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How Do You C It?

posted by Bob Lawless

One of the great challenges to the bankruptcy system if not to the American way of life is those who insist on capitalizing the  letter when discussing chapters of the Bankruptcy Code. If it is "section 1129," as the Bluebook dictates, then it is "chapter 11." Both are merely designations for a portion of a statute.  The defense that is given to me is that the capitalized just looks better. Are we supposed to capitalize words now merely because the mood strikes us? Are there no rules left? The horror. The horror.

When confronted with the RaNdOm CaPiTaLiZeR CrOwd, weak-willed persons such as myself cave in a spirit of compromise and also because I am a heckuva guy. Someone stronger must oppose this tyranny.


A friend tells me the WSJ has joined the side of light and truth on this issue: http://blogs.wsj.com/styleandsubstance/2015/04/30/vol-28-no-4-so-called/.

We should not use unnecessary capitalization. It cheapens our language. The most frequent examples I see in daily practice are "the Court" and capitalization of all words when referring to a pleading, e.g., "therefore, defendant opposes plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment." There also is the mindless capitalization of Plaintiff and Defendant.

Germans capitalize all nouns. So much more efficient.

What if you need to distinguish between chapters of the Code and chapters of a book about the Code?

Writing about a book about the Bankruptcy Code? That, Adam, would be a sign that one's life has completely degraded, and it is time to look for another line of work.

Off capital target, and "and" or, coordinating conjunction(s), could the world of law also require a degree in grammar?

For what it's worth, the Supreme Court has recently shifted to using a capital 'C' for chapter. See e.g. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-5196_8mjp.pdf

They have also started to incorrectly use hyphens. Some of it is due to aesthetics and some of it due to Microsoft Word underlining as incorrect words such as prepetition but not pre-petition.

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  • As a public service, the University of Illinois College of Law operates Bankr-L, an e-mail list on which bankruptcy professionals can exchange information. Bankr-L is administered by one of the Credit Slips bloggers, Professor Robert M. Lawless of the University of Illinois. Although Bankr-L is a free service, membership is limited only to persons with a professional connection to the bankruptcy field (e.g., lawyer, accountant, academic, judge). To request a subscription on Bankr-L, click here to visit the page for the list and then click on the link for "Subscribe." After completing the information there, please also send an e-mail to Professor Lawless ([email protected]) with a short description of your professional connection to bankruptcy. A link to a URL with a professional bio or other identifying information would be great.