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It's E.E. Cummings

Just catching up with the Chicago Tribune op-ed piece on the trend to write in all-lowercase letters. The article included a sentence, “caplessness worked for e.e. cummings, right?” Once and for all, Edward Estlin Cummings indulged in many typographical effects in his poetry, but he capitalized his name conventionally.

Here is an article by Norman Friedman that includes a reproduction of his signature and a comment from Cummings’ widow that insisting on lowercasing his name was “stupid & childish.”

I think that it’s an annoying affectation* with people like k.d. Lang and bell hooks (K.D. Lang! Bell Hooks” There! Sue me!), but ascribing the practice to Cummings is doubly annoying.


* I’m irresistibly reminded of Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, SanDeE* in L.A. Story.



Posted by John McIntyre at 11:10 AM | | Comments (8)


k.d. Laing

It's Lang (or lang), with no "i".

So it is. Fixed.

However, is IS Shona Laing

I enjoy the album of hers that I have.

I run into this lowercase problem with company names. How will you know it's a proper name, if you don't cap it?

And I have developed a huge urge (now that my pub has eliminated the "www.") to always capitalize URLs, just so that when you start to read the word, you know it's different somehow.

I've often wished I'd been the copy editor of Archy, the cockroach whose works appeared in the writing of Don Marquis.
How can you not admire an insect with the urge to write despite the inability to use the shift key and having to struggle with paper and carriage returns before the rise of computers?
Using lowercase seemingly inappropriately is not a gimmick when you weigh only a few grams.

Very interesting. I believe I had heard Mr. Cummings had changed his name to lowercase letters before. And I believe it was during my college poetry classes!

Great post!

OK. So, who's going to set Apple straight on iTunes?

Perhaps it was R. D. Laing whom you'd confused with the singer.

Hallelujah for you, John McIntyre! Years ago, an editing colleague shared this little tidbit of information, which I have dutifully passed on, always to be greeted with exclamations of doubt and looks that say "aren't you a cute little word nerd to know such a piece of information."

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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