Every publisher understands no submitted manuscript is perfect, but it doesn’t mean you should turn in a story riddled with typos, grammatical errors and other easily correctible issues. Which is why Hydra editor, Josiah Davis, agreed to a five-part series to help you get your work in progress ready for submission. Today he wraps up his series talking about CAPITALIZATION. (See what I did there?)
Can you believe we’ve reached the end of our journey together? This is the final installment of my Getting Your Manuscript Ready for Editing series, and we’re back again this week to talk about capitalization. Now, I’m sure you know how to capitalize your character’s names, and the start of your sentences, but what about everything else?
What I want specifically cover today in this final segment is capitalization within proper nouns and titles. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
“What should we do, Mom?”
“My mom told me to go to the store.”
Both of those are correct, but do you know the specific reason why? If your answer was something similar to “If a noun can replace a name then it should be capitalized,” then you’re spot on. In the first example, you’re using the word “Mom” instead of your mother’s name, whereas in the second example it’s a common noun. Start doing a search through your manuscript for all uses of mom/dad/etc and make sure that your capitalization for each use follows the rule I just mentioned.
We can carry over that rule to titles. If your book has any individuals in the military, this is especially important. If you’re using a military title along with a name, you need to capitalize it, ex: “This is Lieutenant Smith.” You would also capitalize the title if it can be used in place of the name, “Yes, Lieutenant!” However, you would not if you’re just saying “The lieutenant told me to come get you.” Use this as a point of reference and search through your document for all of your military titles, and make sure that they’re all consistent and adhering to the rule.
Depending on your setting, titles of royalty can vary, but they generally follow the same guidelines. “This is Queen Elizabeth,” or “The king is over there.” If you want to have a specific title be capitalized always in your universe, that’s your call as an author, but make sure that there’s a very clear rule that your reader can follow, and know that you are bending the rules of capitalization a bit to make that happen. As long as you have a pattern that can be followed, however, then your reader will believe you and buy into it. An example of this would be capitalizing every use of “Emperor” if your book was set in a universe with a tyrannical leader. But again, start doing searches through your manuscript and make sure that you have a set rule you’re following.
This lesson may seem like it’s trivial and something that’s known inherently among writers, but these nouns are frequently used incorrectly, so it is greatly worth you combing through your writing to make sure that you’re following the correct rules with your nouns.
Well, that brings us to the end of this series. I really appreciate you reading, and I hope that at least some of it was helpful to you, your writing, and your editor. Stay tuned for more helpful articles on writing in the future. Until next time!