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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Capitalizing Titles when used as Names, but in the third person?

   
Author Topic: Capitalizing Titles when used as Names, but in the third person?
enigmaticuser
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So. A title is not capitalized unless it is the full proper title. The prince: correct vs. his royal highness the Prince of Wales. However, if the title is used in place of a name it is capitalized even if not proper. "Captain, the ship is prepared to disembark." Though that does seem to get awkward and even dicey when the title is mom or dad. "Hi, Dad" yet her dad is also correct because not a direct address.

So. What do you do when its in the third person? For example, it is customary for junior officers or enlisted men to switch between first and third person. "Good morning, Captain" is proper, but they can immediately go into "Does the Captain want all hands on deck?" In my story I'm dealing with royalty and from what I've read the rules are basically the same as with the military (after all sovereigns are part of the military chain of command).

I'm having difficulty reconciling the appearance. In this case Captain or Your Majesty/Ma'am is being used as name thus should be capitalized, but it's sometimes third person so is it really "direct address" in which case should it be lower case?

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extrinsic
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You have capitalization principles down pat. The next resort is a matter of writing mannerisms, particularly voice idioms. I'll use common nouns for examples.

But Mom said it was time to go shopping. Is that third person or first person? "Mom" is used as a proper noun, thus capitalized. First person would capitalize Mom; third person strict might not. The sentence is patently third person, though. However, the sentence has a tint of first person.

Why not capitalized in strict third person? An example, say a case worker talking to a colleague about a consumer. "Desirae comes from a broken home. Persuant to a court order, mom is barred from unsupervised visitation." There, the definite article the is elided from the mom. The mom is not the case worker's mom either; therefore, used as a common noun.

If dialogue, free direct speech, "But Mom said it was time to go shopping. Patently a first person speech; however, who reports the dialogue? The narrator, be he or she reporting in first person, or second, third, or fourth person.

Taking Queen Mary, or Captain Drake in context and texture, is the queen the narrator's queen? Is she the characters' queen? If she is, then proper noun case is indicated. If used in indefinite cases with indefinite articles, elided or actual, then common noun case.

In certain business and professional writing circles, the tradition of capitalizing all nouns survives in the principle of capitalizing common nouns related to the subject matter. The Chairperson asked the Membership for a Motion and a Second on the Bill of Particulars.

Either way, ultimately, though, the decision is yours. The only matter worthy of consequence is consistency.

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MattLeo
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I'd say that if a title is used as a prefix or substitute for a person's name, it is treated as a proper noun and capitalized. If it is used to refer to the office, it is a common noun. Thus we have "The captain of the Enterprise is Captain Kirk." The same goes for inanimate objects: "Frodo's ring is the One Ring of Sauron." Frodo only has one ring, which happens to be the One Ring.

That much is straightforward. What's tripping you up here is a linguistic phenomenon called "metonymy" -- referring to something by something else associated with it. If I told you, "I saw Jack the other day, he has a new set of wheels," you'd assume I was saying Jack had a new car, not that his car had new wheels, or he'd just had wheels surgically attached to himself.

When you are addressing the captain, you are using his title as a shortened form of his full title and name. Thus "Shall I fire phasers, Captain Kirk?" becomes "Shall I fire phasers, Captain?"

If you are addressing someone else and referring to the captain metonymously using his office, you treat the term as what it *is*, which is a common noun. "Is the captain on the bridge?" However if you were using a nickname, that would be a proper noun, IMO: "Is the Old Man on the bridge?"

I think the example of the junior officer addressing the captain in third person would also fall under the metonymy rule: he is referring to the office, which is a common noun, and the captain is mentally substituting himself. Thus I'd write, "Does the captain want all hands on deck?"

Frankly, I don't care how someone handles these odd cases as long has he doesn't willy-nilly capitalize Common Nouns as a Way of emphasizing. Grammar Girl calls these "pride nouns" -- an attempt to make a common noun like "Pork Rinds" sound more dignified.

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extrinsic
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From Silva Rhetoricae;

Metonymy: "Reference to something or someone by naming one of its attributes.

"The pen is mightier than the sword." Where pen represents critical thought and the sword force majeure coercion.

Alternatively, a related trope, Synecdoche: "A whole is represented by naming one of its parts (genus named for species), or vice versa (species named for genus)."

"All hands on deck." where hands are a part of the whole, the crew and the persons who have hands with which to work.

"Queen" or other position titles I don't think are unequivocally either metonymy or synecdoche. "Queen" is not an attribute or a part of a whole. In context, though, perthaps "Queen" could be either or both. Drag queen, for example. Nicknames, though, can be either or both. Big Red; nickname for a stocky, redheaded lumberjack is a metonymy, naming "red" and "big" attributes; and a synecdoche. Red representing the whole of red hair and its attendant complexion, big representing a large person.

[ January 11, 2013, 05:13 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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For some reason, I thought the correct capitalizing was

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales

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enigmaticuser
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Interesting, I think this helps.

I think you're right KDW, on the second part. That's what I got from the Royal's site too, I was just being lazy.

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EVOC
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In my novel I have a lot of ranks, and I had assumed they would all be capitalized. Because there really was only one captain in the novel. But my editor tried to explain it to me. I still think I wound up no capitalizing in a few areas where it should have been done.

This is why I struggle so much with grammar, the rules are always far more convoluted than I think they are. I spend more time editing trying to figure this stuff out.

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extrinsic
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For the amount of accumulated effort and time style principles cost a writer a style manual and an English usage dictionary could be read and almost memorized with less effort and time.

I'm partial to Chicago Manual of Style and Webster's Dictionary of English Usage as much because they apply specifically to my preferred and chosen discipline and dialect as because they express a delightful degree of subtle humor.

However, as an editor, I'm also versed in Hart's Rules, Fowler's Dictionary of English Usage for British dialect, and have experience with and own copies of MLA, APA, CSE, and AP style manuals, as well as grammar handbooks, and other style manuals. Further, at present, the most comprehensive online style manual, published online and covering online publication, is the Wikipedia style manual, which I regularly resort to.

In my expert opinion, a writer should own and frequently refer to a comprehensive dictionary, a grammar handbook, a dictionary of English usage, a style manual, and a dictionary of synonyms.

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