Handling sleeve misspellings

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Hi all,

if an artist obviously misspells a phrase (on the sleeve or vinyl label) like ‘a cappella’ as ‘Acappella’ in a song title - should we let it stand or correct it?

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As a general rule, MusicBrainz editors should correct spelling and punctuation and, to a lesser extent, grammar errors in artists’ names, as well as the titles of works, recordings, tracks and releases. However, this rule does not apply if it can be shown that an artist intentionally used unorthodox spelling, punctuation or grammar.

(from https://musicbrainz.org/doc/Style/Principle/Error_correction_and_artist_intent)

If they consistently use “acappella” in multiple places, it probably qualifies as artist intent. If it’s just one occurrence, it should probably be corrected.

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I’m actually inclined to let ‘Acappella’ stand because, if it’s not already, it will probably be an accepted spelling in the future. To me, although I don’t like it, it’s not an obvious misspelling or a typo. In language, enough wrong people are right.

Do you agree?

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A cappella is coming from Italian alla cappella through French. In French, since 1990, it can be written à capella (officially). But in Latin, that’s capella with one P. Both are accepted. It means “comme à la chapelle” in French. chapelle comes from Latin capella.

acapella or acappella is an American incorrect spelling of French/Italian/Latin words, and will never be correct, it makes no sense at all.

See also: http://www.richardsramblings.com/2013/08/a-cappella/

In doubt, do not change it. Correct spelling depends on language.

For example, if an album is religious music, with titles in Latin, correct spelling would be a capella.
If Italian, a cappella, and prolly a capella is correct too.
If French, a capella, a cappella or à capella are all correct.


Or they just consistently misspelled it, without any intent.


If I had a dollar for each time someone said “the spelling of [word] will NEVER be correct” and were later proven wrong - I’d have at least a dollar. While I fully understand the etymology of ‘a cappella’, and shudder at the spelling ‘acappella’, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the common usage of the latter will become accepted. Usage of acappella vs. a cappella vs a capella. That little blue line will eventiually overtake the others.

No-one will ever spell ‘orange’ without the leading ‘n’…

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AFAIK this locution is used worldwide, not only by Americans, and the fact they are unable to write it as it should doesn’t make them right. It comes from French, which is my native language, you ask how you should write it, i tell you with complete explanation, but you still think you’re correct. OK, end of discussion.

This little blue line is just what it is, a minority of people spelling it incorrectly. It’s not about how “later” it could be written, but on how it is currently written. Languages are evolving, and may be in 500 years this locution will be written differently, why would you anticipate this ?



Also, to be complete on this subject, American professor Paul Brians (https://brians.wsu.edu/), Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, wrote a book called Common Errors in English Usage, here what he wrote about this subject:

In referring to singing unaccompanied by instruments, the traditional spelling is the Italian one, a cappella : two words, two P s, two L s. The Latin spelling a capella is learned, but in the realm of musical terminology, we usually stick with Italian. The one-word spelling “acapella” is widely used by Americans, including by some performing groups, but this is generally regarded by musical experts as an error.

Source: https://brians.wsu.edu/2016/05/16/acapella-a-capella/

My personnal preference is to use a cappella because it comes from Italian (which comes from Latin), and this is the most common form. But since MusicBrainz is all about music, it makes even more sense to use Italian form, rather than Latin (a capella) or French (à capella).

Other interesting links:

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It’s funny how one quote can support both sides of an argument.

(I removed your unattributed emphasis).

I would say that supports the view that the misspelling is actually right, given its common usage. As I said - I really dislike the misspelling, but given I and most other people, are not musical experts, perhaps it’s valid.

In any case, given that on the vinyl sleeve it is not a typographical error, and as you quoted is widely used by Americans (which the artists in this case are), I think we can all agree to let it stand. It’s just how the yanks spell it (sadly).

Thanks for your input


No, misspelled words have to be corrected, according to MB guidelines. Common misspelling is not an intent. Intent would be uncommon misspelling. So, unless you can prove artist’s intent, stick to common correct spelling.


Great. Do you know if MB has a canonical lexicon for en-us? I’ll do some googling in any case.

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Hmmm, I’m American and spell it a cappella. Guess that’s why I love Italian food. Seriously, when you type a cappella here, the spell check indicator tries to suggest capella. I prefer the traditional Italian spelling.