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Southern Cultures 8.1 (2002) 1-2

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Letters to the Editor

Capital "S" Not Required--Since 1861


When compiling our "Letters to the Editors" we typically go leafing through the previous few weeks' worth of mail to find the best to print for our audience. We begin filled with hope and good will. Usually, we look first for those notes that have been signed and addressed, if for no other reason than to make sure that at least some of the readers kind enough to take the time to write us get a little recognition. However, much of the material we receive comes without signature.

We've found that there's no real rhyme or reason to what will provoke our readers to write us with or without a John Hancock. And although it's against editorial policy at many publications to print anonymous letters, we'd hate to deny our readers these flashes of color. As you'll see from the letters below, we've managed to do a good job of irritating some of you. Apparently, for a few people we've become something like your grade-school best friend's little brother, poking your ribs just when you've gotten a little comfortable or turning the squirt gun on your eye without warning.

We close with two pieces of another type of correspondence--signed letters--which nonetheless still take us to task, and which also are designed to enlighten us, to lift us out of the dark cave in which we work, or at least to wrestle away the squirt gun for a while. Enjoy. We even take the opportunity to respond to the last letter and explain just why we don't capitalize our readers or ourselves.

"This is an insult to my intelligence."


"What could be more offensive? No further reading necessary. I just lost my lunch."


"In flipping to the credits [of the Fall 2001 issue] I was impressed that the overwhelming majority of the contributors were UNC-affiliated or otherwise North Carolinians. I can only suggest that I think your publication would do much to elevate itself if it were considerably less incestuous. The scope of work submitted and the objectivity of its evaluation would greatly improve. If the Fall 2001 issue is at all representative, it is not realistic to call your publication Southern Cultures. Rather, you represent the South's northerly tidewater states as viewed by North Carolinians primarily clustered in Chapel Hill. Dignify your title and mission statement by avoiding the Fall issue syndrome. The literary public would benefit."

Matthew Bowen, Ph.D.
Charlottesville, Virginia

"Ed Talley's comments to the Editors [in the Fall 2001 'Letters to the Editors,' under the heading 'Not Your Oxford American'] reminded me of a much more serious difference between Southern Cultures and Oxford American. Oxford American's editor, Marc Smirnoff, uses a style principle that 'Southern' and 'Southerner' are always capitalized. Though he may be a Yankee, at least Mr. Smirnoff leads Oxford American with due respect to the South and its peoples and its cultures. On the other hand Southern Cultures deems the very subject matter of its existence to be unworthy of capitalization. Is this due to the style manual that you use, or is it due to some form of political correctness? Or, maybe even worse, are you kowtowing to [End Page 1] Big Brother Bill Gates's software and its grievous limitations with capitalization? It seems that you should be smart enough to get together with some of your Southern academicians and literati and produce an acceptable Southern writing style guide."

J. M. M. Harrison
Dry Branch, Georgia

Ed. note: We follow The Chicago Manual of Style's recommendation, but we also believe that truly southern southerners haven't needed capitalization since the early days of the Confederacy. They simply understand and embody these words, confidently, without need of outside reinforcement or false esteem. We'll leave gratuitous capitalization for other publications, including those that are still trying to figure out just what makes a southerner southern. We...


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