Capital Offence

joblessSomething I very often have to correct when I’m helping students with their writing is the overuse of capital letters. Obviously, we need to use a capital letter for the beginning of a sentence or a proper noun, however, using them for a whole or phrase is the written equivalent of shouting, especially when writing an e-mail.

That’s why I was interested to see this article on the BBC website which shows exactly how upset people can become when they are ‘shouted’ at. The first interesting word in this article is in this paragraph:

The actual words may seem harmless enough, but their appearance ultimately contributed to the firing of ProCare Health worker Vicki Walker in Auckland.

To ‘fire‘ someone means to make them redundant or tell then that they can no longer work for you or your organisation. This word will be familiar to anyone who watches the TV show ‘The Apprentice‘.

The next interesting expression is in the fifth paragraph where the author mentions a ‘capital offence‘. A ‘capital offence‘ is a very serious offence or crime. A related expression is ‘capital punishment‘ meaning the use of death as a punishment for a crime.

Slightly further on in the article, there are two more interesting words:

The forum in ancient Rome, for instance, showcased the emperors’ great deeds written in capital letters.

A ‘showcase‘ is an opportunity to demonstrate the best features of something and when we use it as a verb, we mean to show the best aspects of something. In this case, it is the emperors’ ‘deeds‘ which are being showcased. ‘Deeds‘ means their actions or things they have achieved.

A couple of paragraphs further on, there is an interesting phrasal verb. It is mentioned that capitals are a way to ‘set text apart‘. To ‘set apart‘ means to divide the text or make one particular part look different to the rest.

A little later in the text, there is a great compound noun used when it is mentioned that Martin Manser said the internet was a bit of a ‘free-for-all‘. A ‘free-for-all‘ is a situation where there are no rules and people are free to do whatever they want. It’s usually used in a negative way.

The last phrase in this article I would like to look at is ‘so be it‘. We use the phrase ‘so be it‘ when we accept a situation, even though it may have some negative aspects.

What things annoy you in e-mails?

Today’s photo is by Jason.