Readings — From the January 2013 issue


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From comments on the Wikipedia entry for the Beatles. Last fall, Wikipedia conducted a community-wide poll to settle the below dispute, which began in 2004. Users voted for lowercase “the.”

I was under the impression that within a sentence, the “the” in front of a group name does not need to be capitalized. You wouldn’t write, “I really like The Beatles.”

They were “The” Beatles not “Beatles,” like “The” Kinks. “The” Who, not the “Who.”

I realize that, but when referring to a group within a sentence it’s not necessary to capitalize the “the” portion of the name.

There is no difference in grammar: all names must have capital letters.

If there’s no difference in grammar, then why are all my professionally edited Beatles books consistently “wrong” in this respect? I refuse to believe a bunch of hobby editors at a website would know better than professionally trained and well-paid editors at a publishing house. Here’s evidence: the Beatles’ biography at,, Encyclopaedia Britannica.

I have checked the entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and their entry “the Beatles” is incorrect.

I’m not an English major, but the way I see it, “The Beatles” should be used whenever you are referring to the group as a whole. I also think “Beatles” may be considered a word on its own, used to describe individual members (“George was a Beatle”) and things that are related to The Beatles.

It is standard practice when determining usage to allow those whose logo it is to make such determinations. If The Beatles capitalize the “T,” then a capital T it is.

Listen, you whinging poms, don’t pin this kerfuffle on UK/US differences, okay? I’m all in favor of “The” rather than “the.”

Alright, I think consensus is clear. It’s The Beatles, so let’s make it project policy.

I have a MA in Modern English Language and am a former proofreader and copy editor and current music editor for In my professional work we never capitalize the “the” in band names, never ever.

Are you on the windup or what? What makes “The” less important than “Beatles”?

It’s an article.

I don’t feel anyone will convince you that you are wrong, so go and find someone else to play with, son. I’m very bored with you. Bye-bye.

I must say I find your attitude interesting, as I’ve done my best not to insult you here. I don’t see why you are trying to do that to me.

Never mind articles or websites. Just take a look at Ringo’s bass drum. At least HE knew what their name was!

From the band’s album covers, it’s not obvious that they considered the word “The” an essential part of their name. Note that the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band shows the band name as “BEATLES.”

This whole nonissue is a bunch of hairsplitting. While a few folks fastidiously change “the” to “The” when the word “Beatles” follows, REGARDLESS OF THE CONTEXT OR HOW MANY TIMES THE NAME HAS ALREADY BEEN MENTIONED AND/OR CAPITALIZED, this is not done with any other band. This is time- and space-wasting, not to mention a bit hypocritical.

Did someone ask for an expert in British English? I have had nineteen years in publishing and editing, and I have to agree with my American colleague above. And if the copy editors who worked on books are wrong, and if the editor is wrong, and if I am wrong, then why even seek the opinions of professionals here? Among professionals, it does appear the lowercase usage outnumbers the capitalized one; it is only among amateurs that the professional usage is slammed! So let the pros be wrong. In which case Ringo Starr’s site, which uses lowercase, must also be wrong. George doesn’t seem to mention it. John Lennon’s people must be wrong on their official site. Brian Epstein’s site is wrong. Only Paul McCartney capitalizes.

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