1. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    Capitalizing 'he' in reference to Jesus but also to Muhammad?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Jeff Countryman, Jan 12, 2016.

    Here's the few lines of character discussion that has me perplexed in reference to capitalizing the word 'he':

    ------------

    "Okay, then. What exactly do you think you saw?"

    "From the other shore, I saw Jesus standing on the water with His arms held open wide. And then He went under and drowned. I swear, Cody. That's what it looked like to me."

    "I saw the same thing but I'm not religious. I don't believe in that crap. How do you know it wasn't Muhammad? Can't He walk on water too? Maybe all we saw was a hallucination . . ."

    -------------

    Other than that brief exchange, the characters don't discuss either deity. My question is: Is it correct to capitalize 'he' in both references. I'm Christian so I obviously want to capitalize the first instance. The story is fiction and has nothing to do with my personal beliefs (nor is it about religion at all), so capitalizing 'he' in the second reference seems reasonable and not offensive to my beliefs - it simply shows respect and accommodation. Then again, I'm only assuming that believers in Muhammad capitalize 'he' in reference to the person, so this might be totally mute.

    At any rate, my heart tugs one way but my logic tugs the other. Any ideas? Maybe re-cast the sentences to put 'he' as the first word in which case it would be capitalized regardless?

    Thanks for your thoughts/input,
    Jeff
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Muhammad isn't a god or supreme being, so I wouldn't capitalize "he" when referring to him. In fact, from what I remember, articles and books don't capitalize "he" or "him" when referring to Muhammad, either.
     
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  3. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    He wouldn't be capitalized in reference to Muhammad, for the reasons thirdwind says.
     
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  4. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    Question answered - thanks!
     
  5. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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  6. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    As your source notes, either option can be used. It's a matter of personal preference.

    Really, I think one should just be consistent.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If you are writing Christian fiction you could capitalize all Jesus references because of your audience expectations. I wouldn't capitalize pronouns in any other fiction or any non-fiction work.

    However, I wouldn't be bothered seeing it in fiction if it referred to some god-like being that you just want to show the reader that the characters in your story see the god character as some special being.

    As far as rules of grammar go:
    Words like god or lord follow the same rules as king or president. If you are referring to a specific king or god, capitalize it. If you are using the labels as common nouns, you don't, unless it's the first word in a sentence of course. Pronouns are not capitalized except in the beginning of sentences.
     
  8. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    I agree with GingerCoffee: at least for me, I think it would be a bit disconcerting to see it capitalized outside Christian fiction.

    There's something I read in one of Sanderson's annotations that really stuck with me. He said that as a writer, he works extra hard to represent the viewpoints of people he disagrees with, particularly religiously. His assumption is that his own beliefs will work their ways into the narrative whether he wants them to or not, so he works to also counter-balance that with things he does not agree with. And in fact, I'm very impressed with the arguments that his atheist characters make in several of his books (He's a Christian in the LDS). Anyway, I guess my point is that there's nothing wrong with expressing your views, particularly if that makes you enjoy your writing more. Although, more than likely, your beliefs will end up expressed via your works either way. Capitalization doesn't change much, but I'd personally stick to standard capitalization ('he' instead of 'He') just so that the book doesn't feel like it has a religious tone (unless you want it to).
     
  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Hijacking the thread a little since Jeff's question has been answered.

    Would you capitalise god when someone is saying "oh god"? Assuming that person is not religious and is just using it as a phrase.
     
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  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just capitalize it as "OMG!" And all this at a time when Christian church-going fell below 1 million for the first time last year. A spokesman commented that it will continue to fall as people get old and die.

    To the OP, while Christ is believed to be the son of God in the Christian church, he is only believed to be merely another of the prophets (along with Isaiah and Jeremiah et al) of which Mohammed was the most recent, in Islam. So, it seems logical to accord Jesus the same courtesy as you would his heavenly father and capitalize Him, while Mohammed was just a man and his pronoun should remain uncapitalized.

    ETA. Chicago Manual of Style leaves it open to the writer.
    http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Capitalization/faq0004.html
     
  11. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    I'd ask myself this, if it's dialogue: how is the character pronouncing it out load? Usually when I say "Oh god," I don't really think about the deity, so the "god" party just kind of slips out without any particular emphasis. If the character is pronouncing it like "Oh, GOD!" as if they are explicitly invoking the deity, I'd be more prone to capitalize God myself.

    Do you mean writing out "OMG" as an acronym? The question is about dialogue, so it should only be an acronym if the character is saying the letters "Oh-em-gee."
     
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  12. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, I meant it as a joke...
     
  13. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I use it as a softer version of "oh fuck", pretty much. :D I had it lowercase in my manuscript, but was advised to capitalise it.
     
