It's time to vote for your favourite story and author in this year's clitoridesawards. [ X Dismiss ]
Home « Forum « Author Hangout

Forum: Author Hangout

Capitalization question

Switch Blayde
Updated:

I have some dialogue:

"You remember Captain Wilks," Steele said.

"Major Wilks?"

"No longer Major," Wilks said. "Like Linc, I'm a civilian now. A police captain."


The question is about "Major" in the last sentence. I originally made it lower case, but changed it to upper case. If he had said, "No longer a major, it would be lower case. But it seems like it's a proper noun in this instance even though his last name isn't said after it.

What do you think?

Replies:   PotomacBob  REP  Zom  Ross at Play
PotomacBob

@Switch Blayde

lower case. It's capitalized only when it is a particular person, place or thing (as it is when it is a title used before the name).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@PotomacBob

lower case. It's capitalized only when it is a particular person, place or thing


But isn't it a proper noun with the last name assumed? It's not "a major."

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Ernest Bywater

I did a lot of research on this some time back due to a discussion with one of my editors. Titles and ranks come in two distinct groups, one is capitalised and one isn't. The generic use isn't capitalised while the direct pronoun use is capitalised. It's easy when you say Captain Wilks to see it's a direct pronoun, and when you say he was a captain in the military it's a generic use. Where it gets confusing is when it's a direct pronoun without the person's name because the text refers to a specific person anyway in some manner - such as when you speak of the Commanding General of you unit, or the Sergeant of your platoon.

I've found the easiest way to tell the need for the capitalisation is when:

1. a personal name is attached to it; as in - Captain Wilks,

2. when the word 'the' is attached to it; as in - the Captain of B Company.

In the examples you gave I'd write - No longer major.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Commanding General of you unit, or the Sergeant of your platoon.


In those examples, the title would not be capitalized. Also if the title comes after the name it wouldn't be capitalized, as in:

Wilks, captain of the 1st precinct.

In my case, the way "Major" is being used is not just a rank. He's not saying, "I'm not a major anymore." He's saying, "I'm not Major Wilks anymore" leaving out the last name.

But I'm not sure. Unless someone knows for sure, I may change it to "No longer a major."

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Geek of Ages

@Switch Blayde

Yes. If it were an indefinite noun, it'd be lowercases: "a major"

But because it's his title, with the implied name with it, then it's upper cased. In the same way that you'd have:

"Bob Smith?"

"No longer Bob. I changed my name to John a while back."

Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

I agree with Geek of Ages, you can use either "No longer Major" or "I'm no longer a major". The latter is a bit more awkward, hence the rephrasing.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Switch Blayde

@Geek of Ages

"Bob Smith?"

"No longer Bob. I changed my name to John a while back."


I was looking for an example with a name change and couldn't come up with one. I almost used:

"John Doe?"

"No longer John. Not since the sex change. It's now Jane."

awnlee jawking

@Geek of Ages

"Bob Smith?"

"No longer Bob. I changed my name to John a while back."


"Mister Smith?"

"No longer Mister. I transitioned six months ago. In fact, I've just received my first invitation for a cervical smear test." ;)

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

"Mister Smith?"

"No longer Mister. I transitioned six months ago. In fact, I've just received my first invitation for a cervical smear test." ;)

Or

"Major John Doe?"

"No longer Major. The sex-change turned out to be relatively minor surgery."

richardshagrin
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


"I'm no longer a major".


Does that mean he is a Minor?

Or maybe he made Lt. Col.

REP

@Switch Blayde

In my opinion, it depends on how the rank is used.

If I was making a general reference to the rank, I would use lowercase. (e.g., I saw a captain walking down the street.)

I would capitalize it when I am using the rank to refer to a specific person without their name (e.g., I had to report to the Captain this morning).

Crumbly Writer

@REP

I would capitalize it when I am using the rank to refer to a specific person without their name (e.g., I had to report to the Captain this morning).

Unless you're referring to the major Major Major! (any theater fans out there?)

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Unless you're referring to the major Major Major! (any theater fans out there?)


