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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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glorybee
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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby glorybee » Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:56 pm

I think I may have been unclear. I was answering in English teacher mode, and I hope no one inferred that by my answer, I don't respect God. I revere and worship God (and I'm sure that the Zondervan folks do, too)--but that has nothing to do with the capitalization of pronouns for God.

It's just not the way the English language works. Look at any grammar book, in the chapter on capitalization of nouns. None of them will say that capitalization denotes respect. That's just not part of our language. Capitalization differentiates between common and proper nouns. Period.

If captialization denoted respect, you can see how many problems that might cause, because respect is largely a matter of personal opinion. I may not respect politician Joe Doe, but I wouldn't write "Please sign this petition to recall joe doe." Similarly, I have great respect for policemen, but I wouldn't write "The Policeman rescued the kidnapped child."

It's not theological, it's linguistic. Pronouns aren't capitalized.

That having been said--people should certainly feel free to capitalize those pronouns in their own writing. Neither capitalizing them nor leaving them lower case should be an occasion for drawing conclusions about the writer's respect or reverence for God.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby Come forth » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:27 pm

I, for one, and there are probably others, felt your answer to be quite correct and felt no disrespect or offense in your comments. The point I tried to make is exactly what you now prove; different people wearing different hats approach from different directions. In fact, the same person wearing a different hat on a different day, may approach it different than on the first day.

The original question about using capitals still remains answered the same way by me; because for me, and not forcing that on anyone else, that question can only be approached from the respect/relationship angle. But for a teacher or a publisher, the angle would be totally different; but that not does not imply a lack of respect for my Father from their point of view. They just have different, not right or wrong, just different viewing angles.

Just an interesting aside here (but I don't want to hijack the thread) is that one of the reasons I've never joined a writers group (until now) or tried to be published is that I don't write from an angle that cares two hoots for 'english correctness'. For instance, I'm a shocking speller and hate that there is no spellchecker on this forum. My puntuation skills are poor at best and I stuggle with these skills; so I just do what reads right to me and to hang with the rest of it.

I write out of a love of writing and out of relationship with my Dad. It's like praying for me. And I guess as I say that I feel most of you do the same; I know I'm no lone ranger. But I also know and respect that without the teachers helping me to think about correctness and showing/helping me to improve, well, I'd just babble for ever and never make any sense. So I guess I'm saying thank you to all those teachers out there, God bless all the angels we come from. (And yes, I did mean angels)
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
http://www.shekinahcloud.com/page/page/8464330.htm

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby swfdoc1 » Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:41 am

Since the respect issue keeps coming up, here’s my two cents.

I mostly agree with Jan, but with a wrinkle. If one does not capitalize pronouns for God that does not show disrespect. That has been clearly established by Jan’s several posts. The reason this is true is because one is simply complying with writing and publishing conventions. However, as Jan also mentioned, there are some style manuals that go the other way. So for those that do require (or allow) capitalization of pronouns for God, we ask “why?” The clear answer is that it IS a way to show respect (& that’s the “wrinkle”). After all, the “rule” that allows this is called “reverential capitalization.” Furthermore, we can demonstrate historically that that is exactly why the practice developed.

Jan is correct that as a general rule we don’t capitalize pronouns in English but we do capitalize proper nouns. However, we do capitalize one pronoun (“I”) and, more importantly, proper nouns are not the only things we capitalize. We capitalize titles, acronyms, demonyms/gentilics, the first word of sentences and of direct quotes, and names of languages, the days of the week, and months. (These last two cannot possibly REALLY be proper nouns no matter how many lists they show up on & they are not capitalized in many foreign languages). Oh, and sometimes we capitalize for emphasis, as I just did because I’m too lazy to use the italics button. So, reverential capitalization is just another occasion when we (can) capitalize.

The biggest difference is that reverential capitalization is optional (& currently the minority approach), whereas the rules for other occasions are virtually mandatory. (Although, for example, there is variation in HOW to capitalize titles).

So the biggest question for many writers might be what if I know that not capitalizing is not disrespectful, but I’m afraid my readers might find it disrespectful? I think the Chicago Manual of Style Online hits the nail on the head:

Chicago Manual of Style Online wrote:Q. What is the proper pronoun form to use to refer to God? I was taught to capitalize the pronoun “He” when “God” was the antecedent. However, I checked a number of standard grammar handbooks and can’t find any information on this point. Have the rules changed?

A. Chicago lowercases such pronouns, but it’s not wrong to uppercase, especially if you are writing for a religious readership or anyone else who might take lowercasing as a sign of disrespect. In matters of style, in contrast to those of grammar, there are few right or wrong answers. Different houses follow different style guides in order to make their publications consistent.

By the way, reverential capitalization is not limited to pronouns or to God. So for example, when you see style manuals address “down style” vs. “up style,” most of what they are talking about is keeping or abandoning reverential capitalization. President/president, Pope/pope, Secretary of State/secretary of state are all examples. Plus, you can use reverential capitalization creatively in fiction or non-fiction. It’s not unusual to read of someone as “The Man.” Walt Whitman famously used “These States.”

OK, more than two cents. Again. :(
Steve
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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 RedBaron » Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:50 am

Come forth wrote: For instance, I'm a shocking speller and hate that there is no spellchecker on this forum. My puntuation skills are poor at best and I stuggle with these skills; so I just do what reads right to me and to hang with the rest of it.


If you use FireFox, there is a built in spell checker for all things you do online. It will underline the words in a red squiggly line :) If you need help with that, let me know. I think some other browsers might have it, too, but I only use FireFox.
<><
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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby Come forth » Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:47 pm

Hey RedBaron, I loved your $5.50 worth; and it reinforces my point about respect being something that comes from within. Now, NOT saying that we each have to respect the same way or it ISN"T within. NO!. What I am saying is that we each should do what we feel is coming from within.

There isn't a right or wrong here except from the point of view of correct english or a publishers requirement. The rest is according to our heart. Capitalisation can show respect, so therefore some choose to do so that way.
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
http://www.shekinahcloud.com/page/page/8464330.htm

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Re: Should I capitalize pronouns for God?

Postby lish1936 » Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:14 pm

:typing2 Hope I'm not stepping on toes here. In my opinion, serious writers who are interested in being an active part of the writing industry should follow the 'Roman' rule which was one of my mother's Golden Rules and already alluded to: When in Rome do as the Romans do. If you wish to work with a Publisher, 'Rome' may require a 'he' for God, as Jan has stated.

If you're self-publishing or POD publishing, then you're free to use 'he,' or 'He'; whatever your heart dictates.

Lillian
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