April 11, 2013

Weekly Language Usage Tips: capital or capitol & as such

Posted in as such, capital, capitol at 6:26 am by dlseltzer

Tip 1: Capital or capitol

A reader writes:

Do “capital” vs. “capitol” again….in my book, latter is the building (it seems), former almost all else. On turnpike, two signs in a row: “Harrisburg – State Capital” and “Capitol Grill and Diner” (with a picture of the legislative structure.)

The reader is exactly right. ‘Capitol’ refers to a building where government business occurs, and ‘capital’ as a noun refers to many other things:

  • The city or town that forms the seat of government in a geographic area

Boston is the capital of Massachusetts.

  • Money or resources/assets

I have been accumulating some capital that I am ready to invest.

  • A city renown for some specific activity

Some might say that Paris is the fashion capital of the world; others would say Milan is the fashion capital.

  • An uppercase letter

When writing about the U.S. Capitol, always start the word with a capital.

  • The uppermost section of a column

The capital of that pillar resides at the very top underneath the eaves.

The definitions, above, are in no particular order. As noted, we always capitalize the c in Capitol when referring to the building in DC or to some specific state capitols. (We capitalize it when referring to Pennsylvania’s Capitol.) Capital, on the other hand, is not capitalized. Finally, (and this about exhausts my knowledge of capital and capitol) when referring to a capitol, don’t use the word, ‘building.’ Capitol building is redundant since building is built into the word, ‘capitol.’

Got it? When in doubt about which word to use, use the one with the ‘al’ ending, it will often be the right one. Except, of course, when you are writing about a building.

Tip 2: As such once more

I recently read this:

Victims rarely report crimes involving a family member. As such, this study seeks to find a way to report these crimes without putting a relative’s freedom in jeopardy.

When I saw this, I thought it was time to bring up ‘as such’ again. Third time’s the charm, right?

What’s wrong with it here? Well, if you are using ‘as such’ as a meaningless transitional phrase, it pretty much works, because ‘as such’ has no meaningful meaning the way it is being used. (I hesitated about using ‘meaningful meaning,’ but I liked the sound of it, so it stayed.)

‘As such’ demands a word or phrase antecedent that ‘as such’ is referring to. In our example, ’as such’ isn’t referring to any of the words in the sentence.

This is what I want you to remember:

‘As such’ does NOT mean ‘as a result.’

 ‘As such’ does NOT mean ‘therefore.’

‘As such’ does NOT mean ‘thus.’

‘As such’ does NOT mean ‘to that end.’

‘As such’ means ‘by or in itself’ or ‘intrinsically’ or ‘per se,’ and you should only use ‘as such’ when it has an antecedent.

She was a glutton for punishment. As such, she undertakes all of the impossible assignments.

In this example, you can replace ‘such’ with ‘as a glutton for punishment’ so ‘as such’ works here.

 She was a glutton for punishment. As a glutton for punishment, she undertakes all of the impossible assignments.

 So there.


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