Monday, April 27, 2009

Wonderings and Archive Searchings (Wherein I wonder about words, then I search for them in newspaper archives)

I noticed in a New York Times piece today that the the New York Times called itself The New York Times, with a capital T.

I noticed it because, in my copy editing work it seems I spend about half a day every day lowercasing the T in "the." In running text, my stylebook says, you lowercase it -- even if it's part of a proper name.

There will be a tribute show to the Beatles at the Venetian starring members of the Who reading from the Holy Bible and the Wall Street Journal.
It took me a while to get used to this style convention. But now I'm way used to it. The alternative, to me, looks like crap.

There will be a tribute show to The Beatles at The Venetian starring members of The Who reading from The Holy Bible and The Wall Street Journal.

No doubt, some will disagree. But to me, all those capital Ts interrupt the visual flow of the sentence. Still, it's not my call. I just do what the style guide tells me -- whichever style guide I happen to be bound to that moment. And the style guide I've been working out of says lowercase that T in running text.

The sassy New York Times, however, loves to defy conventions observed by other publications. Most notably, the New York Times' style guide says to use an apostrophe in numeric decades: 1980's. Most other pubs scoff at that decision, taking the position that 1980s poses no potential for confusion that would justify the apostrophe.

I agree, by the way. I'm all for apostrophes in a sign like "CD'S ON SALE TODAY." But I see no benfit for it in 1980s. Still, I just does what they tells me.

Anyway, inspired by the observation, I searched the New York Times archive for the term "the Los Angeles Times." The search is not case sensitive. Sure enough, the New York Times capitalizes T in "The Los Angeles Times," as well as in its own paper.

In some uses, this didn't look so bad -- especially where the "the" might be modifying something other than the newspaper name, i.e.: "based a book by the Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez" Personally, I think they should have ditched the "the" altogether. But who am I tell the mightiest paper publishing since the "1800's" what to do?

Some of the New York Times' uses of a capital T in The Los Angeles Times looked really bad:

And The Los Angeles Times's Jerry Crowe takes a look back at how the Lakers can trace their roots

The position right after the capital A in And is yucky. The resulting string of capitals is super-yucky: A, T, L, A, T, J, C. -- all in a row.

Then, after searching the New York Times for references to the Los Angeles Times, I searched the Los Angeles Times for references to the New York Times. Yup. Lowercase Ts for all.

I saw this coming because most of my copy editing work these days follows Los Angeles Times style. So I knew the guide says to lowercase these Ts in running text.

But the LA paper's style guide make one exception. Even in running text, The Times takes a capital T in The. And, no, "The Times" in their pages never means a paper out of New York.

So if you ever see me doing anything crazy, like screaming at a pharmacist to give me meds or gouging my eyes out with a red pen, chalk it up to a sign of "The Times."

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Joel said...

Nice. And I like the close.

June Casagrande said...

Thanks. I thought I was gettin' a little blah-blah yesterday. But, as I've been slacking off on the blogging a bit, I figured that it was okay.


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