Never seen the film, nor read the book, but I know the reference. Next you'll tell us how General Mayhem came across Corporal Punishment having harsh words with Private Parts about his behaviour.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

major Major Major


BTW at one time in English history Major was both a valid first name and a valid family name. Add in when brothers, or other people of the same name, went to school at the same time the older one was call 'major' and the younger one was called 'minor' so you would have Smith Major and Smith Minor, you could end up with multiple majors in a row with ease.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Never seen the film, nor read the book, but I know the reference. Next you'll tell us how General Mayhem came across Corporal Punishment having harsh words with Private Parts about his behaviour.

Major Mayhem's Private Parts drew Corporal Punishment into the discussion concerning the crime.

Zom
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


What do you think?


Capitalised is correct. It is a title. As you say, if it were 'no longer a major' then no capital, because it is not a title. 'Elisabeth is still queen' could get your neck stretched :-)

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Next you'll tell us how General Mayhem ..


But what about Dr. Doctor.

http://www.sjmed.com/douglas-doctor-md

Switch Blayde

@REP

(e.g., I had to report to the Captain this morning).


I don't think "captain" is modified in that sentence.

Replies:   REP  Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Zom


'Elisabeth is still queen' could get your neck stretched


I don't know what the royals say, but I wouldn't capitalize "queen" in that sentence. I used to believe "pope" was always capitalized, as in: "I saw the Pope yesterday," but then found out it isn't capitalized in that sentence.

This is from the AP Style Guide:

Capitalize pope when used as a title before a name: Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Paul. Lowercase pope in all other uses. The pope is the bishop of Rome; the office was held by the Apostle Peter at his death.


ETA: I thought the queen spells her name with a "z" (Elizabeth).

Replies:   Zom
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I agree with your initial thought.
Definitely lower case for "No longer a major".
Definitely upper case for "No longer Major Wilks".
I would use upper case if both the speaker and listener will understand 'Major' means 'Major Wilks'.

Zom
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I wouldn't capitalize "queen" in that sentence.


I can't see why not. The sentence doesn't say 'a queen' or 'the queen' it says 'queen', which should be 'Queen', because it is her title.

Pope there would not be capitalized because of the 'the' in front of it. I dont know why AP Style Guide includes 'before', it holds for 'after' as well, particularly when the name is assumed.

Nice catch on Elizabeth. Perhaps I will get a case of typo neck :-)

Bondi Beach

@Switch Blayde

But I'm not sure. Unless someone knows for sure, I may change it to "No longer a major."


It's "Major," for the reason you outlined at the beginning, and the sentence reads better that way than the alternative.

bb

Capt. Zapp

@Zom

Pope there would not be capitalized because of the 'the' in front of it.


By that reasoning, the White House shouldn't be capitalized either.

awnlee jawking

@Capt. Zapp

I would capitalise 'Queen', 'Pope', 'Bishop of Rome', and 'White House' because in each case it identifies a unique individual by their title, and respect is due accordingly. I wouldn't capitalise 'the major' or 'the captain' because majors and captains are not unique.

I suspect one of the hundreds of style guides out there might even agree with me, but I don't have the time or inclination to find it. However I'm sure that many style guides will disagree with me and each other.

AJ

Replies:   AmigaClone  REP  Crumbly Writer
AmigaClone

@awnlee jawking

However I'm sure that many style guides will disagree with me and each other.


Different editions of the same style guides might disagree with each other in certain points.

Zom

@Capt. Zapp

the White House shouldn't be capitalized either

It isn't if you are talking about some ordinary white house, like the white house on the corner. 'White House' isn't a title, but it is a proper noun, so should be capitalized.

Replies:   REP
Switch Blayde

@Capt. Zapp

By that reasoning, the White House shouldn't be capitalized either.


I don't have the reference, but I remember reading that White House is capitalized because if it wasn't, it would simply be a white house, not the White House.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I don't have the reference, but I remember reading that White House is capitalized because if it wasn't, it would simply be a white house, not the White House.

I do not want to get involved in this exchange.

I cannot write any satisfactory explanation for when capitals are needed.
However, AJ has made the most pertinent post so far, IMHO.
The first question should always be, "Does this uniquely identify a person, thing, whatever?" If the answer to that is clear-cut, one way or the other, then you should use capitals, or the other.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

"Does this uniquely identify a person, thing, whatever?" If the answer to that is clear-cut, one way or the other, then you should use capitals, or the other.


Except it's "the president of the United States." There is only one so it uniquely identifies him, but it's not capitalized.

