and say we’re wrong. [Further reading: the listings for ‘capitals’, and ‘the’, on the Guardian’s Style Guide.]

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