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The screenshot below is taken straight from a guy’s About page on his professional website. He’s obviously not a writer by trade as he prefers another method of communication, but is he talking about his biological parent, God, or a clergyman?

Father, forgive meCapitalization—or noncapitalization—matters. An error in capitalization, punctuation, or spelling can and does result in something else that is completely different from the intended meaning.

This reminds me of my sixth-grade English class in a private school run by the religious denomination I was associated with at the time in my native country. I took a ten-point quiz on English vocabulary. One of the words on the quiz was “elder.” I wrote it out as “Elder.” My teacher kept insisting that I fix it. I was puzzled as I was 100 percent sure that it was the correct word.

I continued to be stumped. I finally gave up and turned in the paper. I had to settle for a nine-out-of-ten score.

Then my teacher told me that I was supposed to use the lower case. Bingo. After all, in this case, the word was a synonym for “older,” as opposed to one of the titles used for a clergyman in some Christian traditions.

My teacher, however, was only partially correct on that one. Titles are capitalized only immediately preceding a person’s name, and in this case, there was no name attached.

The aforementioned voiceover artist makes some more capitalization blunders concerning titles and nouns:

Incorrect common noun capitalization

Unless your nickname (a form of a proper noun) is the Morning Guy or the General Manager, don’t capitalize.

Words for family members can sometimes be capitalized (e.g. Mom, Dad) because they’re used as nicknames. I doubt that the voiceover guy addressed his dad directly as father on a regular basis while his dad was still alive.

Incorrect capitalization of common nounsIncorrect use of capitalization for titles (including headlines) and common nouns instead of proper nouns as seen on the above example is one of the most common mistakes I see in copies, especially web copies, blog posts, and online articles.

Moral of the story: Please, for the love of G-d, get a friend, colleague, or relative with a keen eye for detail, or better yet, hire a professional editor for your professional website and/or other professional marketing materials. First impressions count.

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