From the AP Style Guide: https://twitter.com/apstylebook/status/796784912934326273?lang=en

Capitalize president only as a formal title before names: President Barack Obama, President-elect Donald Trump. Lowercase in all other uses.


That's why I wouldn't capitalize "queen" unless it was "Queen Elizabeth" (before her name) or "pope" unless it was before his name.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Except it's "the president of the United States."

As I said before, "I do not want to get involved in this exchange ... I cannot write any satisfactory explanation for when capitals are needed." :(

I know that some style guides make an explicit exception that capitals are used for the Queen and Pope - but not for other titles that should logically be treated the same.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Except it's "the president of the United States." There is only one so it uniquely identifies him, but it's not capitalized.

I disagree.
'The president' does not identify anyone uniquely. The thing that identifies someone uniquely is the additional qualifier, 'of Wherever'.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
REP

@Switch Blayde

I don't think "captain" is modified in that sentence.


Modified? You lost me.

In the example, a subordinate is required to report to a superior. The superior is being referred to by a title, typically the person's rank in the military.

The way I see it, in the military there are a lot of officers of the same rank, so saying 'There are a lot of majors on the base.' would be appropriate. In a reference to a specific person by their rank, the rank should be capitalized.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

(e.g., I had to report to the Captain this morning).

I don't think "captain" is modified in that sentence.

That falls under the "the" guideline (i.e. whenever you use "the", you don't capitalize the term since it's referring to a generic entity.

REP

@awnlee jawking

I wouldn't capitalise 'the major' or 'the captain' because majors and captains are not unique.


I agree that captains and majors are not unique in the military. When you put 'the' in front of the rank, you are referring to a specific person and the rank becomes a title, which should be capitalized.

Crumbly Writer

@Zom

I wouldn't capitalize "queen" in that sentence.

I can't see why not. The sentence doesn't say 'a queen' or 'the queen' it says 'queen', which should be 'Queen', because it is her title.

Because, in that sentence, the "the" is assumed.

I can see it now: The "the" that the major Major Major used, was subsumed by the minor miner Minor.

REP

@Zom

Is it a 'proper noun' or a name?

'White House' is used to refer to the building in Washington DC where the POTUS resides, so to me, it is the name of the building.

Crumbly Writer

@Capt. Zapp

By that reasoning, the White House shouldn't be capitalized either.

You only capitalize "White House" because it refers to THE White House (there's only one white house that's the home of the President of the United States). Every other "white house" isn't capitalized. You're got to watch for assumed "the"s and "a"s. (That's "a"-hole to you, Buddy!)

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I would capitalise 'Queen', 'Pope', 'Bishop of Rome', and 'White House' because in each case it identifies a unique individual by their title, and respect is due accordingly. I wouldn't capitalise 'the major' or 'the captain' because majors and captains are not unique.

Only if you're referring to the current pope. If you listed the last ten popes, you would then refer to them as "the popes" (i.e. without capitalization).

There are no magic words which escape the basic rules of grammar—aside from those breaking the basic rules of spelling.

Switch Blayde

@REP

I don't think "captain" is modified in that sentence.

Modified? You lost me.


I meant "capitalized." Have no idea why I wrote "modified."

Ross at Play

@REP

I would capitalize it when I am using the rank to refer to a specific person without their name (e.g., I had to report to the Captain this morning).

Honestly, REP, for this thread alone, I think your interests are best served by trying to understand what others are saying - rather than contributing your opinions.
You frequently capitalise nouns in situations that others would not. It's especially obvious with the word 'author'. I've seen you use a capital for that here many times. Every one of those was wrong, in my opinion!

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

I'd capitalise 'President', just as I'd capitalise 'Queen', but I'm not 100% sure why. I think context may have something to do with it. I'm not sure I'd capitalise for less important queens and presidents and that worries me because it implies a lack of reciprocity.

It'll be interesting when Prince Harry Hewitt marries Meghan Markle because there are likely to be several kings and queens present and reading the newspaper reports may be informative.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

I'd capitalise 'President', just as I'd capitalise 'Queen', but I'm not 100% sure why.


I found this:

Hint: According to some style manuals, the titles President or Prime Minister are capitalized to show special respect if they refer to the current holder of that office. This is a style choice, not a grammar rule. It varies from one style manual to another.

This week we watched the President meet with the Prime Minister of England.

