different documents and different situations show the use of different styles of capitalization. some widely-used methods for preparing content; such as XML (eXtensible Markup Language), XHTML (eXtensible Hypertext Markup Language), and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets); are used by developers to help organize content and style as a structured approach.
this article describes some factors to consider in the course of applying a style of capitalization, and subsequently presents an analysis of some uses of what will be referred to as a structured style of capitalization (using upper-case or capital characters only for terms such as proper nouns including names, and not for the formatting of title words or for the formatting of the first word of a sentence). however because different documents may be subject to certain constraints of case sensitivity (or case-insensitivity), this article is not intended as advice on capitalization style for any particular document.
as content is increasingly delivered online with methods of structured design, processes for developing content suggest some new (or at least not widely known) approaches to applying styles of capitalization. in addition, certain types of specific technical content can involve the use of conventions for capitalization or lower casing that can differ from the use of other normative styles of capitalization.
styles can also be described in terms of a range of formality. some capitalization styles can correspond to formal practices, such as those that might be prescribed as rules or guidelines in a style guide. other styles of capitalization correspond to informal practices, such as those that might be used for purposes of graphic design or art.
writers can consult a number of general grammar and style references for information about rules of capitalization. in addition, organizations that produce many documents will sometimes develop their own style guidelines for ready reference. the development of house or local style guidelines may be particularly important for particular types of documentation that might not be covered in general references.
because new approaches to preparing content via structured methodologies suggest a reconsideration of style issues, writers and readers can benefit from an awareness of a larger framework of capitalization style for the development of different types of content.
different styles of capitalization are used for a variety of different types of documents throughout business and society. conventions of capitalization can vary depending on the purposes of a particular document or the guidelines of a particular organization. some styles are used for practical or conventional purposes while others are sometimes used for stylistic or graphic purposes.
toward a reconsideration of how styles of capitalization might be applied to content, it may be informative to list types of content for which styles of capitalization might differ. styles of capitalization can encompass the following types of writing or content:
because the situation for many documents can differ from the types described above (there are many examples of documents that display a blend of different styles), a detailed summary of the different types of content will not be treated in this article. however readers who are interested in more information about styles for particular types of content are referred to specific style guides for a particular use of content. more information about style guides can be found in the primary works referenced for this article.
to some extent, styles of capitalization are also a matter of conventions for a natural language. English, French, German, and other natural languages relate to different particular rules for the capitalization of content. for example, in German, nouns are generally capitalized. thus conventions for the capitalization of nouns are more widely applied to German content in comparison with English content. terms for days of the week are generally capitalized in English and German, however are not capitalized in French, Italian, or Spanish.
capitalization styles are also sometimes used to demarcate certain types of information. a United Nations convention is to use all caps for a person's family name so that it is clear which name is a personal name, and which is a family name. this convention provides important information about a person's name independent of a particular regional naming format, because some cultures write the family name first (for example, Chinese), while others write the family name last (for example, American).
strategies for working with a particular style of capitalization can include the configuration and use of software applications or tools, or the training and support for writers or editors.
using a software application to work with a particular style of capitalization can involve configuring preferences for spelling, grammar, or auto-correction; adding special word spellings to a spell-check dictionary, or turning off correction tools.
training a writer or an editor to work with a particular style of capitalization can involve the development of styleguide resources. a style reference can also guide a writer to configure a software tool for a particular document, and can also serve as an editorial resource for common questions.
content that is subject to case-transformation can be analyzed in terms of case-sensitivity. when the use of a style of capitalization changes the case of a designated expression from one format of case to another, then the expression can be referred to as case-transformed.
case transformations are common in the context of the use of certain technologies. in the example of a telegram that is formatted in all uppercase characters, any case information is compressed to one channel of all capitals. by design, upper-case characters are the only case that is available for an all-caps interface. some databases are also configured to store information in an all caps format, and in such cases an algorithm can be used to validate that information is entered in all caps, or that regardless of whether upper or lower case text is submitted, that if necessary that a case-transformation is applied.
case-sensitivity refers to the extent that the meaning or use of content would be changed by a case-transformation. in contrast, case-insensitivity can refer to the extent that transformation of case information for content can be regarded to have no effect on the meaning or use of the content. issues of case-sensitivity (and of case-insensitivity) can encompass issues of style, issues of usability, or some mix of these concepts.
whenever content is subject to case-transformation, a writer (or a developer) should be aware of case-sensitivity issues. although the effect of some types of case transformation on certain uses of content might be negligible (not case-sensitive), other situations of case transformation may present issues that are critical for users of information (case-sensitive).
issues of case sensitivity can be subject to different situational factors, factors that can include differences in the ways that people and machines might process or handle information that is subject to case-transformation.
it is beyond the scope of this article to describe in detail the many issues that can be involved in considerations of case sensitivity. limiting information about names and addresses to an all caps format can simplify processes of data entry and maintenance. however, with regard to the development of a user interface, a user has a need to know if there is a condition of case sensitivity that could affect the completion of a task for a designated objective, such as adding information to a database.
