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Capitalizing on Consistent Usage & Achieving a Higher Level of Quality in Japanese Translation Services

Uppercase or lowercase - that is the question! The two main factors to consider when deciding whether to go large or small are rules and style. 

by Japanese Translation Services

Some of the first things we learn at school are that names and other proper nouns should be in uppercase and a sentence also starts with a capital letter. So far, so simple. But even these two very basic rules hide more complex issues. Read on, find out how to take the quality of the Japanese translation services you provide to your clients up several notches!

Taking the first rule, what constitutes a proper noun? Names of people and pets, geographical locations, nationalities and languages, time periods and events, companies, religions, and political parties are all capitalized, as are days, months, and holidays. Seasons, animals, plants, minerals, and food however, are not proper nouns and should be in lowercase, except when prefixed by a proper noun (e.g. “Italian dressing”). For cases such as academic qualifications, when used as a title they should be capitalized (e.g. Master of Science), but not when used descriptively (e.g. “She is studying for her master’s degree.”)

Looking at the second rule, if it starts a block of text or follows a period, then it is clearly a sentence, but what about if it follows a colon? This depends on how the colon is used. If the colon is used for the purposes of making a list (e.g. “Okonomiyaki is simple: eggs, flour, and cabbage”, Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients.), or only there for the purpose of adding explanation to what precedes the colon, and does not stand on its own (e.g. “Drinking alcohol affects speech: it makes you slur.”), you would not use an uppercase letter. However, if what follows is a complete sentence in its own right, the general thinking is that the first letter should be capitalized. According to the “Chicago style”, however, there have to be two complete sentences after the colon for the first letter to be capitalized.

For headings, the basic rule is to capitalize everything except minor words (articles, conjunctives, and prepositions) of three letters or fewer, but here as well there is not universal agreement.

This mention of “Chicago style” before brings up an important point. Whereas rules on proper nouns are fairly rigid, rules on colon use and headings might more accurately be referred to as guidelines. Remember that the purpose of capitalization is not to fetter the writer, but rather to provide clarity (in the case of proper nouns) and aid readability (in case of division of sentences). Follow the rules, and also develop a consistent style in your capitalization. Nothing screams of shoddy Japanese English translation work like inconsistent usage.

About the Author
Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Japanese Translation Services Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

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