Apr 22, 2013

Grammar Hammer: In a World Gone Mad, the Earth Keeps Spinning

I’ve had a difficult time trying to come up with a grammatically-appropriate topic in light of a never-ending stream of horrific news – explosions at the Boston Marathon, ricin-laced letters being sent to Washington, a fertilizer plant in West, Texas that gets blown sky high, killing dozens, including at least 10 first responders. Somehow, discussing grammatical issues just seems pointless.  I’m reminded, though, that the human race is remarkably resilient and will continue to put one foot in front of the other and rally to comfort those who are hurt.

It’s Earth Day. Earth Day was the brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, who wanted to bring environmental issues to the forefront of the national political agenda. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans – groups that had been protesting oil spills, pollution, toxic dumps, pesticides, loss of wilderness and wildlife – rallied to express their common values. In a rare political alignment among Democrats and Republicans, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts(1).

Grammatically, when should you capitalize “Earth?”  I can talk about the hundreds of people who moved heaven and earth to help others in Boston and in Texas.

“Earth” should be capitalized:

  • In references to Earth Day – Earth Day is the name of the holiday, and therefore a proper noun.
  • When included with other planets – Saturn is nine times larger than Earth.

“Earth” is left lower-cased especially after the word “the.”

EXAMPLE:  Save the earth.

On a personal note, I spent my weekend frantically practicing my flute for a concert I played in on Sunday. I’m reminded of this quote, by Martin Luther.

“Nothing on earth is so well-suited to make the sad merry, the merry sad, to give courage to the despairing, to make the proud humble, to lessen envy and hate, as music.”

(Cue: Boston Bruins game this week where the crowd took over the national anthem.)

(1)    Please see www.earthday.org to learn more about Earth Day and its continuing efforts.

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

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