Editing for Liberty #5: Tea Parties and TLC

Spot the Error

  1. “‘The old tax is the good tax’.”
  2. Mattel bought The Learning Company (TLC) for $3.5 billion in 1999.
  3. Several Tea Party congressmen were recently called “terrorists” by powerful Democrats.
  4. Internet and e-mail providers are being pressured to keep their clients from illegally downloading material.

Punctuation and Multiple Sets of Closing Quotes

The wording in the Chicago Manual of Style about the position of closing punctuation when you have both single and double quotes is sometimes ambiguous: is the punctuation before only the final closing quotation mark (as in sentence #1, above) or is it before both closing punctuation marks? But the example in Chicago 13.28 makes it clear:

“Don’t be absurd!” said Henry. “To say that ‘I mean what I say’ is the same as ‘I say what I mean’ is to be as confused as Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. You remember what the Hatter said to her: ‘Not the same thing a bit! Why you might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see”!'”

So, although the quotation marks will blend into an odd-looking threesome, sentence 1 should be

“‘The old tax is the good tax.'”

The Political Tea Party

Although it is an established movement on the American political scene, the “tea party” is not an official group or party. So unless you are talking about a specific organization, like the Tea Party Express, tea party should remain lowercase (contra sentence #3).

Several Tea Party congressmen were recently called “terrorists” by powerful Democrats.

Capitalization of Business Names

When I came across sentence #2, my first instinct was to uncap the The in “The Learning Company” — when you mention a company name, it’s like mentioning a newspaper name, so the the is not treated like it’s part of the title (the Washington Post, the LA Times, etc.). But what made me hesitate here is that this company’s abbreviated name is not “LC” but “TLC,” meaning that the is part of the company’s official name. Does that mean the article should be capped?

Fortunately, CMoS (paragraph 8.67) reassures me that my first instinct was right:

The full names of institutions, groups, and companies and the names of their departments, and often the shortened forms of such names (e.g., the Art Institute), are capitalized. A the preceding a name, even when part of the official title, is lowercased in running text. Such generic terms as company and university are usually lowercased when used alone (though they are routinely capitalized in promotional materials, business documents, and the like).

Thus, sentence #2 should read

Mattel bought the Learning Company (TLC) for $3.5 billion in 1999.

(This rule also applies to groups like the Tea Party Express.)

Closing Words

Although CMoS indicates that it should be e-mail (as in sentence #3), we prefer to close it (email). The dictionaries will probably catch up to this convention in a few years. As Mike’s list of tips explains, “Over time, new words tend to move from open or hyphenated to closed, and the older forms start to look antiquated.” See also CMoS 7.79. Other closed words that you might frequently see include businessman, website, and healthcare.

Just for Fun

Well, I guess this might be considered fun. Test your proofing skills with this quiz of often-confused words! Warning: you fail if you get more than 2 wrong!

Grammar Underground

Although I haven’t been reading it weekly, there is a neat grammar and writing blog that I recommend. June Casagrande’s Grammar Underground has covered topics like collective nouns, apostrophe imposters, and tips for writing better sentences. She also has a neat podcast (check out today’s episode on the “sneak peak,”) and her  Snobservations are highly amusing (I particularly recommend snobservation #35).


Is there something you’d like to contribute or see covered in Editing for Liberty? Post a comment! Contributions to “Spot the Error” are especially welcome.

1 Comment

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One response to “Editing for Liberty #5: Tea Parties and TLC

  1. Pingback: Editing for Liberty #6: Shadow and Square | Invisible Order

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