English Language Discussion Board > Capitalize it or not?
Capitalize it or not?
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4508 posts
Mar 30, 2011
3:17 PM
I was just told, "If you have more than one proper noun of the same type, capitalize its accompanying common noun as well."

Examples: Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Main and Elm Streets, Amazon and Nile Rivers

I have always seen and done this: Oxford and Cambridge universities, Main and Elm streets, Amazon and Nile rivers

Does anyone agree? If not, please name the style guide(s) that says the common noun should be capitalized.
The Real Mudge
5009 posts
Mar 30, 2011
6:28 PM
Chicago (the 15th edition) says that names of streets are capitalized (e.g., Elm Street, Second Street) but also says that the plural form (Elm and Second streets) is lowercased. I couldn't find a similar ruling for the plural of universities and rivers, but I'll bet that CMS would say the same. In other words, it agrees with you.

What you were told most likely follows somebody's style. One of the problems we have with these fine points of orthography is that variant styles are bound to exist, so "correct" usage is not absolute. You'll do one thing if you're following AP, another if you're following CMS, and another if you're following Gregg, Merriam-Webster, or something else. Even more confusing is that style books keep updating. I've cited rules from the 15th edition of CMS (which is only eight years old) and have been informed that the new 18th edition says something else.
Rich Turner (The Curmudgeon Himself)
4509 posts
Mar 30, 2011
9:13 PM
The person who said that uses CMOS, and I just purchased the new edition. I'll look it up and report back.
4510 posts
Mar 30, 2011
9:44 PM
Well, 8.55 says to capitalize it, e.g., Main and Elm Streets.

I'm crushed. My editor from about fifteen years ago had to practically whip me bloody to make me lowercase "streets." Now I have to change again.

Last Edited by on Mar 30, 2011 9:45 PM
688 posts
Mar 31, 2011
2:03 AM
In the first case, if the reference is to the names of the two institutions, I would capitalize "Universities"; if it is to the physical collection of college buildings in each of the towns, I don't think I would.

I won't offer an opinion on the street question, because I know that AmE and BrE usage differs in this. (CeeBee, if you ever find yourself in London I promise that you may not only capitalize "Street" but also repeat it, e.g. Oxford Circus is the intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street.)

The rivers may be a different case. Personally I wouldn't capitalize "river" because I don't think it's part of the name: it seems to me that the Amazon and the Nile are complete names in themselves (in other words, it would probably be clear enough simply to write "the Amazon and the Nile").
692 posts
Mar 31, 2011
9:56 AM
CeeBee : I agree with your logic. I don't think the uppercase R is an error, and if you like "the Amazon River" in the singular, it makes sense to write "the Amazon and Nile Rivers."

Personally I prefer "the Amazon river", along with "the Amazon jungle", "the Amazon estuary", and "Amazon crocodiles."
693 posts
Apr 01, 2011
8:20 AM
I won't lose any sleep over the capitalization of a term like "river" when it is attached to a specific name (like the Amazon River as opposed to an American river). But when it is right (or "acceptable" or "preferable") to capitalize it in the singular, it would make sense to do the same in the plural.

This appears to be consistent with the CMOS view, although obviously I don't know whether their reasoning is the same.

Last Edited by on Apr 01, 2011 8:22 AM
1207 posts
Apr 02, 2011
6:41 PM
I thought that you don't cap proper plural adjectives. Isn't this a grammar question? Why is it posted on the punctuation board?

Last Edited by on Apr 02, 2011 6:42 PM
4517 posts
Apr 02, 2011
9:36 PM
I thought that you don't cap proper plural adjectives.
There is no such animal.
Isn't this a grammar question?
Why is it posted on the punctuation board?
It isn't. This is the Grammar Discussion Board.

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