Capitalization question
August 19, 2019 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm doing a website called "Luxury by Design," but it seems to me the 'b' in "By" should get capped when referring to the site by name. "By" is a preposition, yes, but when used in the sense of "according to" or "by agency of" ... doesn't it look better treated as a main word?
posted by noelpratt2nd to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think it looks better NOT capitalized.

Setting it capitalized looks like an error to me.
posted by hydra77 at 2:26 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

That use of "by" is still a preposition. And although capitalization is something that varies from one style guide to the next, in every style guide I'm familiar with that would mean it should still be lowercase.

But this is kind of a design question, no? If you think it looks better for a logo or for display text on a website, then go for it. Nobody is going to come by with a red pen and mark your logo down for incorrect capitalization.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:26 PM on August 19, 2019 [8 favorites]

There's no actual laws or real rules and this is a choice, and it conveys whatever it conveys. I think in this case it will vary by reader.

I'm pretty sure "most" average readers won't really notice it one way or another. Maybe subtly, but a lot of people don't think about this stuff very much.

IMO "Luxury by Design" is more conservative and neutral a choice. It follows normal title case patterns. So that means nerds about this stuff won't notice anything unusual about it either.

"Luxury By Design" will slightly stand out to grammar nerds. The question in their mind will be: Are you just being sloppy and capitalizing Every Letter Of The Title, or are you making a deliberate choice to add emphasis to the preposition which would otherwise be absent? And what does it even mean to emphasize the proposition? Personally without knowing anything I would generally assume the first to be way more common.

I think if you want to distinguish between like "Luxury by Design" vs like "Derelicte by Mugatu", you might add other punctuation. "Luxury, by Design" or "Luxury. By Design." or something might make your intent clearer.
posted by aubilenon at 2:33 PM on August 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Okay, so in referring to it in text, there's no rule specifically giving permission to cap that usage of "by." That's what I thought I might be missing. Thanks.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 2:37 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’m on a train and don’t have access to my Chicago Manual at the moment, but I’m pretty sure Chicago actually allows for the only preposition/article in a title to be capitalized—basically, if it’s the only word that wouldn’t be capitalized, it can be capitalized to make the title look more, I guess, consistent. I think this is supposed to apply more to longer titles, but yes, it is an option.
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 3:00 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm sure if you read enough style guides you'll find one that permits you to do what you want. Regardless of what you want.
posted by aubilenon at 3:02 PM on August 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Who is your audience and which variant would convey ‘luxury’ to them?
posted by iamkimiam at 3:26 PM on August 19, 2019

I'm the copyeditor for a newsletter referring to the title (not really the creator of a site, that was just for a convenient opening here). So I'm wondering if I should point out to them that the name would be better with the capped "By." We're doing AP style. Hunting for that Chicago exception just for curiosity...
posted by noelpratt2nd at 3:32 PM on August 19, 2019

If it’s an already-existing site, no, don’t tell them to change their capitalization. It’s fine the way it is, and it’s never the job of a copy editor to change quoted material (which includes titles)—our job is to make sure the quoted material is accurate to the source.
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 3:48 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

“So I'm wondering if I should point out to them that the name would be better with the capped "By."”

With the gentlest intentions, I’d suggest that unless they’ve specifically asked you for critique, I would assume their stylistic choices are by design and they’re satisfied with them.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:52 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Haha... Final revelation: they and I work for the same company. But I'm well-advised.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 4:06 PM on August 19, 2019

Here are the relevant elements of the rule on capitalizing titles, from the current Chicago Manual of Style, 8.159:
  • 1. Capitalize the first and last words in titles and subtitles. [Example: The Parade’s Gone By]
  • 3. Lowercase prepositions, regardless of length, except when they are used adverbially or adjectivally (up in Look Up, down in Turn Down, on in The On Button, to in Come To, etc.).

posted by burbridge at 5:17 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is a bit tangential but when I import music into iTunes or a similar music-organizing system goes like this:

Any band name that takes the form of "{{Person}} and the {{Band Name}}" I always make sure the middle part is lowercase, for example "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers" or "Bob Dylan and the Band". My only exceptions are when the {{Band Name}} is a singular noun or when the band themselves clearly don't use a definite article, like "Neil Young & Crazy Horse" or "Paul McCartney & Wings".

Back to your thing though, I always make certain that "Guided By Voices" has each first letter capitalized, it just seems ugly without.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 8:10 PM on August 19, 2019

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