Usage of small initial letters in German
German spelling according to the 'gemässigte kleinschreibung' (moderate use of lower case letters) is the main raison d'être of a movement for a 'vereinfachte rechtschreibung' (simplified orthography) and has simple rules:
Only these words are capitalised:
- First word in sentences;
- Proper names including geographical locations (e.g. Bayern, but 'der bayrische könig Ludwig');
- Salutation words Sie/Ihnen (You).
- This applies also to text in headings.
Other elements of the proposed simplified orthography are:
- Deliberate use of hyphen in compound words to ease reading (programmier-methode, kaffee-ersatz)
- Simplified hyphenation of words with st (sons-tiges) or ck (würfelzu-cker)
- Keep third identical consonant in compound words (schifffahrt)
- Germanisation of foreign words ( telefon, grafik, but not komputer or kwafför (coiffeur)
Many of these other elements are now part of the 'Neue Deutsche Rechtschreibung' . In Switzerland the germanisation of foreign words is not put to the same extreme as in Germany (CH: mayonnaise, portemonaie, spaghetti; D: majonnäse, portmonnee, spagetti) because French and Italian are also languages in our country.
When I started writing according to these rules in 1960 I did not know about other people proposing these simplifications. Later (around 1970) I found articles in newspapers and magazines as well as organisations, such as the Swiss "Bund für vereinfachte rechtschreibung", the German "aktion kleinschreibung e.v." or the Austrian "österreichische gesellschaft für sprachpflege und rechtschreib-erneuerung".
My personal reason to start this method of writing were:
- Horrible number of rules and exceptions for capitalisation (many replaced by new silly rules in the German Spelling Reform)
- Weak small finger dealing with upper casing on mechanical typewriter (this is no more an issue with modern keyboards on a computer).
Usage in business
During my 18 years employment at the computer centre of a Swiss concern I wrote all manuals and correspondence with this 'non-standard spelling'. It was even possible to place the rule for documentation in the whole concern (I was responsible for documentation):
"Complete parts (but not smaller entities, such as chapters) of a manual may use English or the German simplified orthography".
Writing on behalf of my own company D+DD I use this writing style. The customers are very reluctant to go this route - they are even reluctant to follow the New German Spelling Reform...