Ask a Capitalization Question

dearreaders

questionsquareNot too long ago, we published a post regarding the ins and outs of capitalization. It seems we’ve attracted a great deal of traffic from people looking for answers that aren’t readily available in the post.

If you have a capitalization question on your mind – let loose and ask it in the comment section below. We will promptly answer your inquiries as soon as we receive notice. And don’t be shy, you never know when you can help a fellow writer facing the same dilemma.

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Posted by The Priceless Team

35 Comments

  1. Jon Farrar, February 15, 2012:

    Thank you for your reply. But I’m still troubled. In the examples I gave, “The Judge” is used by other characters in place of his proper name, Willam. And “The Widow” is used as a proper name in place of Ebba Beasley. In neither case are the words used to describe the person, their position, or marital status. Would that usage not be the same as someone’s nickname, say Kingfish or Snuffy? And, would there be a difference in dialogue or in the narration?

  2. The Priceless Team, February 15, 2012:

    Hi Jon,

    Yes, if the phrase is being used in place of the person’s name, they would then be capitalized. Also, they would be capitalized whether they were present in the narration or dialogue.

  3. Jon Farrar, February 17, 2012:

    So long as I’m having good fortune with responses to my questions, here’s another. Again in fiction, dialogue, in reference to “Prairie Creek” a character calls it a “crick.” Would it be written as “Prairie Crick” or “Prairie crick?” I’m guessing since “crick” is not part of the proper name it’s lower case, but would appreciate other opinions.

  4. The Priceless Team, February 22, 2012:

    Hi Jon,

    I apologize for the delay. In this instance, if the character is replacing the creek’s proper name with Prarie Crick, it would be capitalized. For example, “The family is meeting at Prarie Crick for a picnic tomorrow.”

    However, if he’s simply referring to the creek as “crick” without using the proper name, it wouldn’t be capitalized. For example, “The crick runs through the middle of the forest.”

    Hope that helps! Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any more questions. :)

  5. Jamie, March 19, 2012:

    Would I capitalize the word “reporter” in the following sentence. I hope to obtain a job with the Seattle Times Newspaper as a reporter.

  6. Henry, March 20, 2012:

    Do you capitalize the word television in this sentence?

    I don’t have a Television.

  7. The Priceless Team, March 20, 2012:

    Jamie – in your sentence, the word “reporter” would not be capitalized because it is a general job title.

    Henry – the word “television” should not be capitalized in your example.

  8. Henry, March 20, 2012:

    Could someone answer my question, please?

  9. The Priceless Team, March 20, 2012:

    Henry,

    Please see comment #53 for an answer to your question. Thank you!

    Samantha

  10. Christiana, March 27, 2012:

    I’m explaing my opinion about a theory called “The Great Perhaps”. Should I be capitolizing it in every sentance?
    For example: The great perhaps is our main purpose and goals in life

  11. The Priceless Team, March 27, 2012:

    Hi Christiana,

    The general rule is to not capitalize theories, philosophies, or laws unless you’re writing about a specific law, such as the No Child Left Behind law. Hope that helps!

  12. Joyce Van Vleet, April 11, 2012:

    I am wondering how much to capitalize in these examples of people being spoken to in dialogue: “I don’t know about that, my dear niece.” or “Use caution, my friend.” or “Revered one, I don’t know what to do.”

  13. Joyce Van Vleet, April 12, 2012:

    Here’s a few more. “Of course, my lord.” “Greetings to you, my good friend.” “I do, sir.” “Forgive me, honorable priestess.” “I assure you, lord Grey.” I keep thinking that every letter of these direct addresses should be capitalized. Am I correct?

  14. Erika, April 13, 2012:

    Going back to the discussion of Your Honor, I am also a court reporter, and both ways are acceptable. I was always a stickler for the “y” not being capitalized until it was explained in a very simple way — when using a word or title instead of an individual’s name, it is always capitalized. Counsel, Counselor, Mom, Auntie, etc. and “your honor” is being used as the judge’s name. You are not calling them “honor” they are being called “Your Honor” so both words would be capped.

  15. The Priceless Team, April 22, 2012:

    Hi Joyce – Sorry for the delay in answering your questions. For your specific examples, most would not be capitalized, since you’re not using them in place of the person’s name. For instance, “my good friend” is not an actual title, although you are speaking to your friend. The same goes with niece, etc.

    However, for Lord Grey, because it’s his title (and used in place of his proper name), you would capitalize it.

    Erika – thanks for that information! You summed this up very nicely – “when using a word or title instead of an individual’s name, it is always capitalized.”

  16. DP, May 7, 2012:

    Do you capitalize the word nation when referencing to the United States?

  17. Kath habel, May 9, 2012:

    When referring to school in the following example is school capitalized?

    In appreciation for all you have done for our school.

  18. Kathy, May 15, 2012:

    Do you capitalize the name of a business form when referring to it using the exact name of the form? (Example: Applicants are encouraged to submit the Teacher Evaluation.) “Teacher Evaluation” is the name of the form.

  19. The Priceless Team, May 16, 2012:

    Hi DP, the word ‘nation’ would not be capitalized. The same rule applies to words like state, city, etc.

    Hi Kath,

    In your example, school would not be capitalized. However, if you were to refer to the title of the school, it would be capitalized.

