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Mechanics: Capitalization, Italics, Numbers, Abbreviations

Mechanics: Capitalization, Italics, Numbers, Abbreviations

Author: Katherine Sutton

Recognize the correct use of capitalization, italics, numbers, and abbreviations in academic writing.

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Hi. My name is Katie. And today we'll discuss mechanics of writing, capitalization, italics, numbers, and abbreviations. Today's lesson will be broken up into four different portions. The first will focus on capitalization, the second italics. This will be followed by a close look at using numbers in your writing. And then finally, we'll talk about how to use abbreviations.

For each of these considerations, we'll discuss not only how they are intended to be employed, but also we'll look at some examples of good applications of these considerations. Let's begin by looking at the dos and don'ts of capitalization. I'm going to guess that you already know a lot about capitalization rules. So I'll begin by giving you an example and see if you can pick out the problem in each of my sentences.

Here's the first one, "my sister stayed up all night writing her research essay." That sentence is incorrect because you do want to capitalize each word at the start of the sentence. If you thought that one was easy, let's try the next one. "My sister could tell that i had put a lot of effort into my work." You can see here that I have a lower case i, and that is incorrect. You do want to capitalize "I" when it standing alone referring to you, yourself.

The next example, "I went all the way to new york to access some of my print sources." As you can see, I tried to make some of these examples sort of research essay themed. And here we do have the I capitalized. It's also at the start of the sentence. So we have our first rules down. But in this case, we need to capitalize New York. It's a proper noun. It's a person, place, or thing.

Let's look at the next sentence. "The most notable researcher I interviewed was dr. Jacobs." Here we have a capital at the beginning of the sentence. We have "I" capitalized. Jacobs is capitalized. He's a proper noun. But in this case, you'd need to capitalize "Dr." as well. Any title like Mr., Mrs., Miss, Dr. Should be capitalized before the name that it proceeds.

In this next example, we have "mother" capitalized. Is she a proper Noun in this case, she's not. If you were speaking to a particular mother, then you would-- then that's a proper noun, and you would capitalize her name. However, you do not capitalize the title of someone when it's not functioning as a proper noun.

This sentence says, "I drove "East" for over an hour before I realized I was lost." Here you need to focus in on the term "east" because directions in general are not capitalized. However, this sentence here, "I heard that people from the south are very friendly," is not correct. This is because the South is the name of the proper noun what you're referring to. When a direction is acting as a title for something, as in this case, you would capitalize it.

Let's look at another example. "My favorite book is cat's cradle by Kurt Vonnegut." Here we have Kurt Vonnegut capitalized, the beginning of the sentence capitalized. But major words and titles, including the first and last words, need to be capitalized. And finally, "My sister ALWAYS helps me with editing my research essays." While this may be true, my sister would always take out these capital letters when she was editing my essay because the use of all caps to indicate emphasis is not appropriate for formal writing.

Remember, when in doubt, always consult a grammar guide. Holidays, months, days of the week, countries, languages are all supposed to be capitalized, while seasons, in particular, should not be capitalized. Next we need to discuss the use of italics. Italics are slanting letters. You can see here that I've kind of slanted them a little bit on the heading. So let's do some dos and don'ts.

A lot of people get confused about when to use italics because with the advent of computers, they've sort of replaced the role of underlining. So because most academic papers are typed, italics are considered generally preferable, and underlining is not usually appropriate. So here's my first example. This is the same sentence that we used in our examples for capitalization. And as you can see, I've properly employed capitalization rules.

However, I need to consider italic rules as well. Because for titles of books, movies, albums, journals, newspapers, magazines, full websites, you want to use these slanty italic letters to signal to the reader that this is a title of something. In this example, we don't have a title, but we do have a foreign language word in here, "pietas." This is a Latin word that is the grandfather of our English word piety.

And while piety today has a religious connotation, pieta, for the Romans, really meant devotion not only to god, but also to family and duty. So this is actually a very common sentiment. You can see that when I modify the form of this word to these slanty italics, the reader is visually notified that this is not only the term that you'll be discussing, but it's a term in another language. This is a way to facilitate the pace of your essay, to keep your readers from getting hung up on words that are foreign to them.

Our next example, "if you truly cared, you wouldn't have left me standing there," is a perfectly fine sentence on its own. However, one of the ways that you can use italics is to indicate emphasis. So it says if you truly cared, you wouldn't have left me standing there.

