1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Capitalizing titles

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by doggiedude, Feb 22, 2016.

    I'm a little confused in regards to the rules of when to capitalize a person's title. This is coming up mostly in terms of using
    President Thomas .....
    The President .....
    and just referring to the president as an office as in
    We’ll work on it. If you’re going to run for President we still have time to mold your public image.
    That last one I'm not sure if it should be capitalized.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    "If you’re going to run for President we still...."
    That's correct because it is a specific President and a proper noun.

    "If you’re going to run for a job like president we still...."
    That one refers to a common noun so it's lower case.

    However, it's traditional to capitalize the President of the United States where I've never seen things like the president of the PTA capitalized unless you wrote something like, "President Smith of our PTA..."

    "If you’re going to run for PTA president we still..."

    I think it's because certain titles have more prestige than others. President of the USA, the King of England and so on.


    [awaits correction by people who actually know whether president of our PTA is capitalized :p]
     
  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I had a feeling using the president as an example might be problem. I have the same problem when referring to military ranks
    Admiral Jones
    That Admiral is an ass
    You could eventually be promoted to admiral (or Admiral)?
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That admiral is an ass. The Admiral is an ass.
    You could eventually be promoted to admiral.

    To my ear, "that admiral" sounds like a common noun, like "that boy" even when you are referring to a specific person. Whereas "the Admiral" is a title, thus a proper noun.

    [awaits correction by people who actually know whether that or the matters capitalizing admiral. :p]


    I always think this is simple until I start getting examples to deal with. I changed my mind, "the admiral" can be capitalized or not, both would be correct. Probably "the admiral" would be more common. If you'd been writing "Admiral Jones" in other parts of the piece, then "the Admiral" could be a proper noun.

    [reminds self to stop getting involved in capitalizing threads]
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016
  5. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I'm glad to know I'm not the only one that gets tripped up with this. For the most part when I'm referring to a specific person ( Senator Williams ) I capitalize. When I'm using the term without pointing to a specific individual I don't. I think the confusion is stemming from the fact that when using the word president, in most cases it implies a specific person because there's only one. Similar to saying "He could become a king." versus saying "He will eventually be King." One implies any number of places to be king over and the other is more specific to a single kingdom.
    Maybe not the best examples but
     
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  6. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless the rules have changed recently (and that's always possible given such abominations as 'emails' and 'softwares' coming into common use) the only time you capitalize a word like 'president' or 'general' is when it refers to a specific person holding that title/rank.

    The general gave orders.
    These orders are from General Carson.

    The president stood before the committee.
    This meeting was called by President Obama.

    All hail the king!
    There's a curse on King Tut's tomb.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I would quibble with one of those.

    All hail the King! You are referring to a specific person thus King is a proper noun there.

    When referring to the President of the United States, you capitalize President again because it is a title, but it you say the president you are using the word as a common noun. But you can mean to use it as a proper noun and thus capitalize it.

    I think that's where the confusion is coming from. Depending on how you are using the noun it becomes confusing when you can use it as a proper or a common noun.

    Upon looking at a half dozen websites on capitalizing, there are a few areas the references don't agree. But the more I looked at them, I think it's because you can use something like "the President" in a sentence specifically referring to Obama. But you can also write, "the president", even if you mean Obama but you are not connoting him by his title.

    So instead of worrying about when to capitalize and when not to, ask yourself if you are using the noun as a title or not.

    The President is on his way would mean you were making a formal statement that Obama was on his way. But you could say the same thing, the president is on his way, if you were using president as a common noun. Sometimes President and King are capitalized out of deference to the fact those are prestigious titles. So in the above sentence, All hail the King!, you are using King as a title.
     

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