for one example, domain names are by design case-insensitive: typing the expressions 'enhanceability.com' or 'ENHANCEABILITY.COM' into a browser will both point to the same top-level page at 'http://www.enhanceability.com/'. however the directory and document names for a web site are not case-insensitive (in other words, they are case-sensitive). thus the directory expression '/tips/c9Q04.xht' points correctly to a file with that same exact name, yet the case-transformed expression '/TIPS/C9Q04.xht' results in a file not found error.
in the course of developing content for web publishing, certain style practices were reconsidered in the context of structured approaches to developing content such as HTML and CSS. an initial approach for a structured style of capitalization was formulated as a strategy for streamlining the presentation of heading or header-type content in structured documents. the approach was also referred to as a summary or structured capstyle. because CSS provides a number of style methods that can be used to emphasize or to distinguish structured headings, punctuation such as capitalization was seen as a redundant step of addressing formatting in a channel of content rather than style.
yet structured methodologies such as CSS recommend that developers apply style with stylesheet rules rather than by appending style to content markup. so the application of a structured style of capitalization can help developers to manage style and content more effectively, reducing a need to manually reformat a lot of different content whenever the objective is simply to modify a style definition. not only that, the use of capitalization for purposes of formatting rather than for purposes of clarifying content, introduces more instances of case transformation on the content level when approaches to formatting might otherwise be addressed more efficiently on the style level.
the reconsideration of a structured style of capitalization was later applied to general prose content, in the context of a software development effort. in some environments of software development, conventions for the use of capitalization may be atypical of a sentence or dictionary style, and case-sensitivities may be more critical. sometimes the use of a lower-case character is necessary for some terms for which a case transformation would introduce inconsistency. so writers would be tasked to either not case-transform such terms at the beginning of a prose sentence, or to rewrite such sentences to avoid beginning a sentence with a term that begins with a lower-case letter. in either case, an exception would be made to hold to a legacy formatting approach that mixes style formatting into content without adding any other information about the content.
these analyses support the formulation of a structured style of capitalization (a structured caps style) in terms of the following rules:
a preliminary review of uses of a structured style of capitalization as a method of developing content indicates that the style is in a number of ways more agile than a sentence style of capitalization, and especially in the context of the development of structured content (such as XML or XHTML).
a preliminary analysis of the effects of a structured caps style on a subjective assessment of readability indicates that negative effects are either nonexistent or are negligible. this claim assumes that other influences on readability are also taken into account.
at the same time, to the extent that a structured style of capitalization presents information with less case transformation than the traditional sentence-style of capitalization, and with less reliance on the factor of case as a method of conveying information about the structure of content to a reader, the use of a structured style of capitalization might offer opportunities for improved readability.
in practice, however, the use of a structured style of capitalization may realize more advantages in situations where there are other available methods for communicating the organizational structure of information (such as in many contexts of published information). to a lesser extent, however, the use of a structured style of capitalization may rely more on editorial knowledge about the use of upper case to present proper nouns (at least the use of capitals is more reserved for proper nouns).
in the use of a structured style of capitalization, there are less case transformations due to structural formatting. so the various tasks involved in the maintenance of case transformations due to structural formatting would be effectively reduced. as case transformations can also be treated as a dimension of information interchange, applications of a structured caps style can also help developers to reduce time spent on content interchange tasks that are due to structural formatting.
language-specific conventions of capitalization may also concern what might be considered to be a proper or capitalized term. however in the consideration of a structured style of capitalization, these issues should be distinguished from those particular uses of capitalization that might be considered to denote structural formatting of content.
some projects may warrant a checkpoint for a specific use of capitalization for a document. in comparison with other types of editing, the re-formatting of content from a sentence style of capitalization to a structured style of capitalization (or vice-versa) is typically simple in scope.
a quantitative analysis of how much less case transformations, or how much difference in development time might be attributed to the use a particular style of capitalization for a particular type of content, can provide some further information about the application of certain styles of capitalization for certain situations.
a qualitative analyisis of the application of certain styles of capitalization; particularly concerning processes of development, writing, and reading; can provide some further information about a continua of case styles, and about factors of case-sensitivity and case-transformation that can correspond to particular types of content.
more study of the use of a structured style of capitalization could inform the improvement of content development, and may also provide some definite benefits for readers as well. the findings described here certainly indicate that a structured style of capitalization can improve the development of structured content in terms of both productivity and quality, and in certain cases the approach may also improve the clarity of content that might otherwise be obscured by case-transformation.
analyses of a structured style of capitalization thus indicate that the approach can better accommodate best practices for the development of structured content, such as XML, XHTML, or CSS. the application of a structured style of capitalization can thus constitute a best practice.
Alliance for the Advancement of Technology. aatideas.org style guide. [ http://www.aatideas.org/axs/styleguide.xht ]. AAT at aatideas.org: 2008 (UCN 12008 D04 Green).
Apple Inc. Apple Publications Style Guide, 2008 September.
Apple Inc. Technical Note TN2106: Scripting Interface Guidelines. Apple Developer Connection. Apple Inc: 2004 March 01.
IBM. IBM Style, 7th edition, 2006 November.
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