Proofreading lessons

Is it kid’s meals or kids’ meals or kids meals? That was the sticking point in November, when we published our annual “Kids Eat Free” directory.

Today, as I assembled seven proofreaders’ corrections to our June issue, there were questions about colons, capitalizations and hyphens.

One of my proofers noticed inconsistencies in how we were treating the first word following a colon. The rule is that a complete sentence following a colon requires a capitalized first word and a list (of words or phrases that are not complete sentences) does not. So this is correct:

What they found caught my attention: Men who had good memories of their relationships with their fathers while growing up better handled the stresses of adult life. (This is from a story about how dads can build good relationships with their children.)

And this is correct:

Other examples of adaptations: placing extra straps and pads on wheelchairs and walkers or re-wiring toys so a child who is unable to manipulate them can interact by touch or use a communication device… (From a story about Southwest Human Development’s new A.D.A.P.T. store.)

Moving on to our capitalization dilemma. When is a father “Dad” versus “dad”…?

Dad is capitalized only when used as a proper noun. So it’s “a dad” or “my dad” or “time spent with dad” (because you’re not talking about a specific dad but instead using the word as one would use the phrase “a dad”) … but “Dad (as in my dad, the guy I call “Dad” ) and I love fishing.”

Another capitalization catch: Our resident Francophile Mary Ann Bashaw noticed that we had used “french doors,” not “French doors” in a description of amenities at a hotel listed in our June issue’s directory of family-friendly resorts. The capitalized version is correct, as is French toast and French fries and French pedicure.

Another story in our June issue mentioned a “six-and-a-half pound baby.” It was missing a hyphen and should have been “six-and-a-half-pound baby.”

Enough for today. And by the way, it’s “kids meal.”

“Kid’s meal” means a meal that belongs to one child. “Kids’ meal” means one meal that belongs to a bunch of kids (and I would not want to negotiate that sharing lesson). “Kids meal” means a meal planned/prepared/priced (or whatever) to be appropriate for kids.

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3 responses to “Proofreading lessons

  1. SAt last! I’ve always been confused about this very subject. Thanks.

    I feel ya on the consistency issue. When the art directors at our publication encounter “inconsistencies” like that, they get very impatient.
    “But you had a hyphen there last time!”
    “It’s not a modifier this time.”
    “Aaak!”
    I told her — totally jokingly, and we have a good-enough working relationship that I can say this — “I’m going to put a sign over my desk saying ‘Just do it, bitches!’”

  2. Is it kid’s meals or kids’ meals or kids meals? Enough for today. And by the way, it’s “kids meal.”

    You changed the word meals to meal, which makes it all a little less confusing than plural possessives. But, if there were many kids with many meals, they would be kids’ meals – many meals belonging to many kids.

    • Thank you, Karen! You’re right that I changed the game by (unintentionally) changing “meals” to “meal.” I think it just depends on context at this point, right? If I mean “kids meals” as in “The restaurant offers kids meals” and you mean “kids’ meals” as you described it then are we both right?

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