Jun 30, 2011

Capitol vs. Capital and Other Common Typos in Public Interest News


Capital or capitol? (And do you capitalize it?)

This is the latest in Beyond PR’s monthly series Catching up with Editorial, where a member of PR Newswire’s Editorial department shares tips and tools you can use to catch typos in your own content.

In last month’s post (Mind Your S and Ds), we highlighted a catch made by Senior Editor Diana Dravis in our Washington D.C. bureau.   Although that particular catch (Eastern Standard Time should be Eastern Daylight Time) is a mistake that can occur in a variety of news releases, Diana and our other editors in Washington, D.C. have to keep their eyes open for some unique client error catches that don’t typically occur in other copy.

Across the world, PR Newswire’s editors work on all sorts of news – financial, fun, international, lifestyle – even in different languages as our Latin America and International departments can attest!

However, our Editorial bureau in Washington, D.C. is where the majority of PR Newswire’s government and public interest press releases are processed.  Because of this, they have to watch for typos that are more common to these topics.

If you find that you write content about nonprofit, government, advocacy or other public interest issues, read on for a few tips from our D.C. Editors on what to look out for.

One of the most common misspellings in the English language is capitol vs. capital.  You may remember being warned against this misspelling in grade school, and for our public interest editors, they watch for it every day!

When referring to the building in Washington, D.C. used by the United States Congress, it should be spelled “Capitol” (with an “o” and a capitalized “C”).  When referring to a building occupied by a state legislature, lowercased “capitol” (still with an “o”) is by definition the correct use (though some style guidelines may make an exception to the lowercase rule).

On the other hand, “Capital” with an “a” has many different meanings. For public interest news, the most common usage is when referring to the city or town that is the official seat of government in a country or state.  For instance, Washington, D.C. is the nation’s capital.

Other mistakes commonly caught by our Washington, D.C. editors in public interest news:

  • insure versus ensure
  • incorrect names of legislation (e.g., American Disabilities Act should be Americans with Disabilities Act)
  • Wallstreet and Mainstreet should be Wall Street and Main Street
  • misspelled acronyms for major organization names, legislation, and policy initiatives
  • misspellings in names of high profile political figures
  • incorrect positions or titles (e.g., Secretary of Education should be Secretary of Health and Human Services)

Diana shared that editors spend a lot of time reading and discussing politically-oriented news and if necessary turn to news outlets to check on legislation and titles.  Another reason for their familiarity is that if they are seeing one release on a particular piece of legislation, they’re usually seeing four or five more.

An advantage of having public interest releases handled by editors who live and work in D.C. is that they are surrounded by the news and legislation that your release might address!

That is exactly what happened when senior editor Wendy Minter was reviewing a recent news release and noticed that “Constituents” had been incorrectly spelled.

Last month, our editors found a total of 10,681 errors; year-to-date (as of June 1st), they have found 55,407.  In our Washington, D.C. bureau alone, editors caught 2,296 errors and mistakes last month.  Our catch rate (an internal metric that tracks the ratio of mistakes caught in press releases) is 661 catches per 1,000 releases.

Image courtesy of Flickr user keithreifsnyder.

Kate GaloAuthor Kate Goebbel is a communications professional at PR Newswire, and loves to consult on press release techniques, SEO and results. She infrequently tweets at @kate_city and can be found on LinkedIn.



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