1. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    A question on capitals.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Thomas Kitchen, Jan 19, 2013.

    Hi there everyone,

    Just a quick question about using people's titles. If, for example, I wanted to call my mother, I presume I would write, 'Could you please come here, Mother?' (Notice the capital letter for 'Mother) However, when you are not directly talking to them in a book, does it become lower case? Again an example: "Was my mother crazy, or was my mother deaf?"

    I always presumed that was how it worked, but I would like to double-check. :)

    Thanks.
     
  2. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can see why you might want to capitalise that first instance -- it's being used like a name. But it is being used like a name, it isn't a name, so I wouldn't capitalise it. If it part of a nickname, such as Mother Hubbard, then I would capitalise it.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it is used like a proper noun, capitalize it as such.

    But when it is used as a common noun, don't capitalize it.

     
  4. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would you say it was being used as a proper noun or a common noun in 'Could you please come here, Mother?'

    I reckon common noun, by analogy with an angry teacher saying 'Come here at once, boy!' I certainly wouldn't capitalise 'boy' in that sentence, so I wouldn't capitalise 'mother' in the sentence Thomas asked about.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Bad analogy. The teacher is using the common noun to depersonalize the student.

    The normal sense of the sentence, "Could you please come here, Mother?" is the same as if the speaker had used a different term of endearment, such as Mom, Mommy, Mum, Ma, Mama, or Mamby.
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    As far as I am aware, none of those terms of endearment is a proper noun either, and none of my style guides lists terms of endearment as requiring capitalisation. I suppose the question is whether they qualify as nicknames?
     
  7. Jon Deavers
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    Jon Deavers Member

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    Perhaps it comes down to how consistent your character is with using the word as a nickname. If he/she addresses their mother as "Mother" throughout the work then perhaps you can capitalize it to demonstrate how detached and/or proper the character feels towards his/her mother. If it's an isolated incident that has no bearing on character or plot then go lower case and move on.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    They're used to substitute for the person's name, so, yes, I'd say that they qualify as nicknames and they are capitalized.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition, section 8.39:
    Among the examples given:
    The last illustrates the lowercased pet name rule. I would have capitalized that one, so it's just as well I looked it up.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'mother' is not a nickname like 'sweetheart' which is why the op's sentence capitalizing it was correct... when your characters speak to or of their mother and use 'mother/mom/mum/mommy' instead of Jane/Mary/Mrs. Smith, then 'mother' et al. must be capitalized as a proper noun... as an editor, i'd never let it pass in all-lower case...

    thomas...
    yes, you are right in both cases...
     
  11. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thanks for all the replies - they have been very helpful.
     

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