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Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Hisgirl1
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Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby Hisgirl1 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:47 pm

I'm writing my first book and have been struggling with whether or not to capitalize pronouns for God, ie: His or his? Him or him? My text is heavy with references to God. Should I follow common grammar rules or should I capitalize?

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby RedBaron » Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:51 pm

Some Bible translations do, some don't.

I always do, as that's what I was taught in school as the proper grammar rule and feel it shows proper respect.
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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby glorybee » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:30 pm

The Christian Writers Manual of Style advises against it, but each publisher has their own preference. If you don't find it on a publications "Guidelines for Writers" page, I'd advise not capitalizing them, as per industry standard. If the publication wants them capitalized, it's an easy enough edit.

By the way, capitalization has nothing to do with respect or lack thereof. It's simply a way to distinguish a common noun from a proper noun.

Many Christian writers refuse to capitalize Satan, thinking that capitalization somehow gives Satan "respect." But if that were the case, we wouldn't capitalize Hitler, or Osama bin Laden, either.

Proper nouns -- capital letters
Common nouns -- lower case
Pronouns -- lower case
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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby RedBaron » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:43 pm

I never knew it was the industry standard to not capitalize the pronouns. I was always taught that it was the proper way to do it.
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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby Laurie » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:11 pm

Thanks, Jan. :) I didn't know the industry standard. And somewhere along the line I also had the idea that it shows respect.

It seems like there was also a discussion here in the past about capitalizing God in certain instances. For example, is it god of love or God of love? It seems to me that the correct way was god of love.

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby glorybee » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:16 pm

The Christian Writers' Manual of Style used to be available online as a pdf--I tried my link just now and it's no longer available. Rats.

Laurie, use 'god' if you're referring to one of multiple gods, as in god of love. Use 'God' when referring to the one God.
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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby glorybee » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:25 pm

Here are a few relevant links:

http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/do ... e-god.aspx

http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mc ... nouns.html

http://www.markandlauraward.com/blog/20 ... -to-deity/

However, you can also find some sites that say pronouns for God can/should be capitalized. So I think my original post holds true: if you're writing for a particular publication, try to find out their preference. If you're just writing for your self (a blog, for example), do whatever seems comfortable for you. If you're writing something academic or you're not sure, lower case would be the default.
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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:41 am

Zondervan has killed all its links for the Christian Writer's Manual of Style, as has (virtually?) everyone else. However, you can still get it. If you are interested, you should follow these directions AND save it ASAP.

You can get it using the Internet archive, Wayback Machine. Go to http://archive.org/web/web.php . On that page, enter http://www.zondervan.com/media/cms/Othe ... al_cms.pdf in the box next to the "Take Me Back" button. From the page that comes up, click on the July 5 (2010) button.


Jan is right that the best course of action is this: “if you're writing for a particular publication, try to find out their preference.”

I also agree that the Zondervan/Christian Writer's Manual of Style is influential. However, it has its idiosyncrasies, as does every style manual. (And I say that as someone who has had his material published by Zondervan. (Not to overstate, I authored the first draft of about a page or so of someone else’s book, which was published by Zondervan in 1992, for which I received attribution.) I will not hijack the thread by noting all my disagreements with this Manual—it suffices to say that it is BOTH influential (and thus worth saving to your computer) AND not perfect.

However, interestingly, the Christian Writer's Manual of Style exhibits one of those idiosyncrasies with regard to the very question addressed by this thread AND (in an extremely low key manner) introduces a problem with capitalizing deity pronouns: It says EVEN IF one opts to capitalize deity pronouns, one should not capitalize “who,” “whom,” and “whose.” Really??? Apparently, these are the ONLY pronouns that should not be capitalized. While some of these words can—in different contexts—function as different types of pronouns, I assume the Manual advocates non-capitalization when they serve as relative pronouns. Yet the Manual gives NO reasons for not capitalizing this subset of relative pronouns while allowing (presumably) the capitalization of other relative pronouns and (by clear implication) all demonstrative, personal, (objective, subjective, possessive), indefinite, interrogative, reciprocal, and reflexive pronouns (as well as other categories if we split the hairs more finely).

