This is topic grammer question 3 in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

To visit this topic, use this URL:;f=1;t=007996

Posted by walexander (Member # 9151) on :
If a new/unusual name for something that is not usually cap. is introduced. Is it capt?

For example: If you called a dagger a drun or an undead a walker like on TWD.

You wouldn't capt. would you?

You wouldn't write -- The Walker crept down the street.

You would write -- The walker crept down the street.

Is that correct?

Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Capitalization runs even experienced writers aground. A contemporary basis principle of thumb is common nouns are lower case and proper nouns are capital case, with a number of exceptions for each.

drun for dagger is a common noun. Though a specific item could have a proper noun name. The Hotrock Drun. Though titles are part of a person's name and capitalized as such, Judge Jane, if followed as a professional title, lower case: A murder trial heard before Jane, judge of Primson County. Though capped if the title stands as the item's name. The Judge will see you now. Discretionary, too, except in direct address, "Hello, Judge." Though use of generic salutations in direct address, like "man," "miss," "dude," "missus," "mister," "ma'am," and so on, are lower case unless sentence case.

Also, for formal composition, a topical common noun is capitalized to distinguish proper noun instances from common noun instances. Say an essay about medical certification boards, "Board" is capped if it refers to a medical board, though lower case for other instances. Likewise an essay about, say, a board of directors for a nonprofit group, capped in reference to the Board. And likewise cap style crossovers into prose and fiction in particular.

Though the current trend over time is downstyled caps, used to be every noun was capped, now only proper nouns and often only parts of text strings. Geneville, Alabama Board of Electors selection committee chairperson Minty Mont, for example.

So for the "walker" example -- could go either way. I would advise uncapped in general, though strongly advise suitable feature introduction and development context so what walkers are is clearly communicated early on. That way the label is a common noun. Though the temptation is to cap for a first time or for emphasis throughout and to distinguish zonbi from, say, general ambulators or the assistive device. Sometimes labels similar to that are capped, though. "Vikings," right? "Huns" are a marauder tribe too.

About as clear as a clay-brick window, I know. Downstyle if in doubt. Heck, pull a cormac mCcarthy and downstyle to a heart's content, cap as little, or as much, as practical. McCarthy avoids quote marks altogether and apostrophe marks wherever practical.

A recent development due to Digital age medial caps and user names de-emphasis is proper noun and sentence case lower case. "extrinsic" is my user name here and could start a sentence lower case. The Apple device name convention of "i" initial letter and medial capital -- iPod, iPad, plus xBox, and text strings run together to avoid underscores machine substituted for word spaces: SlocumPriceManfreddy.

Much discretion for contemporary and futuristic style options to work with -- only a question of if whatever works works and is accessible, like says or means something meaningful and other than a gimmick.
Posted by Reziac (Member # 9345) on :
Mr.Smith, the doctor will see you now.

Mr.Smith, Doctor Jones will see you now.

Caps on a non-name noun draws attention, full-stop, to that word; it inhibits flow. So use with caution.

We went to see the fallen Tree. -- Something special about that tree.

We went to see the fallen tree. -- Just a tree.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
As a general rule, if the word is a simple noun do not capitalise, if the word is a proper noun you should always capitalise.

Simplistically, common nouns are the names for ordinary things you can touch, see, and hear. Proper nouns are the names of special people, places, and events

Both walker and Walker might be appropriate and totally dependent on the whim of the writer--just be consistent in its application.

Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
Depends on the point you're trying to make.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Having thought about this a little more deeply my recommendation is that if the word is a generic term for a group of things then an uncapitalised noun is appropriate; in this case walker or walkers. If you then had a particular walker that was a nemesis, I would capitalise the name like this: The Walker.

Egad, me giving advice on grammar!

Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
If in doubt, when it comes to caps, don't. It's along the lines of less is better than more.

I'd recommend that even if it's a particular walker, with some kind of distinguishing feature, the humpbacked walker, say, don't capitalize.

If your character gives the walker a designation, "Johnny Walker" for example, then you use caps.

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2