The Capitalization Mishap

For the longest time, I believed that both cardinal directions and names of seasons should always be capitalized. Thus, I would write sentences like, “Much as migratory birds do, I like to move South in the Winter.” I am sure that at some point I looked it up, so I’m not sure if I found a source that was wrong or outdated or if I just did not read my source as attentively as I could have (all of these possibilities seem very consistent with my general way of being), but in any case, it turns out I was wrong.

Particularly embarrassing, though, is how I discovered I was wrong.

I was helping my wife, who is a third-grade teacher, mark up some paragraphs written by her students. These paragraphs were discussing various countries, and thus would often feature both season names and cardinal directions.

I asked her if she cared, and she said that she taught her students to not capitalize random words that shouldn’t be capitalized so she wanted them in lower case. I said that I thought they should be capitalized, but I also looked it up because I am usually quite open to the possibility that I’m wrong. Open to, but not in expectation of…I fully expected to be vindicated.

I was not.

Naturally, I even dug down into the second, third, and fourth Google results to see if I could find something that agreed with me. But the preponderance of the evidence was quite clear: those words should only be capitalized if part of a region name (the US South) or part of a proper noun (William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale). Otherwise, they are not.

I thought back over all the pieces I’ve written over all these years where I’ve gotten it wrong. Oof.

Life is, of course, a journey. As CGP Grey says, if you want to be right, you have to be willing to change your mind. And now I publicly acknowledge that I was wrong and I have changed my mind.

One thought on “The Capitalization Mishap

  1. Hurray for changing your mind when wrong. Good for you! Now can you start a remedial program for politicians in which you can teach that skill, as well as the skill of finding out for sure what is right?


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