1. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic Supporter

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    Grammar I Just Can't Get My Head Around Personal Titles

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Seren, May 31, 2017.

    I have looked at so many different articles for the use of grammar in titles such as "the king" or "the captain" etc, and I'm slowly starting to understand when they should be capitalised and when they should not. I think. For example, I believe these to be correct (but please help me if I'm still wrong):

    The captain nodded at her as they passed in the hallway.

    "Good morning, Captain," she said.


    But, due to the way "queen" in "the Queen" always seems to start with a capital letter when speaking of Queen Elizabeth II, I'm getting really confused about whether the same rules apply to monarchy, whether this is just a thing specific to Queen Elizabeth II, or if I'm getting this all wrong for all titles. When speaking of a fictional character, should I be saying, "The king drew his sword" or "The King drew his sword"? "The commander saluted" or "The Commander saluted"?

    Thank you in advance from a very sleep-deprived Seren who is starting to wonder why she thought writing would be good therapy for her bad night. :)
     
  2. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    Titles are capitalized when used with or instead of names, same seems to be the case when it comes to royalties.

    So, you're first examples with the captain is right. While king and commander would not be capitalized in the examples given.
     
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  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    It is confusing! One of the most common errors I see in manuscripts is the capitalisation (or mis-capitlisation) of mum, dad, and other such words.

    The basic rule of thumb is if you can replace the word with the person's name, then you should capitalise the word.

    Good morning, Captain becomes Good morning, David and so would be capitalised.

    Whereas The captain nodded at her as they passed in the hallway becomes The David nodded at her as they passed in the hallway - it doesn't work, so in that instance isn't capitalised.

    It's more complicated for king and queen, because in the country in which they reign, 'the Queen' or 'the King' are their names. The 'the' is part of the name. So:

    The King drew his sword becomes Philip drew his sword - that works, and so the King is capitalised.

    If Queen Elizabeth II visits a country of which she isn't monarch, then she isn't 'the Queen', but just 'a queen'.

    An American newspaper would (or should) report: The queen visited the United States.

    If she visited the King of Spain in his country, it would be: The King greeted the queen.

    Make sense?
     
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  4. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic Supporter

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    Thank you both! Yes, that makes so much sense, and it's such a simple rule to remember!
     
  5. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic Supporter

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    I'm going to ask another question now, because I'm so confused.

    Why do many authors, such as Leigh Bardugo and George R.R. Martin, not capitalise "the king"? Bardugo says things such as, "The king of Ravka." Martin frequently refers to Robert as "the king." Does this mean that publishers don't really care as long as you keep it consistent, and I should stop fretting about capital letters?

    I'm not asking this because I don't understand personal titles such as those - I do, now. I would capitalise King in both of those cases. (Right?)

    I'm asking because I'm having a meltdown about place names. Is it the Great Hall or the great hall? In A Game of Thrones, Martin writes things such as, "the High Hall," but also, "the throne room." Is this because (to my knowledge) "the High Hall" is not the common name of a room anyone could have (such as "the throne room") but because it is a specific name unique to that building for that room? Or is that irrelevant and rooms such as the Great Hall should have capitals anyway?

    I just want to lie down and weep.
     
  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The bastards hung me in the spring of '25.... Contributor

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    It's up to the author as to whether or not a location gains title/proper noun status. Everyone in my neighborhood growing up had a basement, but one kid had a Basement where we drank, got high, had orgies (not really), etc. So if someone said, "Meet me in the Basement" everyone knew which basement they were referring to.

    It's not a rule or anything. Just something that happens in context. I wouldn't lose sleep or anything over it.
     
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  7. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just be happy it's not Spanish. The rules are so bizarre! There's a "placeholder" rule in Spanish that indicates that any common noun gets capitalized if the thing in question also has a proper noun name that gets mentioned at some point.

    For example (and let's pretend this is all in Spanish):

    The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic buildings in the world. Construction of the Building was completed on April 11, 1931, when it became the tallest building in the world at that time.

    The first time the word building shows up it's capitalized because it's clearly part of the proper noun name. The second time it's not capitalized because the word is plural and refers to all buildings. The third time it IS capitalized because we are referring again, directly to the Empire State Building, which has a proper name that has been given. The forth time we don't capitalize because we are referring to the concept of buildings in general...

    </translator problems>
     
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  8. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic Supporter

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    All right, thanks. Now I feel better about it.

    ...and very grateful that I'm not writing in Spanish. :superlaugh:
     
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