3 Examples of Erroneous Case Style

By Mark Nichol

In each of the following examples, a phrase employs incorrect treatment as to whether one or more words begin with uppercase or lowercase letters. An explanation, followed by a revision, points out each error.

1. Three of the children developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition with anemia and kidney complications.

Names of medical conditions are not capitalized: “Three of the children developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition with anemia and kidney complications.” (Exceptions include surnames, as in “Crohn’s disease,” or geographical terms, as in “Asian flu.”)

2. Smith didn’t endear himself to the Beehive state when he refused to participate in a debate scheduled for Monday.

All key words in epithets such as state nicknames are capitalized: “Smith didn’t endear himself to the Beehive State when he refused to participate in a debate scheduled for Monday.” (The article the should be lowercased in such appellations; otherwise, the only state nickname that includes a lowercase word is that of New Mexico: “the Land of Enchantment.”)

3. Harvard University Accounting Professor John Smith was struck by the growing number of studies showing that most such transactions fail to deliver their intended value over the long term.

Usually, when professor (or “associate professor” or “assistant professor”) immediately precedes a person’s name, it is treated as a specific job title and is capitalized; an exception, however, occurs when the title is preceded by modifying terms. Here, though “Harvard University” retains capitalization because of its status as an entity, accounting is also lowercased because the reference is to an academic discipline, not an academic department: “Harvard University accounting professor John Smith was struck by the growing number of studies showing that most such transactions fail to deliver their intended value over the long term.” (Many writers would also choose to unstack the unwieldy identifying phrase: “John Smith, a professor of accounting at Harvard University, was struck by the growing number of studies showing that most such transactions fail to deliver their intended value over the long term.”)


8 Responses to “3 Examples of Erroneous Case Style”

  • Dale A. Wood

    New Hampshire: “Live Free or Die”.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Minnesota: “The “Land of 10,000 Lakes”.
    Geographers tell us that it is more like 15,000 lakes, too.
    Part of the confusion comes from “Where do you draw the line between a lake and a mere pond?”
    To demarcate a pond from something smaller, here is the rule: a pond has fish growing in it. For example, a fishing pond and a goldfish pond.

  • D.A.W.

    A false nickname: “Land of Opportunity” — Arkansas.
    Given its paucity of natural resources and other such factors, Arkansas has never been a “land of opportunity” like these states have been:
    California, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia.
    People from a real Land of Opportunity: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Zachary Taylor, John Tyler, Woodrow Wilson — all Presidents of the United States, and also Vice Presidents, Secretaries of State, and several generals in the Army. Several other prominent generals were Virginians, too, such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall,…

  • D.A.W.

    Nickname: The Land of Lincoln — Illinois

  • D.A.W.

    “…otherwise, the only state nickname that includes a lowercase word is that of New Mexico: “the Land of Enchantment.”
    Well, there is “the Heart of Dixie”. “of”.
    Be very careful with the word “only”. Often, it is easily overturned.

  • D.A.W.

    On the subject of diction and rhetoric:
    I read recently an article about an Italian actress, born in Naples, who has been in several good American films, such as “Rain Man”. She started out as a model in Italy and Greece, but she turned to acting because modeling was so dull. She went into acting without studying acting anywhere – no acting lessons, and she learn to speak English because when she was a teenager, she had serious medical problems. She had to travel to Chicago for spinal surgery by an expert in scoliosis, and she spent six months in the hospital there. (That does sound serious!)
    The article said that after that, she went back to school for lessons in “diction” and “rhetoric” to learn how to speak better in English-language productions. The point of all this is that “diction” and “rhetoric” are separate subjects, although overlapping to some degree.
    Some people might quibble about the expertise in diction of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Werner von Braun, Pierre Trudeau, Margaret Thatcher, and William Shatner, but it is clear that they were masters of rhetoric. So is James Earl Jones: “I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-wan. The circle is now complete . When I left you, I was but the learner, but now I am the Master.”

  • D.A.W.

    Quoting: Many writers would also choose to unstack the unwieldy identifying phrase: “John Smith, a professor of accounting at Harvard University, was struck by the growing number of studies showing that most such transactions fail to deliver their intended value over the long term.”)
    Choose? I think that should be mandatory to do so.
    Some ways of doing things are just “beyond the pale”.
    The people who “choose” to “stack words up” (so-called) are violating the rules of common sense, logic, rhetoric, and clear expression.
    The third section is on the subject of accounting, and so I will make the point in that area.
    Prison warden speaking to convict: “You, Jack Jones, are in prison because you CHOSE to violate the laws against embezzling and money laundering.”

  • Warren Billett

    Regarding the blog titled “3 Examples of Erroneous Case Style”. In example one. Is it different if you had followed the name with (HUS). For example. “If the patient suffers from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), trained rescuers would initiate Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) to attempt to resuscitate that patient and acheive Return of Spontaneous Circulation (ROSC)”.

    Thanks,

    Warren

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