Chomiji (chomiji) wrote in fandom_grammar,
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Answer: Capitalizing People's Titles in a Sentence

level_head asks "How should this sentence be capitalized: 'The Colonel should be here in a moment'?" Our old friends from Star Trek (the original series) will do their best to help us out.

Unfortunately, this is one of those "it depends" subjects.

The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook, two of the more common sets of writing guidelines in use in the United States, would lowercase a person's title in this situation:

"I take it that you had some news about Admiral Okeke," said Spock.

"The Soryu was reported missing, presumed lost. The admiral was on that ship," said Kirk, bleakly.

Notice that when the title is used with the officer's name, as in the first sentence, it's capitalized. Chicago lays this all out concisely for an impressive range of types of titles, such as:

"Chester W. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral; Admiral Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet; the admiral ...
Rabbi Stephen Wise; the rabbi ...
Elizabeth II, queen of England; Queen Elizabeth; the queen of England; the queen ... "

However, another common way of handling the situation - used, for example, in the U.S. government's GPO Style Manual - is to capitalize the title whenever it refers to a specific person:

"I take it that you had some news about Admiral Okeke," said Spock.

"The Soryu was reported missing, presumed lost. The Admiral was on that ship," said Kirk, bleakly.

This is the style that was used in one of our earlier articles, Capitalization of Military and Other Titles.

When we return to the original question, we can see there is a choice to be made. level_head can use either

"The colonel should be here in a moment."

or

"The Colonel should be here in a moment."

So which style should you use in your story? You will have to decide for yourself - but remember, as in all cases where there is a choice between styles, be consistent. Pick one way of handling the situation and stick to it. Consistency in these sorts of details helps make the mechanics of your writing fade into the background and lets the plot and the characters shine.

 

Tags: !answer, mechanics:capitalization
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