Putting proper nouns in all capitals


I've sometimes seen proper nouns put in all capital letters. And it's not because the entire sentence is in capitals, or because the person is "shouting".

For example, I've seen in the CIA factbook

... chief of state: Queen of Australia ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Quentin BRYCE (since 5 September 2008)

And on the English language edition of the "about" page of Sapporo RubyKaigi, I see names in all capitals such as

Koji SHIMADA (Nihon Ruby-no-Kai, Enishi Tech Inc.)

The Japanese language version doesn't use the Latin alphabet for Koji's name. I also see this at https://bugs.ruby-lang.org/projects/ruby-trunk , suggesting it isn't a once-off error by an editor of the Sapporo RubyKaigi website.

Is this regarded as valid English according to a certain style that I'm not aware of?

Andrew Grimm

Posted 2013-03-13T08:39:35.093

Reputation: 5 696

3This comes up fairly often with Japanese names, since (as you know) they're written surname first in Japanese. In English, they're usually written surname last, but not always, so it helps to disambiguate. – snailplane – 2013-03-13T09:45:12.143

1This looks to me like a hangover from typewriter days, when all-caps and underscores were used in lieu of printed boldface and italics. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-03-13T11:46:30.083

One other place where it's common to see nouns all capitalized is in biblical and religious texts, where words that mean "God" are often capitalised, for instance "The LORD is my shepherd" – Matt – 2013-03-13T21:17:56.143



Is this regarded as valid English according to a certain style ...?

Surnames in all-capitals is a common style used in genealogical databases and in genealogical discussions. For example, a Recording Names lesson at genealogy.about.com says

2. Print SURNAMES in upper case letters. This provides easy scanning on pedigree charts and family group sheets and also helps to distinguish the surname from first and middle names. This convention is widely used, but is not necessary. Example: Garrett John TODD

Several genealogy programs have options to choose letter-cases for surnames, and some genealogists use different rules. (1, 2, 3, 4)

James Waldby - jwpat7

Posted 2013-03-13T08:39:35.093

Reputation: 7 590


jwpat7's answer aside, in the context that you give, I am not aware of any convention to capitalize proper names in ordinary narrative texts. I presume someone did it there just to make the proper names stand out.

It's fairly rare but not unheard of to use some typographical convention to highlight a set of words that one considers important in a certain context.

When I am writing about computer databases, I often put an initial capital on database table names, partly to make them stand out and partly to distinguish them from ordinary uses of the word. Like if there's a table named "employee", I'll write it "Employee" to make clear that it's a table name and not a reference to an ordinary, human employee.

A military history magazine that I read routinely puts the names of military units from one side in italics and the other side in normal type to help the reader quickly distinguish them.

Capitalization, italics, bolding, sometimes even a different font are used in this way. But whenever it's done, the details are specific to a particular context, often to that particular piece of writing. There's no general rule that I know of.

Thus to get back to jwpat7: That's a convention used in one particular context, which makes it a little broader than I've been saying. (Also in genealogies, I've see italics used for women and upright type for men.)

In computer books it's common to use a Courier font for things you actually type into the computer and a Roman font for narrative text.

I'm sure there are other context with recognized common conventions. I can't think of another off the top of my head.


Posted 2013-03-13T08:39:35.093

Reputation: 51 729