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MYTH: e. e. cummings only wrote in lowercase letters

e. e. cummings or E. E. Cummings? They both work.

e e cummings capitalization

What with our new capitalization song, we’ve simply got capital letters on the brain. The song lays out the rules for what sorts of words to capitalize, and which should remain lowercase. But why have rules if you can’t break them? So naturally, our thoughts turned to the famous lowercase poet, e.e. cummings.

Well it turns out that this whole lowercase name business is actually a myth. Norman Friedman, a literature scholar, dispels the apocryphal wisdom that the poet only wrote in lowercase letters. It seems that the convention of writing “e. e. cummings” in lowercase came about after some publishing houses printed his name on the cover in lowercase letters. After a critic wrote that e. e. cummings had legally changed his name to lowercase letters, Cummings’ wife wrote, “you should not have allowed H. Moore to make such a stupid & childish statement about Cummings & his signature.”

This picture of Cummings’ signature, from Friedman’s article, shows the man himself signing his name in the rather typical, capital way:

E. E. not e. e.

And simply by perusing any of Cummings’ poetry, you can see that while the poet does play with standards of capitalization and punctuation, he doesn’t eliminate capitals all together. Take Cummings’ poem, “i have found what you are like,” for example:

What effect does cumming’s unconventional use of capitalization and punctuation have on the poem?

If you want to learn capitalization rules (before you strategically break them like e. e. cummings…or E. E. Cummings), listen to our capitalization song.