29 Feb

Not so black and white?

Today’s BuzzFeed Copy Desk ‘Quibbles & Bits’ email bulletin was an interesting read for me, as it discussed the capitalisation of black when referring to race.

This is something I grapple with fairly frequently when working on reports and manuscripts that discuss clinical trial data. My perception is that there has been a gradual trend towards a lowercase B? Personally, my inclination is to capitalise Black because of the connotations of the word, but conversely, I prefer to keep white lowercase. That, of course, leads to every copy-editor’s worst nightmare – mixed Black and white! That will never do, so my policy is to correct only for standardisation purposes, unless the style guide has a specific ruling.

BuzzFeed highlighted that the US National Association of Black Journalists has recently changed its stance, from using black to Black. This goes against AP style, which is to use black across the board. Others capitalise both Black and White. As ever with editing, it seems to be a case of ‘it depends’, but with the caveat that editors and proofreaders need to keep up with the latest developments in style and usage.