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Sometimes, it seems that our lives are full of conventions. There are all sorts of them: social conventions; Star Trek Conventions; Conventions of Witches (and even witches’ conventions, I dare say); Writers’ Conventions; and writing conventions, which is what this post is about.

It doesn’t help matters in English that there are often two correct conventions: English and American, but there is now a third, which is apparently called International or Global English, which seems to be a light (many would say ‘dumbed-down’) version.

A friend of mine, who works at Airbus in Toulouse, has to pass his outbound correspondence to a person who translates his proper English into International English before posting it on.

A task that I find particularly difficult is capitalising titles and headlines. I know what I was taught at school in the UK, and I know what Word and Lulu (a publisher) expect, but I don’t always agree with them.

Take this example: Behind the Smile (one of my series).

This is how it should look according to the rules, but to me, and many others, the lower-case ‘t’ looks like a typo. The more words in the title the more ridiculous a single lower-case letter starting a word looks.

So, do you write it correctly and have a thousand intellectuals smile that you have got it right, while a million people think you have slipped up, or do you write Behind The Smile and please the majority?

I go for the latter. There are more readers in a million people.

Not only that, but people from other nations (French, Spanish, etc) might not know the convention and just think that you are an incompetent self-publisher too.

So, what is a writer to do?

Spelling and punctuation are a matter for which brand of English you like, but you need to be consistent. Don’t let anyone bully you into doing it their way. If someone criticises your punctuation, do some research, consolidate your method and then stick to it.

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