  14. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Absolutely--you can prefer to be wrong, however that preference doesn't make it right. You do not capitalize pronouns.

    From the link:
    "We follow the style, which does not capitalize pronouns relating to deity. This intends no disrespect to God; it is the usage of the historic English Bibles: Wyclif (1380), Tyndale (1534), Cranmer (1539), Geneva (1557), Rheims (1582), and King James Version of KJV (1611). Moreover, it is the style followed by the New International Version (NIV) and English Standard Version (ESV), as well as by our denominational magazine New Horizons. The NASB and NKJV do capitalize pronouns relating to deity (introducing something which is not in the Greek or Hebrew, I might add)."

    Also from the link:
    "If you are not capitalizing pronouns that refer to God because you believe proper English grammar/syntax/style should be followed, wonderful! Continue following your conviction."

    So, in the recent past a whopping two translations of the bible decided not to follow grammar rules like all the other bibles. That didn't make it right, as is pointed out in the article. If you want to do things incorrectly you are free to do so. Tolkien chose to create the word DWARVES rather than use the standard plural, DWARFS. It caught on, but that doesn't make it correct. Whenever we write anything we must choose whether we are going to follow the rules of grammar or not. Sometimes I deliberately ignore rules of grammar because of a personal preference over how I want a character to speak or want a line to read, but that doesn't mean it's correct.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
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  15. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    It may be technically wrong, but as long as your editor doesn't care about it, that technicality is irrelevant.
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    In order to get around the offensiveness of "oh god" to some people, I use "oh gawd". I think whether you use "Oh God" or "Oh god" few people would notice.
     
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  17. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I agree that most people probably won't care, and I'm not bothered about offending anyone. Anybody THAT religious is going to be sticking to "inspirational" romances, I would hope. I just like "oh god" because it feels more natural to me, and I don't know which is correct or if both are okay. Should probably do some research...
     
  18. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    Great post, and thanks for the research! :) I've always thought that capitalizing "He" and "Him" was a bit too "in your face religious" personally. I don't mind it that much, but worth mentioning that as a reader, it puts me off a bit.
     
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  19. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I think people should stop to ask themselves, would your write this:
    "Thor is my God. I worship and adore Him. I think He is really great. But, I also think He might be the cause of global warming because of all the time He spends battling Ice Giants. If we could convince Him to spend more time in Vahallah whooping it up with the Valkyries we might get a decent winter. I'm sure He would rather be drinking and fornicating that out in the cold battling giants with that big hammer of His anyway."

    This is completely acceptable, right? After all Thor is a god!
     
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  20. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Christian deities (God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost) are the only ones who require capitalization when addressed in the third person using pronouns (possessive or otherwise). All other religions have no convention like that.
     
  21. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Capitalization of pronouns for any deity is wrong. That's why I post this link, from a Christian source, that talks about the history of pronoun capitalization. Basically, a few people recently got on their high horse and started doing it to make one god seem more important that all the other gods. It had nothing to do with proper English or even a directive from Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, or what have you.
    http://www.epm.org/resources/2012/Apr/6/why-dont-you-capitalize-he-when-referring-god/

    From the link:
    "We follow the style, which does not capitalize pronouns relating to deity. This intends no disrespect to God; it is the usage of the historic English Bibles: Wyclif (1380), Tyndale (1534), Cranmer (1539), Geneva (1557), Rheims (1582), and King James Version of KJV (1611). Moreover, it is the style followed by the New International Version (NIV) and English Standard Version (ESV), as well as by our denominational magazine New Horizons. The NASB and NKJV do capitalize pronouns relating to deity (introducing something which is not in the Greek or Hebrew, I might add)."

    Also from the link:
    "If you are not capitalizing pronouns that refer to God because you believe proper English grammar/syntax/style should be followed, wonderful! Continue following your conviction."
     
  22. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two things: 1) Christianity doesn't have deities. 2) There is no mandate to capitalize pronouns in reference to God. It's simply a convention some people choose to follow.
     
  23. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    It's just semantics. The father, son, and holy ghost are just three aspects of a single deity. If you'd rather not use the word deity, then instead we mean "those things that are worshipped by a particular religion." :p

    Someone has to kill those goddammned ice giants ;)
     
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  24. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not using deity that bothers me, but using the plural form, which implies polytheism.
     
  25. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    But in the Bible and the Torah God is referred to in the plural.
    Genesis 1:26 (NIV)
    26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_God_in_Judaism
    The Jews refer to God in the plural by saying Andonai ("My Lords") out of respect.

    Elohim literally means Gods; Sabaoth means Of Hosts. Those are both plural.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
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