The Simple Life

By J.A. Montalbano

I uppercased K.D. Lang’s name in a story the other day. It felt good to do so. It looked good.
We got no angry calls from readers or Ms. Lang’s people.
Wait until the folks at the universities of St. Joseph’s and St. Louis find out we’ve stopped spelling out their first names. Now every Saint is a St., and we can move on to more important concerns.
It’s got me on an austerity kick. I began to have yellow cartoon visions of bangerless Yahoos. I pictured marquee images of “theater” always spelled the American way. I envisioned Gothic-font nameplate-style uses of a lowercase “the” before all publication names.
We can make things simple and generic without losing meaning or distinction.
I’m in the process of updating our house stylebook. Early on I prepared for an onslaught of new entries. Now I’m considering taking out as many entries as I add. (Is it safe to remove “Beavis and Butt-head”?) The fewer things we have to worry about, the fewer things we have to worry about.
No need to guess whether we use Beyonce Knowles’ last name. She’s now a two-named human like most everyone else. (Cher and Madonna are grandmothered in.)
Should we spend valuable deadline time or brain capacity trying to keep track of which publications uppercase the “the” before their names and which don’t? Or looking them up in the Editor & Publisher Year Book? (Is that two words? Do they use an ampersand?) Isn’t it easier to lowercase them all; or, if you must, uppercase them all?
It’s not worth trying to determine whether an individual school uses the exact title “athletics director” or “athletic director.” It’s not worth compiling a stylebook entry listing all the local schools and their preferences. Now they’re all the same: “Athletics Director” and “Athletics Department.” Simple.