“I” in lower-case?

Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Language Issues | 0 comments

I am a reader of The Times of India, Kolkata edition and on the pages of this daily I often find the first person singular pronoun I spelt in the lower case (as i). Since I am fifty-one years old, it can be safely assumed that I am reading English for the last forty-five or more years. In all these years and in all the texts that I have gone through over several decades, I have never come across such a practice. It is the standard custom of English Orthography to capitalize the first person singular pronoun, as well as its contracted forms as in I’m or I’ll.
I in lower case
So I had to go to people who know best, the authorities of the English language, to check it. I opened my best friend as far as English punctuation is concerned: a small book entitled The Penguin Guide to Punctuation by R. L. Trask. On Page 82 of that book I found this entry: The pronoun “I” is always capitalized. Example: She thought I’d borrowed her keys, but I hadn’t.

So why does TOI often write the I in lower-case? I have no answer. However, it appears that for writing which goes into print, the standards are explained in respective house styles. That means if you are a journalist, such standards are decided by someone or a group of people in the editorial board and not by you.

It will be interesting to read R. W. Burchfield’s note on the capitalization of “I” in The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Burchfield says:”It is a minor curiosity that I, of all the pronouns, is the only one that must always be written with a capital. As the older forms ic, ich, ik etc., gave way to the reduced form I during the Middle Ages, the new form was generally written as I or y, and was often merged by the scribes with the verb or auxiliary it governed. With the advent of printing in the late 15c, the new form I soon established itself as the only standard form, though instances of small i can be found as late as the 17c.”

Yet, wouldn’t it be a humbling experience for many of us if we could write the I using the lower case with a sweet little dot? What do you think?

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