One of the challenges of writing about and publishing lots of books about drama in language education is trying to decide what to call the thing where students read plays or dramatized texts out loud. Is it readers theatre, readers theater, reader’s theater, or reader’s theatre?

You’d think it would be easy to solve this problem: check a corpus.

Well if Google’s Ngram Viewer is worth anything, it’s clearly reader’s theater, with readers theatre a close second! Which is odd because those two options vary on both spelling and the apostrophe.

But the plot thickens. What happens when we capitalize the words, which is not uncommon?

Now we have a very clear winner: Readers Theatre. What is going on? Does this simply mean that the British are more likely to capitalize the term? Or is the sample size so small (these are really low-frequency terms in the corpus of books in English in general)? Perhaps the personal preferences of a handful of authors are having an outsized effect.

I’m not a great linguistic scholar or statistician, but even I know there’s one more thing we need to look up: Is Readers Theatre or reader’s theater more popular? Who will win in the fight between the uppercase and the lowercase?

It looks like another clear winner: Readers Theatre!

But wait! There’s a case-insensitive button. Will that change anything? Let’s go back and look at all four variations (Readers Theatre,reader’s theater,readers theater,reader’s theatre) regardless of case.

The winner and champion!

It looks like Readers Theatre takes the prize! If anyone has any ideas on why this might be, I’d love to hear them in the comments. And let us know which one you prefer and why!

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