MDEGN 1.18

Can You Spot the Error?

  1. The Commission decided to review the information again.
  2. No doubt eager to strengthen their legal turf, and establish a strong precedent in support of their powers, her application was opposed by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, who appeared at the hearing to argue — with a straight face — that Ms Maitland’s humble tour business would violate the human rights of men.
  3. However, so-called Progressives believe they have a way to create and maintain "good government": place more power in the hands of the executive branch of the US government.
  4. In fact, given that I am quite familiar with the entire Socialist Calculation Debate and have assigned numerous papers covering that subject to my MBA students, it should have dawned upon me by now that "good government" is an oxymoron at best and a delusional term at worst.

To Cap or Not to Cap

Capitalization is going to be our big topic this week. This is something that comes up in Mises Dailies because some authors want to emphasize points or words with capitals and, as you may know, to our modern eye that gets old fast — there is such a thing as overemphasis. It also comes up in Classics because capitalization was used more way back when. And I’ll admit it right here: the other day I proofed a Mises Daily and was so engrossed in other errors I was finding, that I missed about a dozen words that needed to be decapped (my modern eye was obviously on the blink).

If you thought that "commission" in "Can You Spot" should NOT be capped, you were correct. Terms like commission (or commissioner), committee, tribunal, and council are NOT capped when alone and are only capped when they are part of a name. For example, you would say

The House committee convened for their meeting at noon.

since which committee is not specified. However, you would write,

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs convened for their meeting at noon.

Similarly, the "p" in progressives should be lowercased in # 4.

However, so-called progressives believe they have a way to create and maintain "good government": place more power in the hands of the executive branch of the US government.

The capital-P Progressives lived 100 years ago.

In the next example, "socialist" is, of course, an adjective, so it shouldn’t be capitalized. And the "calculation debate" isn’t a proper noun:

In fact, given that I am quite familiar with the entire socialist calculation debate and have assigned numerous papers covering that subject to my MBA students, it should have dawned upon me by now that "good government" is an oxymoron at best and a delusional term at worst.

Here’s another sentence full of good examples of when to and when not to cap:

Another one was Senator Carter Glass who had been secretary of the Treasury and knew his monetary book.

As BK writes, "Senator is used as a title here and therefore capped, but secretary is just a noun and therefore lowercase. However, Treasury is a proper noun and does have to be capped."

See Chicago 8.668.73.

Misplaced

In number two of "Can You Spot" you may have noticed that the "application" was "no doubt eager" (and not the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission). This is a misplaced modifier and it’s the sort of error to look for when someone starts a sentence with a modifying phrase. Our proofer rephrased the sentence as follows:

No doubt eager to strengthen their legal turf and establish a strong precedent in support of their powers, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission appeared at the hearing to argue — with a straight face — that Ms. Maitland’s humble tour business would violate the human rights of men.

For more on misplaced modifiers, listen to or read Grammar Girl’s explanation and examples.

Punctuation Note

Somewhere along the way many of us were taught that you introduce things with a colon. That may be true but not in all grammatical circumstances. Here’s a rule of thumb: whenever you use a colon to introduce something, what is to the left of the colon should be able to stand alone as a sentence — in other words, you should be able to replace the colon with a period.

The article discussed many topics: property law, freedom of association, and privatization.

He wrote, "A full-reserve scheme would prevent banks from lending phantom money."

In the first example, what is to the left of the colon can be a complete sentence on it own. In the second example, "He wrote" cannot stand on its own, thus is followed by a comma and not a colon.

See also MDEGN 4.

The same rule of thumb can often — but not always — be used for the semicolon. You can’t use this rule when you are talking about complicated list items (see MDEGN 18 on run-in lists). However, in every other situation a semicolon separates two independent clauses, which could both be independent sentences.

Name that Reference

This is from a recent Mises Daily:

Her words had been "twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools," and she could not bear it.

For Your Edification

The most recent Chicago Q&A is now up.

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