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January 2007- Up From Down Under

January Issue 2007


Nit Bits


Three minor topics I’ve meant to write about are Dates, Time and Capitalisation. The information is based on the best references I could find – see below.




This section isn’t meant to be controversial. I’m advocating “best practice” within the narrative of a story or essay. It does not preclude the use of different styles in appropriate contexts, or the use of dialect or colloquial speech for dialogue.


Lately, I’ve noticed some authors who insist on using ordinals in dates. What’s an ordinal, you ask? These are ordinal numbers: first (1st), second (2nd), third (3rd), fourth (4th), … eleventh (11th), twelfth (12th), thirteenth (13th), … twenty-first (21st), and so on. It means a position, order or rank in a series.


Ordinals shouldn’t be used for dates. It’s technically incorrect to write 7th January, or January 7th. Why? Because, an ordinal should include the unit of measure.




The horse came seventh in the race.


He played second fiddle in the orchestra.


Which means, of course, if you use ordinals in a date you should write something like this:


The next meeting took place on the seventh day of January, 2007.


Isn’t it simpler to write: 7 January, 2007, or January 7, 2007? Yes, much easier - you are not comparing or ranking the days of the month, you’re just writing the date.





The correct format for time is 11:15 a.m. (Australians may leave out the periods, because we don’t customarily use them for abbreviations.) If you wish to use the word o’clock, do so for rounded times like two o’clock. Never mix numerals and words (11 o’clock is a definite no-no).





Capitalising words for relationships and endearments can confuse writers.


When should you capitalise words like “dad” and “mum”?* The simple answer is: capitalise a relationship when it’s used as a form of address and/or substitutes for a personal name.


For example:


“May I have a piece of cheese, Mum?” asked Wendy.


Wendy addressed her mother; therefore, we use a capital letter. However, notice we don’t use a capital letter for mother in the previous sentence. Whenever the relationship follows a pronoun, no capital is required.


For example:


“I’ll tell my mother on you!” yelled James to his playmate.


James addressed a playmate, not his mother. The rule about pronouns is easy to understand. However, look at the following example:


“Should I tell Mum about that, Dad?” asked Wendy.


No pronoun, and you wouldn’t expect Wendy to use one. Although the father, not the mother, is the focus of the question, notice both relationships are capitalised.


Other relationships such as aunts, uncles and grandparents are treated in a similar fashion. 




She visited her aunt for the summer.


She visited her Aunt Martha for the summer.

(The relationship follows a pronoun, but notice it forms part of a name – “Aunt Martha”.)


“May I go to the store with you, Grandma?” she asked.


“I’m going to the store with my grandmother,” she said.



Endearments are not usually capitalised. This includes terms such as: honey, sweetheart, dear, darling, sugarpie, sweetie, etc.




“Come on, honey, let’s do it now?” he begged.


“My darling,” she said, and fell into his arms.






*Americans should read “mom” wherever they see “mum”.


 Copyright 2007 by The Muse Marquee. All rights reserved. All authors hold individual ownership & copyrights of any material contributed. No unauthorized usage of any published material within the Muse Marquee unless permission is first granted by copyright owner of said material.