As I mentioned, the Manual’s advice highlights a problem. Many writers—including Christian writers who might have an instinctive or principled reason for capitalizing deity pronouns—don’t understand English grammar at a technical level and therefore don’t even recognize all pronouns that ought to be capitalized (again, assuming that one has chosen to capitalize deity pronouns).

By the way, I don’t find this link’s (http://www.markandlauraward.com/blog/20 ... -to-deity/) advocacy against full-on deity pronoun capitalization persuasive. (It either posits silly non-existent ambiguities or addresses issues that are actually translation issues). BUT, the link is still useful for other reasons. (Thanks, Jan.)
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“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby Laurie » Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:54 am

Hisgirl, I hope you have found what's best for your situation. :)

Thanks for your feedback and links, Jan and Steve. :)

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby lish1936 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:52 am

Wow! Class is in session on this thread. :D

Steve, please don't be insulted, but when I read your post one question popped into my head:

Is there a word in the writer's market comparable to legalese found in the legal arena?

Since I didn't want to misspell 'legalese' I googled it. The first answer from Merriam-Webster was given by someone named Steve Weinberg. Mmm, I thought, what a coincidence. SW? Could it be...? Yes, it is.

Now I know why your answer reminded me of a contract with a rather lengthy disclaimer. :wink:

However, between your post and Jan's, I think I got it. :bow

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:06 pm

Oh man! I got pegged as a lawyer again! (Serves me right for trying to sound like a grammarian.)

But the SW really is a coincidence.
Steve
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"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby lish1936 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:31 pm

Mmm...Interesting. Question: Why is nlf.net beneath your name and listed as your web site? - At least I think I read it correctly.

I'm still not going to let you off the hook. :D You write like a lawyer, even if you can't claim to be one. That in itself is a laudable feat, and should be considered a compliment (I think). :roll:

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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:45 pm

I am a lawyer. I didn't mean "pegged incorrectly." I meant "pegged CORRECTLY."

And, yes, the website is for the public interest law firm that I run.

But now you're writing like a detective. :D
Steve
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"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby lish1936 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 1:42 pm

:typing2 Aha! I stumbled into the truth. I KNEW it! Can a lawyer change his language? Never! :lol:

So, the name of the Merriam-Webster explainer of 'legalese' is also true, or just a name-a-like.
By the way, Congratulations. You've accomplished much.

Lillian
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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby Come forth » Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:32 pm

Hi everyone, a very interesting discussion, but I want to go on a slightly different tangent with the 'respect' aspect.

I'm not sure how to put this across, but I don't believe you can make rules for respect; it comes from the heart. Sure, we have guidelines because they at least help to teach what respect is. But if you obey those guidelines because they are there and you know it get's the response you want, that isn't true respect.

Now, I've never been published, I have never tried to be, but I'd love to be. And I guess that means I would follow the 'guidelines'of the publisher when I eventually submit a manuscript. BUT, is my respect based on what I feel in my heart or on what some rule book says about using capitals for pronouns.

When I write I always us 'He' and even 'Dad' for my Dad. Now some people have had a go at me for calling Him 'Dad' and say it is a lack of respect; and there is my whole point. Respect is in the heart of each of us and is more based on how we feel towards Him than some rule book; but it is even more confusing when we start to also try and respect each others opinion. If my use of 'Dad' causes you concern do I now disrespect you or continue to do what I believe respects my Abba Father.

So let's put this another way, "Do I respect Zondervan's rules of respect or just continue to respect my Father?" And yes, sometimes I call Him 'Father'; especially when I feel He wants to talk to me out back in the woodshed.

Maybe I'm only confusing the issue, and if so I apologise.
May we all get eyes to see and ears to hear,
A Revelation of His Word, crystal clear.
Admitting our need to be drawn in,
Less of self, more of Him.

My prayer for us all.
God bless us with the Revelation of His Word, Graham
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