In 1778 George Washington was president. (Not the current president)

The prince bowed to the queen. (Not the current prince or current queen)


Note, "This is a style choice, not a grammar rule. It varies from one style manual to another."

Replies:   REP
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

I'd capitalise 'President', just as I'd capitalise 'Queen', but I'm not 100% sure why. I think context may have something to do with it. I'm not sure I'd capitalise for less important queens and presidents and that worries me because it implies a lack of reciprocity.

I trust the current occupant will cure you of that problem. :-)

Don't shoot me! I'm only the messenger. :-)

I will quote relevant sections from CMOS below.

I suggested before some style guides have explicit exceptions for the Queen and the Pope.
Note that 8.22 states the exception for the Queen only applies in the "British Commonwealth".
I was wrong about the pope being an exception. The other exception is 'Speaker', mentioned in 8.21, which is an exception because the lowercase form of that word has a different, natural meaning.

8.18 Titles and offices - the general rule

Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are thus used as part of the name (typically replacing the title holder's first name). In formal prose and other generic text (as opposed to promotional or ceremonial contexts or a heading), titles are normally lowercased when following a name or used in place of a name (but see 8.19). For abbreviated forms, see 10.11–27. President Lincoln; the president General Bradley; the general Cardinal Newman; the cardinal Governors Quinn and Paterson; the governors Although both first and second names may be used after a capitalized title (President Abraham Lincoln; but see 8.20)—and though it is perfectly correct to do so—Chicago prefers to avoid such usage in formal prose, especially with civil, corporate, and academic titles (see 8.21,8.26,8.27). Note also that once a title has been given, it need not be repeated each time a person's name is mentioned.
John F. Kerry, senator from Massachusetts; Senator Kerry; Kerry


8.19 Exceptions to the general rule

In promotional or ceremonial contexts such as a displayed list of donors in the front matter of a book or a list of corporate officers in an annual report, titles are usually capitalized even when following a personal name. Exceptions may also be called for in other contexts for reasons of courtesy or diplomacy.
Maria Martinez, Director of International Sales
A title used alone, in place of a personal name, is capitalized only in such contexts as a toast or a formal introduction, or when used in direct address.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Prime Minister.
I would have done it, Captain, but the ship was sinking.
Thank you, Mr. President.


8.20 Titles used in apposition

When a title is used in apposition before a personal name—that is, not alone and as part of the name but as an equivalent to it, usually preceded by the or by a modifier—it is considered not a title but rather a descriptive phrase and is therefore lowercased.
the empress Elizabeth of Austria (but Empress Elizabeth of Austria)
German chancellor Angela Merkel (but Chancellor Merkel)
the German-born pope Benedict XVI
former president Carter
former presidents Reagan and Ford
the then secretary of state Colin Powell


8.21 Civil titles

Much of the usage below is contradicted by the official literature typically generated by political offices, where capitalization of a title in any position is the norm (see 8.19). In formal academic prose, however, civil titles are capitalized only when used as part of the name (except as noted). See also 10.13.
the president; George Washington, first president of the United States; President Washington; the presidency; presidential; the Washington administration; Washington; Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, president of the Philippines; President Arroyo; Arroyo
the vice president; John Adams, vice president of the United States; Vice President Adams; vice presidential duties
the secretary of state; Hillary Clinton, secretary of state; Secretary of State Clinton or Secretary Clinton
the senator; the senator from New York; New York senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand (see ); Senator Gillibrand; Senators Gillibrand and Schumer; Senator Mikulski, Democrat from Maryland (or D-MD)
the representative; the congressman; the congresswoman; Jesse Jackson Jr., representative from Illinois orcongressman from Illinois; Congressman Jackson or Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL); Kay Granger, representative from Texas; Congresswoman Granger; the congresswoman or the representative; Representatives Jackson and Granger
the Speaker; Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Speaker Pelosi (Speaker is best capitalized in all contexts to avoid conflation with generic speakers)
the chief justice; John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States; Chief Justice Roberts (see also 8.63)
the associate justice; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice; Justice Ginsburg; Justices Ginsburg and Stevens
the chief judge; Timothy C. Evans, chief judge; Judge Evans
the ambassador; Robert Holmes Tuttle, ambassador to the Court of St. James's or ambassador to the United Kingdom; Ambassador Tuttle
the governor; Joe Manchin, governor of the state of West Virginia; Governor Manchin
the mayor; Richard M. Daley, mayor of Chicago; Mayor Daley
the state senator; Teresa Fedor, Ohio state senator; the Honorable Teresa Fedor
the state representative (same pattern as state senator)
the governor general of Canada; the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
the finance minister; Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, finance minister of India; Mukherjee
the prime minister; the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, former prime minister of Canada; Gordon Brown, the British prime minister
the premier (of a Canadian province); the Honourable Brad Wall
the member of Parliament (UK and Canada); Jane Doe, member of Parliament, or, more commonly, Jane Doe, MP; Jane Doe, the member for West Hamage
the chief whip; Nathi Mthethwa, chief whip of the African National Congress; Mthethwa
the foreign secretary (UK); the foreign minister (other nations); the British foreign secretary; the German foreign minister (not used as a title preceding the name)
the chancellor; Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany; Chancellor Merkel
the chancellor of the exchequer (UK); Alistair Darling; Chancellor Darling
the Lord Privy Seal (UK; always capitalized)
For use of the Honorable and similar terms of respect, see 8.32,10.18.


