Capitalizing God

by Dr Davis on February 4, 2004

I received a paper in which every single word which in some way referred to God was capitalized. It bugged me, so I went looking for rules. I tried Google, “grammar of God” and found some interesting websights, but nothing useful. I switched my google search to capitalization of God and found some answers.

1. God, Allah. The rules about pronouns referring to the deity vary; some reference works state that “He” or “His” or “Thee” are capitalized whenever “God” is capitalized. Some writers always put the pronouns in lower case. Check with your professors about their requirements.

This info from Richmond, edu.

2. a spoof which says you should capitalize words next to words about God

3. Incorrect capitalization of the noun “god”

Well, you say that god exists, but I think Santa Claus is more plausible.

Here, the writer is showing his complete and utter disdain for God by demoting him below Santa Claus, not only with his sentence, but with his capitalization. This is just plain wrong. In this sentence, God is a proper noun, and needs to be capitalized to distinguish it from “a god” as seen in the following sentence (which is correct usage):

I don’t see proof that there is a god.

Incorrect capitalization of pronouns

I know that God is alive because He shows himself to me.

Here, the writer is capitalizing a pronoun to try to convey the massive respect he has for his god above anything else that may be expressed with a proper noun. This is also bad grammar, though it does not introduce the confusion that not capitalizing “God” can (as noted above); it looks like he either has a sticky shift key or meant to break a sentence. Proper usage would be something to the effect of:

I know that God is alive because he shows himself to me

or
I know that God is alive because He shows Himself to me. (If you are capitalizing all the pronouns.)

Capitalizing God

4. Capitalization is like italicization or “like” quotation-encapsulation, it is a method of subtly changing the meaning of a word to suggest a different, a “bigger”, an “important” form of it’s use to then subtly change the meaning of the entire sentence.

Examples of capitalization include:

� God – not “oh god, today sucked”, but “Oh Lord, thou art ten pounds of Holy in a Five-Pound-Bag.”-God

� Bad Thing – not “bad doggie, no biscuit!”, but more towards being “Evil”-Bad.

� Good Thing – not “that’s a good way of doing that”, but “this is the Right and Just way to do that”

� Social Engineering – not chatting up a gal to get her phone number, but chatting up a gal to get her friend’s number.

Often, such emphasized terms will be found in notibly brief sentences with abrupt punctuation. This may be seen as the writer directing focus and resolution to the sentence. In speech, one might imagine the speaker crossing their arms and straightening their posture to say things such as:

� Violence is Bad.

� God is Opinion.

from Info Anarchy

5.� The names of religions and religious terms receive capital letters.

We read a story from the Bible about God and Moses.

NOTE:� Pronouns referring to God should be capitalized.� Non-specific use of the word “god” should not be capitalized.

The Bible talks about God and His disciples.

The Egyptians worshipped many different gods.

Some company’s website

6. Religions: Methodist, Catholic, Taoism, Christian, Buddhism, Muslim

Note: Capitalize God only when it refers to the Christian God; also capitalize all nouns and personal pronouns when they refer to God.

Montana Life

Basically I found that most of the authors and sites said that the pronouns etc should be capitalized.

Any thoughts on that from anyone else?

Update: I actually think, after having thought of this for months and months, that I prefer that the title and the pronouns be captialized. It shows respect. Special respect. But apparently the Bible scholars think it should be more normal.

According to the SBL Handbook of Style, which, I am told, is the Bible for Biblical scholars, just as the MLA is the book for English scholars, God and his proper names should be capitalized, but not common titles or any pronouns.

So, Jesus is the Son of God, would be correct. But it is His kingdom of which he is Commander, would not be correct.

Learn something new everyday. There’s a goal to strive for.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leslie Burton 07.17.09 at 9:17 am

In Catholic school, by the way, we were taught to capitalize a pronoun that referred to God.

But aside from that, you said that the following sentence is bad grammar. I can’t see anything wrong with it. Can you explain?
I know that God is alive because he shows himself to me.

