Why Do Some People Capitalize Words That Refer to God?

Admittedly not everyone does it. And to be honest, I haven’t seen someone go out of their way to do it for a while. But some people at some time used to capitalize every word in a sentence that referred to God. Usually though, this just meant capitalizing the pronouns that refer to God: “God and all His creation”, for example.

Why do/did people do this? Where did it originate? And also something I have wondered for some time now: would it be considered disrespectful by some not to do this?


I always assumed it was out of respect.

It’s a sign of respect. If you’re a God-fearing person, you may feel compelled to use capitalization when using words related to God. Or, you may not. There’s no hard-and-fast rules on it, IIRC.

If you’re not a God-fearing person, no one is going to jump down your throat for not using capitalization for words relating to God. (Of course, if you’re talking about the Judeo-Christian God, you should probably capitalize, “God” being a proper name and all).

I generally capitalize, but then again the only time it would be really necessary would be if I were writing something that would be read by other God-fearers. An article in a church newsletter, for example.

In the final chapter of “Rosemary’s Baby,” whenever Rosemary refers to her son, it’s not capitalized. Whenever a member of the coven refers to Him or the Child, it is capitalized.

That tickles me.

Maybe, depending on context and on your readership. As clairobscur said, it was first done out of reverence, and with time the vast majority of languages using the Roman alphabet adopted it as the standard style, many of them even as an actual written grammar rule. Since the pronoun takes the place of the noun, in the case of the deity it shares the reverential style.

English not having a French- or Spanish-style Real Academia body that sets down “official” rules of what is or is not THE way to write the language, it has always given its writers more flexibility to disregard style rules.

Is ‘God’ really a proper name? I think of it as a job title that’s used instead of a proper name.

I seem to remember that some Muslims argue for ‘Allah’ (ie. ‘God’) being a proper name God has given himself. In monotheistic religions the capitalisation is useful for distinguishing between the one God, and all the pretend gods.

The name of the Judeo-Christian God is Yahweh or Jehovah, depending upon whom you ask. But most Christians, and as far as I know many (most?) Jews, just say “God.” (Of course, many Jews use “G-d” as a sign of even further reverence).

I assume from the style in which you worded the thread title you mean that in a sentence which refers to God, every word would be capitalized. I can’t say I have ever seen that, so I wouldn’t know.

If instead you mean that in a sentence someone would capitalize every word which referred to God (in other words, nouns and prnouns referencing God), then others have answered your question. Here are my reasons:

[li]A sign of respect[/li][li]Use of God in place of a name (Jews and early Christians didn’t just lightly use Yahweh, Jehovah, or the tetragrammaton.)[/li][li]Common courtesy[/li][li]Ease of distinguishing God from something like the Greek or Roman pagan gods.[/li][/ul]

I have occasionally seen this convention used in English language texts about non-Abrahamic religions as well. For example, the author of A Young People’s Life of the Buddha, capitalizes the pronouns referring to the Buddha–but only after [H/h]is enlightenment.

And the author of this page discussing holy places in India uses upper case pronouns when referring to the Hindu deity Rama (although I note that pronouns referring to Hanuman are not capitalized):

According to God himself, his name is, “I AM”, of course…

Don’t forget that many people capitalize pronouns that refer to Jesus as well.

According to The Gregg Reference Manual (sixth edition):

Wouldn’t a snazzy font (along with capitalization) show even more respect?

Shouldn’t that be " a. Capitalize all references to a Supreme Being."? I never realized that Gaudere reached so far.

As for that Rule c, all of those just look to me like special cases of “capitalize proper nouns”.

That struck me to, but I copied it faithfully. I suspect it’s akin to the difference between a specific God, or a generic god. A specific Supreme Being vs a generic supreme being. I notice that their example says “the Supreme Being”.

I’m still wondering about the rule itself. If we’re supposed to “capitalize references to persons revered as divine,” the immediate question that occurred to me was, “Revered as divine by whom?”

The author?

The intended audience?

Or can any lunatic fringe cult leader qualify under Rule C just by virtue of having a few followers in tinfoil hats who revere him as divine?

The Roman Catholic Church (in English speaking countries), which used to be quite diligent in capitalizing the pronouns referring to God no longer does so. In all of its current official pronouncements, catechisms, codes of law, and liturgical books, the pronouns are now all smaller case for God (I think she likes it that way).