Before the rise of technology culture, knowing when to capitalize a noun was pretty intuitive. Proper nouns were capitalized, while common nouns generally were not.

Things aren’t so simple now. The last twenty years have seen an explosion in the use of mixed case nouns. To complicate matters, the neologisms spouting from technology culture often take the form of compound and hyphenated words, which are sometimes mashups of abbreviations, too.

Some common mistakes I see almost daily:

  • Wi-Fi often appears as “wifi” or “wi-fi”
  • E Ink is commonly written “e-ink”
  • LaTeX is lazily scrawled “latex” or “Latex”
  • Macworld is often written incorrectly as “MacWorld”
  • MacBook is often written incorrectly as “Macbook”

Just remember: Capitalize B after C except after…

Sorry, no such luck. These things don’t make any sense. They aren’t supposed to. In most cases (sorry again), the original creator of the thing described by the noun decided—probably on a whim—to do it one way, and that was that.

Sigh. So how am I supposed to remember the right way?

Better question: How can I avoid the need to remember? Answer to better question: Use TextExpander.

I like avoiding the shift key whenever possible (especially mid-word), so I’ve set up a number of TextExpander snippets that simply transform all-lower-case words into the proper capitalization.

When I type ‘iphone’, TextExpander turns it into ‘iPhone’. ‘wifi’ always becomes ‘Wi-Fi’. And so forth.

Maybe I’m being persnickety, but think about this: Unless you’re a podcaster or you regularly publish videos, your online presence is defined entirely by what you type. It’s never been more important to be grammatically correct and precise.

In real life, whether you like it or not, you are judged by how you dress and speak. Online, you are judged by your words. Make them right as much as you can.