Now, you can see that this almost mirrors the way that someone would say this in real life. And so it's a way to really alter the tone of your piece and draw your readers attention to the terms that you really want to focus on. Similarly, "that's not necessarily true" is a fine sentence on its own as well. However, I can still employ italics to indicate emphasis. That's not necessarily true. Again, this is a way to effect the tone of your paper and sort of manipulate the way that the reader's attention is focused in your essay.

Let's do one more example of emphasis. This one, unfortunately, is an example of abuse of italics. This one over uses it. "She said that's not necessarily true really slows down the reader's pace of reading. And as you can see, it's also sort of visually distracting, as well as conceptually distracting because now the reader doesn't know should I focus in on "she" or should I focus in on "necessarily?" So I really need to pick one or the other.

For our discussion of numbers, it's not really whether do you use numbers or don't you use numbers, but it's rather when do you spell them out and when don't you spell them out. Let's take a look at this first example. It's a common English idiom. "If I've told you once, I've told you one thousand times."

But one of these numbers needs to be numerals, not spelled out. If I've told you once, I've told you 1,000 times. For numbers 10 or higher, you need to use the numerals. Don't spell them out.

In our next example, we have a number that's less than 10. And it says, "and 2 by 2, they walked onto the dance floor." In this case, because it's a number less than 10, you need to spell it out.

Our next example, "10 men showed up that day; only two survived the battle," initially appears as if it's correct. For numbers 10 or higher, we should use a numeral. And we've represented that here. And for numbers nine and below, we should spell them out, which we've done with "two." So what's the problem?

This is a special consideration. You do spell out numbers when they begin a sentence, no matter what their value. Each formatting style has different expectations. So always remember to refer to your formatting guidelines. When you're not given any guidelines, it's incredibly important to be consistent so that you don't disrupt the reader's comprehension of your essay.

Finally, we need to discuss abbreviations. Different formatting styles have different rules for abbreviations. And in general, you won't use abbreviations for academic writing. Instead you'll spell out most of them. But here are some common situations that you might run into when you're writing an academic research paper.

"The topic of my thesis is CML." This is a perfect example of a time when you would not use an abbreviation. Even people who are familiar with the conversations going on in my discipline might not readily identify CML as Critical Media Literacy. So if there's any doubt about an abbreviation being understood, you want to make sure that you spell it out.

However, critical media literacy is a really long thing to write over and over and over again, and I'm likely to refer to it a lot in my paper if it's the topic. So this is what I can do to fix it. You can use an abbreviation within your research essay, as long as you give the reader a parenthetical signal that this will be the abbreviation that you use throughout the rest of your research paper. So this example would be the first time that I mentioned critical media literacy in my essay. And then all subsequent mentions I could refer to it justice CML.

This sentence, "there was no doubt in his mind that this visit from the Internal Revenue Service would be a hassle," needs an abbreviation because Internal Revenue Service actually takes up a lot of space and is a little bit conceptually distracting. Most people don't refer to the IRS as the Internal Revenue Service. By referring to it in this formal, uncommon way, you're distracting your reader from your point.

And then finally, "he just couldn't resist all the temptations of Las Vegas, exempli gratia, gambling, drinking, and dancing." Here you can see I've observed the rules of italics and modified my foreign language terms. So from one perspective, it can be considered correct. However, this isn't how we use this term in research writing. "e.g." is a standard abbreviation to use when writing in the English language. So you don't want to draw your readers attention to the fact that you're saying "for example." you just want to write "e.g." And give them a nice fluid reading of your text that focuses on gambling, drinking, and dancing rather than the way that you're introducing those topics.

In today's lesson, we discussed common mechanical considerations for research essays, such as capitalization, italics, numbers, and abbreviations. We realized that capitalization rules are very standard. And there are specific times when you do and when you don't capitalize terms. While this is the same for italics and some considerations, such as indicating foreign language words or titles, using italics also has a sort of subjective side to it because you can use them to indicate your emphasis and insert your voice into your essay.

Then we discuss numbers and realized that they're very similar to capitalization, in that they have very standard cut-and-dry rules for when you do and don't spell them out. And then finally, we talked about using abbreviations and common considerations for using them in formal writing. As always, I suggest that you consult a grammar guide for any further questions. And I encourage you to look back into the video and take notes for yourself to consult as you draft your essay. Thank you very much for joining me today.