    Ex: “In appreciation for all you have done for West Bank High School…”

    Hi Kathy,

    Do not capitalize the names of forms, even though it seems like they should be capitalized. So, in your example, the sentence should read:

    Applicants are encouraged to submit the teacher evaluation form…etc.

  20. brian, May 27, 2012:

    writing a fiction story,
    when I am talking about the king is it the king ot the King or The King?
    i.e. I sent message to the king

  21. Shannon, May 31, 2012:

    Is sun capitalized in this sentence? For example,

    During the summer the sun never sets.

  22. The Priceless Team, June 11, 2012:

    Hi there Shannon,

    Heavenly bodies, such as the sun and moon, are lowercase.

    Planets, constellations, and stars (like Mars, the Big Dipper, and Orion) are capitalized.

  23. The Priceless Team, June 11, 2012:

    Hi there Brian,

    When writing about the king in your story, use lowercase when ‘king’ stands only.

    Only capitalize when used before the name of royalty, such as King Henry VIII.

  24. Anam, June 14, 2012:

    My question is regarding honorifics, I’m writing something with kings and queens. How should we go about ‘I beg of you, my Queen, to listen to me.’ Should it be as I wrote in the sentence: my Queen? Or should it be ‘my queen’ or ‘My Queen’?

    Also, as to your answer regarding the capitalization of King/king (also judge/Judge, mayor/Mayor) – I’ve searched this before, and the answer I came upon was that it isn’t capitalized if we’re talking in general, but if we’re referring to a specific person (even without the name), it should be capitalized. For example: ‘the crownless again shall be king’ and ‘the King sat in his court and listened’ or ‘the Queen felt it was a necessary action’. But your answer has me confused. Please make this clear, because if what you say is correct, I’ll have to go back and edit a tonload of pages!

    Thank you. And sorry for the re-post, I posted in the wrong thread by mistake.

  25. The Priceless Team, June 14, 2012:

    Hi Anam,

    Sorry for any confusion. For your first question, the words ‘my queen’ would not be capitalized.

    When using titles of nobility, they are only capitalized when directly preceding a name. For instance, King Henry, Queen Elizabeth, etc. If they are not preceding a name, they are not capitalized, much like the first sentence you asked about.

    This is taken from the Chicago Manual of Style:

    “Whether inherited or conferred, they [titles of nobility] form an integral and, with rare exceptions, permanent part of a person’s name and are therefore usually capitalized. The generic element in a title, however (duke, earl, etc.), is lowercased when used alone as a short form of the name.”

    It should be noted that in British usage, this generic form is often capitalized when used as a stand alone address to a person, but in America, it is not. Hope that helps and good luck with the project you’re working on. :)

  26. Lynn Leonard, June 29, 2012:

    Should it read, two Southern families or two southern families?

  27. The Priceless Team, July 3, 2012:

    Hi there,

    It should read “two Southern families” – the reference to the region is capitalized.

    Other examples include:

    I’m a Northerner.
    He had a Southern accent.
    The Northern liberal disagreed with my politics.

    However, please note that directional references when paired with the name of a nation is lowercase, such as “I live in the eastern United States”. Exceptions include a proper name (like South Korea) or politically divided nations, such as Northern Ireland.

  28. Becky, July 9, 2012:

    Do you capitalize the word “States” when referring to the United States in a sentence? For example, “He is having a difficult time finding a job since returning to the States.”

  29. Nancy, July 9, 2012:

    Do you capitalize team names within an organization? So if you are talking about the software development team do you capitalize it? What if you are talking about the VP of the software development group? I know you do not capitalize titles unless they come before the person’s name, but I was unsure about team names and titles with team names. Any help would be appreciated. My boyfriend is updating his resume and I want it to be accurate.

  30. The Priceless Team, July 10, 2012:

    Hi Becky

    You’re correct – States is capitalized in this reference.

  31. The Priceless Team, July 10, 2012:

    Nancy

    Team names within an organization are capitalized as long as it is the official name of the department or team.

    In a resume, the Software Development Group would be capitalized.

    In other writing, the team or group name is capitalized as well, but only when the full name is used. For instance, ” John is part of the Financial Budgeting Team at Company Xyz. The team handles all of the company’s purchases.”

  32. jay bernstein, September 22, 2012:

    Should I capitalize the name of a child’s soccer team or camp team in an essay i.e. referring to a specific team called the red team: “I enjoyed being captain of the red team at my camp.” Should red and team be capitalized

  33. The Priceless Team, September 29, 2012:

    Hi Jay,

    ‘Red Team’ should be capitalized because it is the name of a specific team.

    If you were only describing the color of a team jersey, then you would use ‘the red team.’

    Thanks for your question.

  34. Jen, October 30, 2012:

    Do you capital either/or great-niece when referring to the relationship of a person?

  35. The Priceless Team, October 30, 2012:

    Hi Jen,

    You wouldn’t capitalize either word when referring to the relationship of a person. Only proper nouns are capitalized, except in instances when you’re using a noun in lieu of the person’s name.

    Ex. “I told Mom we needed to start packing.”

    “Grandma is cooking dinner for everyone.”

    Note: If you use a possessive adjective in front of a word that describes a relationship, you do not capitalize it.

    Ex. “My great-niece and I are going to the fair together.”

    “His sister is coming to visit.”

    Thanks for your question!

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