RE: Tricky capitalization

Subject: RE: Tricky capitalization
From: Fred Ridder <docudoc -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2012 22:58:22 -0400


In response to Chris Morton, Lauren wrote:


> You were given appropriate answers, but, FYI, "president" is only
> capitalized when it refers to the head of state (or it is at the
> beginning of a sentence).
>
> Incidentally, you need a comma after "president" in your sentence as
> presented. You would not need this comma if referring to a head of state.

Neither of the "rules" you state as being based on references to heads of state are in agreement with most style manuals.

Chicago Manual of Style (16th) 8.18 says "Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are thus used as a part of the name (typically replacing the title holder's first name)." The examples they provide include "General Bradley", "Cardinal Newman", and "Governors Quinn and Paterson", none of whom are heads of state.

Nor is it a rule that the title of a head of state is always capitalized. CMoS 8.20 says "When a title is used in apposition before a personal name--that is, not alone and as a part of the name but as an equivalen to it, usually preceded by _the_ or by a modifier--it is considered not a title but rather a descriptive phrase and is therefore lowercased. Among the examples are "German chancellor Angela Merkel", "former president Carter", and "former presidents Reagan and Ford".

Also note that even though the name and title in these latter examples are in apposition (and even described as such), the appositive is *not* set off with commas. These appositives are not set off with commas because they are "restrictive appositives", which CMoS 5.21 defines as one which "cannot be removed from a sentence without obscuring the identity of the word or phrase that the appositive relates to." The examples they give of non-restrictive and restrictive appositives are "Robert Burns, the poet, wrote many songs about women named Mary" vs. "the poet Robert Burns wrote many songs about women."

-Fred Ridder





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Follow-Ups:

References:
Tricky capitalization: From: Chris Morton
Re: Tricky capitalization: From: Lauren

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