'The' capitalized after colon but not 'a'/'an'

I've noticed that, when using title case, 'the' gets capitalized after a colon (i.e. for a subtitle), but 'a' and 'an' do not. I am not sure about other styles, but the Chicago Manual of Style is clear that the first word of the subtitle is always supposed to be capitalized (see 8.163 for a specific example with 'a'). Unless there are any examples where doing this would cause a problem, is there any chance that these words could be treated the same way as 'the'?
  • The processor should be fixed to do this, but according to 8.156, the first word in a (colon-linked) subtitle should always be capitalised, even in sentence case.

    I'm not sure what to do there. If some styles may allow lowercase chars following a colon in a title, capitalisation of the first word should maybe be imposed by both text-case="sentence" and text-case="title". Alternatively, if it's really a general requirement, it could be set as a capital in the field itself.

    I'll wait for further feedback in this thread before adjusting the processor code.
  • I don't see any harm in adding this to title-case, which is used only in English.
    The reason we don't want to apply this more generally is that while it's a universal rule for English titles, it is _not_ the case for many other languages (e.g. French, Spanish).

    We currently don't apply (and discourage applying) text-case="sentence" in any styles, so that's a moot point.

    My current thinking on this is that people should store their English titles with capitalized first letters after the colon. What we should, imho, change is the behavior of the built-in pseudo-sentence case conversion, which I believe should capitalize after colon, question mark, and exclamation mark (there is another thread on that).
  • Built-in pseudo-sentence case is the Zotero context menu transform on the Title field?
  • yes, sorry, that could have been clearer
  • So to be sure I've grasped things correctly on the processor side, it will be acceptable to force capitalisation after a colon in title-case as a rescue action, but under best practice that word will already have been capitalised in the input. Is that a good description?
  • edited October 14, 2013
    I've run across another odd thing that is somewhat related in considering what to do about this. It seems to be standard practice (Chicago §8.159, MHRA §6.5) to capitalize the second word of a hyphenated compound in headline-style titles. If I ask Zotero to apply title case directly to the entry, it does this correctly (e.g. "Twelfth-Century"), but when getting a citation it does not (giving me "Twelfth-century"), regardless of the style I am using. (This is another slightly thorny one, though, given the exceptions to the rule.)
  • Thanks for pointing this out. I'll be working on a new processor function for text-case="title" soon.
  • That will be splendid. Thank you!
  • The patch plugin now has a refactored version of the title case function. Give it a try, feedback very welcome.
  • If I've understood this thread correctly, if/when 'a' and 'an' immediately follows a colon (in the sub-title of a book), they will be automatically capitalized when they are processed. However, when I generate a bibliography of a collection (i.e., right-click a collection, click 'Create Bibliography From Collection'), they are not automatically capitalized. Should they be? And, if they should, is this the appropriate place to inform the developers that it needs to be fixed?
  • edited October 17, 2013
    Incidentally, I wasn't sure if the patch plugin mentioned in the previous post would address this issue or not, but I installed it, and I got the same result--i.e., 'a' and 'an' immediately following a colon are not capitalized when generating a bibliography.
  • generating a bibliography in which style? This only applies to styles that title case (like Chicago), not to sentence case (like APA).
  • Ah, right. Some of the discussion above suggests the possibility of forcing a capital after a colon even without case-conversion, if the reference is identified as being in English.

    I suspect that doing that might cause more confusion rather than less, but it could be done. The alternative (which I think is less work for everyone in the long run) would be to expect the immediate post-colon word to be capitalised in the Zotero title field.

    Any views?
  • I'd leave this alone for exactly the reasons you say.
    If we want to fix this we can look at this for import.
  • I get the same result with both Chicago and Turabian. I guess I'm not sure I understand your last comment Adam. Are you saying you don't think this is a problem? Why wouldn't you treat 'a' and 'an' the same way you treat 'the'? If 'a' and 'an' should always be capitalized when they immediately follow a colon (at least in the styles for which this scenario applies), why not modify the processor to process them properly?
  • My last comment was referring to styles that don't title-case otherwise, so doesn't apply to Chicago. (Though note as per my post further above, that you should ideally just fix this in your data. Automating this for title case is a stop-gap and citations will still look wrong when you need them in sentence case).

    I can confirm that this doesn't yet work with the latest version of the processor plugin, "a" is still lowercased after a colon in titles
  • Thanks for testing, all! I'll take another look.
  • The patch plugin should be happier now: it was completely failing to capitalise "stop words" following a colon. Sorry for that false start.
  • I tested the latest patch to the process gadget (1.0.125), and unfortunately, it's still not completely fixed--'an' is capitalized now, but 'a' is not. Just to be clear on what I'm doing, using the latest standalone version (4.0.11), I just right-click a collection folder, click 'Create Bibliography...', and choose either Chicago or Turabian. With the latest patch 'an' immediately following a colon (in the sub-title) gets capitalized, but 'a' still doesn't.
  • Ah. I need to update my installation note. The processor patch plugin only works with Zotero for Firefox. Sorry for the confusion.

    I've tested that combination, and it definitely works with the new processor.
  • yup, works for me.
  • could you clarify what this does exactly with the preposition list? It looks to me that when you have two consecutive prepositions the second one still gets uppercased. (e.g. You get "Article about Something Important" but "Article beyond About Something Important")
    Is this on purpose and if so why? I haven't come up with an actual example where this would come up, but I'm sure there is one.
  • Nicely tested. This is an accidental result of the implementation, but it's probably simpler to focus on the desired output. Correct to assume that both prepositions should be lowercased?
  • Yes. Let's keep this a simple a possible (in terms of what actually happens, not sure if that makes the technical part less simple).
  • The code was easy (a change to a single character did the trick). I've refreshed the patch plugin. Looking forward to the next bug. :-)
  • edited October 18, 2013
    I seem to be not thinking properly tonight. I installed the patch, converted a record title from title case to sentence case. However, the word after the colon isn't in upper case. I'm using the

    Zotero processor gadget 1.0.126
    Zotero 4.0.12
    FireFox 24.0

    Have I misunderstood the purpose of the patch?
  • edited October 18, 2013
    @DWL - If I understand you correctly, you're talking about the auto-convert function in Zotero (right-click --> convert to sentence case). That's entirely separately. This patch will only affect citation output and only in styles that use title case. Improving sentence case conversion is still planned, though.

    @Frank - OK, that's looking good now, also the hyphenation.

    This might be a separate issue (given that the current specs only mention colon) But what about other subtitle delimiters? It would make sense to include not just colon but also question mark and exclamation mark (though not periods). I get lowercase "a" after a question mark still. Or am I missing something?
  • My mistake. My eagerness for the sentence case conversion improvement led me to misread the purpose of this thread.
  • @adamsmith: Good catch. I saw those mentioned in the discussion, but left them out in the first draft to simplify the initial coding.

    It's been refreshed again, should now capitalise after exclamation points and question marks as well.
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