And finally, why wouldn’t god be capitalized in “Oh, my God”? I think it would be.
Thanks.
Leslie

2 Dr Davis 07.17.09 at 11:07 am

Yes, I was always taught that pronouns referring to God were capitalized as well. That, and the fact that I had seen reputable scholars not doing it, is why I looked it up to start with. But the student paper that began the whole crusade wrote like this, “God is In Charge of our lives because He Created the world and so He Can Do Anything He wants.”

Modern scholars say not to capitalize the pronouns. However, having thought of this quite a bit since I wrote, I would be okay with a student doing it, provided that they were always consistent. I would check with the professor of my class, however, on whether or not s/he would accept that.

The sentence that you are referencing had He capitalized but not Himself. Whoever is writing the work should be consistent.

3 Dan 07.28.09 at 10:48 pm

so then God would get capitalized no matter what whether you believe in Him or not yes?

4 Dr Davis 07.29.09 at 7:09 am

God is capitalized, just as Dan is capitalized. The real question is the capitalization of pronouns of God. I would expect that if you do not believe in God, you would not even consider capitalizing the pronouns.

5 Sara-Jane 03.23.10 at 11:59 am

How about capitalizing pronouns in a sentence when the god referred to to is Allah? I teach at a Catholic school so I expect pronouns referring to God to be capitalized, but what about Allah? He is the same God just called a different name. What you are your thoughts. Thanks for any help!

6 Dr Davis 03.23.10 at 4:26 pm

If a Muslim would capitalize them, I would do it. If they don’t, I wouldn’t.

7 Amber 10.11.10 at 9:50 am

Thank you for this post and probably others that I haven’t read yet. It was very helpful. However, you have a typo in your very last sentence. And I wouldn’t point it out, except the irony of it was too much to pass by. Especially since you continually strive for new goals.

8 Dr Davis 10.14.10 at 9:00 am

I fixed it. Thank you.

9 HeWhoIsNotIlliterate 12.22.10 at 9:18 am

Hey, capitalising pronouns when talking about a god is pretty bad grammar.

10 Harry 04.30.11 at 8:42 pm

The old bible manuscripts didn’t have this problem. They only used capital letters. Maybe I’ll try that.

11 john truitt 05.06.11 at 11:34 am

If He, His, Him are to be capitalized in a sentance referencing God, what about other pronouns like you, me, your — any direct reference to God as in dialogue?

12 Bob 06.10.11 at 6:43 am

And for atheists? For those of us who do not believe in god, writing “God” puts a mere human idea on the same level as a real human.

13 Dr Davis 06.11.11 at 3:00 pm

What do you do with Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter? Do you have any objection to those names being capitalized? They certainly aren’t real and no one thinks they are. But I’ve never even seen anyone question their capitalization.

14 kathy 08.30.11 at 1:38 pm

What if you are referring to “a god” instead of “God”, i.e., “Native Americans believed a god made the river so that people could eat the river’s abundant salmon.” Do you capitalize “god” in this sentence?

I believe they are still referring to “God”, it is just their version of God so I thought it should be capitalized. Let me know if you agree or disagree. Thanks!

15 Dr Davis 08.30.11 at 5:30 pm

If there is an article, direct or indirect, (so the, an, or a) then it is not the name of a person/entity. Instead it refers to their deity. That is not capitalized.

16 Debbie S 07.19.12 at 8:20 am

I see it has been 7 years since your first wrote your article … I too was taught the capitalization rules you’ve listed above – and this was in public school!! I’m wondering if you know why we wouldn’t capitalize the word “godly” when referring to something that has character traits in the image of God. For example, “A Christian man should marry a Godly woman.” I always see it as “A Christian man should marry a godly woman.” Is she “godly” – one that is characterized by emulating the traits of the gods of this world, or is she “Godly” – one that is characterized by emulating the traits of God? Anyway, I haven’t found the answer to that question yet, and I thought perhaps you’d know.

17 Dr Davis 07.20.12 at 7:32 pm

I don’t know. A guess would be that we have appropriated a proper noun for an adjective and thus have changed it. When you say that someone was shanghaied, you are using a proper noun as a verb. It is not capitalized either. Perhaps simply changing the part of speech makes the difference, but I bet it is also an effect of time.

18 SKAINS 11.22.14 at 12:27 am

Touche. Sound arguments. Keep up the good spirit.|

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