Core Grammar #9a: Religious Capitalization

Proper Nouns and Religious Faith

Because you are a student at Ashland University, sooner or later you will need to write a paper in a religious studies course. Somehow, capitalization of terms related to religion is always a problem in these papers, so here is a quick guide.

Note: None of this has anything to do with what you believe; it’s only a matter of English grammar. With very few exceptions, the rules are exactly the same as the rules for general writing.

Proper Names

Proper nouns are always capitalized, whether they refer to visible persons (Mr. Allen), historic personages (Moses, Mohammed), mythic figures (Zeus), or deity (Allah, God, Holy Spirit). Proper nouns that refer to religions are also capitalized. Thus, we get:

Not much help from Microsoft

Some words are used in a generic or common-noun sense, but have also been adopted by religious organizations as proper nouns. Microsoft won’t force you to capitalize them—you have to learn to do this yourself.

Holy pronouns

Some folk, as a gesture of respect, capitalize any pronoun that refers to deity ("Jesus spoke to His disciples"). This is a somewhat old-fashioned American usage; if you wish to do this, please be consistent, and in any case you should be aware of the preferred usage of your audience. It’s falling out of favor in general writing. You won’t find it in modern Bibles.

Just to make you crazy

Many biblical names end in "s" but common usage does not form possessives in the normal way:

You probably will not get in trouble if you add that extra s, and you can always write around the problem: "The teachings of Jesus" "The laws of Moses."

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.

Revised 8/3/20 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: