Submissives Without Capitalization

It is time for a small grammar rant that has building within me for most of ten years now.

There are many many many blogs out there written in the voice of submissive persons who wish to emphasize their submissive status (or even their notional dehumanized, objectified status as a slave or a pet or a piece of furniture) in their prose. It’s an understandable impulse, and since English rules of grammar don’t have a lot of status signifiers built in, the human language response (inevitably) is to invent some.

So far, so good. That’s what we monkeys do when you give us a language. We evolve it to fit our needs of the day. Gives prescriptivists fits, but oh well, they can suck it.

How do we see this expressed in submissive writing? Well, in lots of ways; but the subject of today’s rant is the use of non-standard capitalization. A submissive or slave will often refer to a dominant by a title like “Master” or “Mistress”; and these will be capitalized just as we have long capitalized references to deities and royalty, to emphasize their exalted status relative to the speaker. The related personal and possessive pronouns will then usually be capitalized as well, for consistency and emphasis. Thus: “After breakfast my Master ordered me to fellate Him and then to lick His boots.”

We’re still solidly on the well-traveled road of language speakers evolving their usages to fit their present needs. Awesome. If a non-standard usage is not only clear, but actually does a better job of transmitting the speaker’s intent than standard usages would do, I have no beef. Again, prescriptivists will squawk, and may suck et cetera.

The road begins to get a little more bumpy when the submissive person decides that if Master is such a lordly fellow that His references need to all be capitalized, then little insignificant subbie shouldn’t put on airs by capitalizing self-references. Thus: “After breakfast i sucked Master’s dick and He said i was a good girl.” Unfortunately converting that usually-capitalized “I” to lower case is just about the only tool the submissive can find in this toolbox, since most self-references in the English language aren’t capitalized. Except — and here’s where the bumpy road goes off the cliff — at the beginning of sentences.

Having found a tool for expressing self-minimization in print, the typical enthusiastic submissive then insists on using that tool rigorously and without exception. Thus: “i sucked Master’s dick and He told me He loves me.” “my Master loves me.”

And this is a problem. Now, readability begins to suffer. Because the OTHER purpose of capital letters is to indicate the beginning of a sentence. It is a primarily typographic function intended to smooth the reading of large blocks of prose. And it is an important function. If you don’t believe me, try and read 35 paragraphs of chatter about “i did this on my webcam” and “my wishlist is on Amazon and i want lots of stuff” and “i wonder if Master really is going to leave His wife the way He promises”. It doesn’t read so badly in-line in my long set of string quotes, but break it up into long paragraphs on a blog and it rapidly becomes wearying. Mix it with non-standard punctuation (a favorite is lots of elipses standing in for periods, dashes, and semicolons all three) and it can make the narrative very hard to follow indeed.

Understand that I’m not purely doing an “old man shouts at clouds” routine here. This is a practical problem for anybody who blogs or types anything anywhere on the internet, because when we do that, we tend to quote each other. And when we quote, it’s normal courtesy to clean up a few simple and obvious errors in the quoted matter, to make each other look good.

But what’s routine becomes rude, I submit, if we are “correcting” deliberate stylistic choices. One typically ought not do that.

So, when it comes to capitalized Masters and “He spanks me, i lurves Him” submissives, we need to leave them alone. But when it comes to an “i” or a “me” or a “my” at the beginning of a sentence:

i won’t do that. my eyes can’t take it. i would go blind. me and my whole clan cannot afford the eye surgery i would need. my eyeballs would wither and then subsequently explode. my heavens, no! i won’t do that.

Hell, Meatloaf wouldn’t do that.

Nope nope nope:

I won’t do that.

So now when I quote submissives, I try to preserve all of their non-standard capitalizations within the sentences, but I sometimes promote their “i” to “I” and their “my” to “My” whenever one of these has to carry the freight of signalling that a sentence is beginning. I think it’s a reasonable compromise that they, themselves, ought to be implementing. “No, Master, i am not repudiating my submission when i capitalize the pronoun for Your pet at the beginning of a sentence. I’m just helping demonstrating that Your girl cares about making these stories easier to read! My heart and my body belong to You, but i understand that typographical conventions are important to clarity!”

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9 comments on “Submissives Without Capitalization”:

TeaMan commented on December 13th, 2012 at 1:02 am:

I don’t really visit too many submissive blogs or websites so I can’t really say that I’ve experienced this very much. However, I have seen my fair share of poorly written, poorly punctuated, and poorly spelled ramblings on the internet. So, I can say with little hesitation, that these things definitely make it harder to read and understand. Especially when a sentence can be read several way depending on the locations of commas, which have all been omitted by the typist. So I say, go right ahead and correct their grammar, some writing conventions should always be observed.

O commented on December 13th, 2012 at 4:13 am:

“i wonder if Master really is going to leave His wife the way He promises”


Fr. commented on December 13th, 2012 at 6:31 am:

Do take whatever editorial liberties you need to take, but add a little disclaimer like this one:

[lightly edited for readability]

nilla commented on December 13th, 2012 at 2:30 pm:

You know, a few of us subs spent a day or two just talking about this, via aisha’s blog ( a few days ago.

And I struggle with it all the time…it *is* annoying to read lower case letter to start sentences with, you argue a good point.

I’ve been working towards publishing, and one beta reader advised me to “standardize all your punctuation” so that it is more readable to the general public.

And after I spent 3 years learning to capitalize Master in the middle of a sentence, and lower case “i” when referring to self.

I’m sure my English teacher will be pleased. :)


Michael Alexander commented on December 14th, 2012 at 9:52 am:

This was a well written article taking on what I consider one of the travesties of the submissive written sub-genre of BDSM erotica. I am CONSTANTLY telling would-be authors who write with altered rules of grammar that their writing will never be accepted outside of a limited range of like-minded individuals. But you’ve forgotten one other issue that commonly afflicts these submissive writers: the desire to consistently write in present tense, and often in first or second person narrative modes. Any accomplished author can tell you that while first person is a natural mode and easily written, it is one of the hardest to use EFFECTIVELY to tell a story. Everything the author needs to communicate, setting, mood, action, and dialog, must be conveyed through the lens of the narrator character. Worse, in second person, the author literally makes the reader a character, and that can easily backfire when the character doesn’t match the reader. Adding present tense to the mix just makes matters worse. I can think of only a handful of authors who have made quality books in present tense.

Good rule of thumb? Newbie authors should stick to third person, past tense and use standardized punctuation and grammar.

GrosaPrap commented on December 14th, 2012 at 5:16 pm:

Perfect solution for the sub that doesn’t want to butcher the English language to emphasize their status, use third person.

‘This one had a good day with Mistress, who took her slut shopping.’, ‘When Master spanked this girl, she became wet.’

Works a lot better in my (not really that humble)opinion.

Calib commented on December 16th, 2012 at 2:16 pm:

I strongly recommend you guys read Valter Hugo Mãe, a Portuguese writer who wrote some novels entirely with lower case letters. It’s not *that* difficult, actually. You get used fast. I guess the Internet interface is the major problem here, and that shitty Arial font and the likes.

Kinbaku Gardener commented on December 22nd, 2012 at 12:12 am:

If you are on Fetlife, there’s a group named “People for the Ethical Treatment of Pronouns” that I think you’d enjoy.

Rope Guy commented on December 22nd, 2012 at 8:28 am:

Hah! I’m not on FetLife because I’ve got too much to do out here on the open web where I can link to stuff that I find amusing. But Yeah, that sounds like something I would find amusing.

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