1. Michael O
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    Michael O Contributing Member

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    Which looks better or more right or more acceptable?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Michael O, May 22, 2013.

    Sometimes capitalizing just doesn't look right and wonder whether or not to do it.

    For example.....He walked back and startled the little green heron from its slumber as he dragged the canoe over sand and gravel.

    Or.....He walked back and startled the Little Green Heron from its slumber as he dragged the canoe over sand and gravel.

    I've seen it both ways in books. Flora (such as cypress trees, confederate jasmine, ect) and fauna (white tail deer, border collies, ect) What's the consensus?

    Thanks for helping
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's only capitalized if it's some sort of name or title. I can see Little Green Heron being a title or reference to a particular creature in a children's book. Otherwise little and green are just descriptors of an essentially generic heron, and would therefore not be capitalized.
     
  3. Michael O
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    Michael O Contributing Member

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    Little Green Herons are a member of the Heron Family. So many novels just use lower case for flora and fauna. Should I use upper case for cypress trees, tupelo trees, large mouth bass, border collies and the list goes on. With so much on the pages about the natural world, just doesn't look right in upper case.
     
  4. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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  5. Michael O
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    Michael O Contributing Member

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  6. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    It might just be that I'm super tired right now but that just makes me want to cackle with glee. :D

    Ah, word nerdery... How I love thee.
     
  7. Michael O
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    Michael O Contributing Member

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    Aye! The Irish!

    None better to drink with, having ya cut lumpy farts and tears gushing down yer britches after a few pints while only to be begging for an arse wupping just 7 or 8 pints later.
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, how would you write this?

    I saw a great white shark.

    I saw a Great White Shark.

    The thing is, if you are talking about a bull shark, there is no ambiguity. But 'great' or 'little' could mean its just a big white shark, or just a little bitty heron. Don't know, really. I'd say the capitalisation makes the animal's 'name' clear, even if it looks clumsy on the page. Leaving the caps out makes it look as if the 'great' or the 'little' are just adjectives, which you could easily leave out. Which, of course, would be wrong, as this is the actual name of the animal.

    Not sure, myself. I'll need to investigate.
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You capitalise Proper Nouns. That is, things like David and Mary and England - there is only one of these things. You don't need to capitalise pine trees because while it's a specific type of tree, there's millions of pine trees - you do not mean The Only Pine Tree. You mean simply a pine tree out of millions.

    In children's books you sometimes do see things like Rat and Apple Tree capitalised, but that's because in those books, they've made those things into an actual, unique character in its own right. Hence Thomas the Tank Engine. He's not just one in a million tank engines. He is, The Tank Engine - the unique one called Thomas.

    If we have to capitalise tree names, then surely we must capitalise fruit names, stone names - you may as well capitalise every noun. And then you'll be on your way to writing German :D
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree with all who say not to use capitals...
     
  11. Kaidonni
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    Kaidonni Member

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    The problem with your first example is that there is no ambiguity either - no comma between 'great' and 'white' makes it clear to me you mean a particular species. Maybe you don't actually mean that and are describing the appearance of the shark, but it's how many people would read it since commas are usually placed between successive adjectives in the written form of the *English language (or you use a conjunction like 'and', in which case it takes the place of the comma).

    *The written form of English annoys the conlanger in me. The seemingly arbitrary assignment of the same sounds to different orthographic transcriptions, and different sounds to the same transcriptions...also known as 'their', 'they're' and 'there', along with 'four', 'for' and 'fore'. The list does go on.
     
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  12. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    I'll second Kaidonni on this.

    Also, "great white shark" is a common phrase that describes a specific type of shark. "White shark" and "great white shark" are the same thing as far as I'm aware. Now if you were talking about a particularly monstrous white shark, it would probably be best to use a different adjective, like "massive" or "giant", something that doesn't blend in with a common term for that variety of shark.

    I think this issue largely boils down to trusting the reader. Trust that your readers will know common species of plants and animals and will thus be able to separate descriptions from names. If you can figure it out, there's a good bet they can, too. :) And if in doubt, run it by someone else to see if they know what you're talking about.
     

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