8.22 Titles of sovereigns and other rulers

Most titles of sovereigns and other rulers are lowercased when used alone. See also 8.31.
King Abdullah II; the king of Jordan
Queen Elizabeth; Elizabeth II; the queen (in a British Commonwealth context, the Queen)
the Holy Roman emperor
Nero, emperor of Rome; the Roman emperor
Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah, king of Bahrain; King Hamad
the shah of Iran
the sharif of Mecca
the paramount chief of Basutoland
Wilhelm II, emperor of Germany; Kaiser Wilhelm II; the kaiser
the führer (Adolf Hitler)
Il Duce (used only of Benito Mussolini; both i and d capitalized)


8.23 Military titles

As is the case with civil titles, military titles are routinely capitalized in the literature of the organization or government with which they are associated. Nonetheless, in formal academic prose, most such titles are capitalized only when used as part of a person's name. Occasional exceptions may be made if ambiguity threatens. See also 10.13.
the general; General Ulysses S. Grant, commander in chief of the Union army; General Grant; the commander in chief
the general of the army; Omar N. Bradley, general of the army; General Bradley
the admiral; Chester W. Nimitz, fleet admiral; Admiral Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet
the chairman; Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Admiral Mullen
the captain; Captain Frances LeClaire, company commander
the sergeant; Sergeant Carleton C. Singer; a noncommissioned officer (NCO)
the warrant officer; Warrant Officer John Carmichael
the chief petty officer; Chief Petty Officer Tannenbaum
the private; Private T. C. Alhambra
the British general; General Sir Guy Carleton, British commander in New York City; General Carleton
For abbreviations, often used when a title precedes a name and appropriate in material in which many military titles appear, see 10.15.


8.25 Religious titles

Religious titles are treated much like civil and military titles (see 8.21, 8.23).
the rabbi; Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak ha-Kohen Kuk; the rabbinate
the cantor or hazzan; Deborah Bard, cantor; Cantor Bard
the sheikh; Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zak Zaky
the imam; Imam Shamil
the ayatollah; Ayatollah Khomeini
the Dalai Lama (traditionally capitalized); but previous dalai lamas
the sadhu; the guru; the shaman
the pope; Pope Benedict XVI; the papacy; papal
the cardinal; Francis Cardinal George or, less formally, Cardinal George; the sacred college of cardinals
the patriarch; Cyrillus Lucaris, patriarch of Constantinople; the patriarchate
the archbishop; the archbishop of Canterbury; Archbishop Williams (or, in this case, Dr. Williams)
the bishop; the bishop of Toledo; Bishop Donnelly; bishopric; diocese
the minister; the Reverend Shirley Stoops
the rector; the Reverend James Williams (see also 10.18.8.32)

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I know that some style guides make an explicit exception that capitals are used for the Queen and Pope - but not for other titles that should logically be treated the same.

How about "The Boss" (Bruce Springsteen)?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

How about "The Boss" (Bruce Springsteen)?


Nicknames are capitalized.

REP

@Switch Blayde

Note, "This is a style choice, not a grammar rule. It varies from one style manual to another."


Now That makes Sense to Me. It explains a Lot about the Confusion on this Issue.

Back to Top