What is the rule on "god?" (Grammatically Speaking, that is)
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20-11-2012, 04:07 PM
What is the rule on "god?" (Grammatically Speaking, that is)
I just got an essay back from my English teacher on the book Night, a memoir written by a Holocaust survivor. From one of three prompts, I, of course, chose the one on religion. I found upon her returning it that I had a 90 (which isn't really that bad of a grade for this class) and that she had circled every time I did not capitalize the word god. I examined it and thought to myself that it didn't make any sense--I thought that it was grammatically correct. I pointed this out to her and argued with her for the last five minutes of class, and got her to admit that she wasn't sure about the rule and that she would research it more.

Maybe I was wrong, though. Any English majors or grammar Nazis? These were my exact sentences:

1. In the end, Elie shifts dramatically, from a firm believer in the Jewish god Yahweh to a man who severely doubts the existence of a god at all.

2. Upon their arrival at Auschwitz, the Jews of Sighet cling on to their god like a life preserver in the roiling sea.

"Leave the atom alone."
-E.Y. Harburgh
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20-11-2012, 04:19 PM
RE: What is the rule on "god?" (Grammatically Speaking, that is)
The quick and dirty rule is:

1. When God is used as a name, such as "Thank God" or "I hope to God" or "God damn it!", then it should be capitalized like all names.
2. When god is not used as a name, such as "Zeus was a Greek god", then it doesn't need to be capitalized.

So in your three examples, all three uses would be lower case.

Side notes:
a. Jewish tradition often avoids spelling "God" because that can be used offensively, so they often write "G-d" instead.
b. Older documents capitalize pronouns relating to God, such as "God wants us to worship Him" but that has dropped out of fashion and even the KJV bible uses lowercase.
c. In my novel, as a matter of style, I used uppercase for my evil god and all pronouns related to Him.

"Whores perform the same function as priests, but far more thoroughly." - Robert A. Heinlein
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20-11-2012, 04:20 PM
RE: What is the rule on "god?" (Grammatically Speaking, that is)
There are plenty of people here that are much better at this than I am, but I would have written the sentences as you did.

When 'god' is used as a generic term it isn't capitalized.

I am sure the exact, correct answer is forthcoming.

'See here they are, the bruises, some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way.' -JF
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20-11-2012, 04:42 PM
RE: What is the rule on "god?" (Grammatically Speaking, that is)
(20-11-2012 04:07 PM)DreamWeaver Wrote:  I just got an essay back from my English teacher on the book Night, a memoir written by a Holocaust survivor. From one of three prompts, I, of course, chose the one on religion. I found upon her returning it that I had a 90 (which isn't really that bad of a grade for this class) and that she had circled every time I did not capitalize the word god. I examined it and thought to myself that it didn't make any sense--I thought that it was grammatically correct. I pointed this out to her and argued with her for the last five minutes of class, and got her to admit that she wasn't sure about the rule and that she would research it more.

Maybe I was wrong, though. Any English majors or grammar Nazis? These were my exact sentences:

1. In the end, Elie shifts dramatically, from a firm believer in the Jewish god Yahweh to a man who severely doubts the existence of a god at all.

2. Upon their arrival at Auschwitz, the Jews of Sighet cling on to their god like a life preserver in the roiling sea.
1) You are correct.
2) You are correct.

Although, in each instance, it could be argued that this should be capitalized because it is in reference to "God". But, that is just a style thing. You are grammatically correct.

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20-11-2012, 04:44 PM
RE: What is the rule on "god?" (Grammatically Speaking, that is)
(20-11-2012 04:19 PM)Aseptic Skeptic Wrote:  The quick and dirty rule is:

1. When God is used as a name, such as "Thank God" or "I hope to God" or "God damn it!", then it should be capitalized like all names.
2. When god is not used as a name, such as "Zeus was a Greek god", then it doesn't need to be capitalized.

So in your three examples, all three uses would be lower case.

Side notes:
a. Jewish tradition often avoids spelling "God" because that can be used offensively, so they often write "G-d" instead.
b. Older documents capitalize pronouns relating to God, such as "God wants us to worship Him" but that has dropped out of fashion and even the KJV bible uses lowercase.
c. In my novel, as a matter of style, I used uppercase for my evil god and all pronouns related to Him.
This is a good reply, and the quick and dirty rule is what I thought as well. However, I should point out that I directly recall my mother(devout Mormon) telling me as a child that god should always be capitalized. I think its more of a tradition, say if you're a devout believer it should always be capitalized, than a hard rule. I could be wrong though.

Yes, I did leave that in lower case on purpose. Smile
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20-11-2012, 05:30 PM
RE: What is the rule on "god?" (Grammatically Speaking, that is)
(20-11-2012 04:44 PM)PhoenixGate Wrote:  
(20-11-2012 04:19 PM)Aseptic Skeptic Wrote:  The quick and dirty rule is:

1. When God is used as a name, such as "Thank God" or "I hope to God" or "God damn it!", then it should be capitalized like all names.
2. When god is not used as a name, such as "Zeus was a Greek god", then it doesn't need to be capitalized.

So in your three examples, all three uses would be lower case.

Side notes:
a. Jewish tradition often avoids spelling "God" because that can be used offensively, so they often write "G-d" instead.
b. Older documents capitalize pronouns relating to God, such as "God wants us to worship Him" but that has dropped out of fashion and even the KJV bible uses lowercase.
c. In my novel, as a matter of style, I used uppercase for my evil god and all pronouns related to Him.
This is a good reply, and the quick and dirty rule is what I thought as well. However, I should point out that I directly recall my mother(devout Mormon) telling me as a child that god should always be capitalized. I think its more of a tradition, say if you're a devout believer it should always be capitalized, than a hard rule. I could be wrong though.

Yes, I did leave that in lower case on purpose. Smile

Your mother was right on that point (but wrong on the magic underwear, I daresay) - assuming she was referring to God as a proper name or title. Since Mormons also refer to him as "Heavenly Father", and in my experience, they use that as a name - it's not "my heavenly father loves me" but rather "Heavenly Father loves me", I think Mormons often just assume that any and all references to their god is always a name, or at least use it that way. They also recognize his name as Elohim, and I'm sure they capitalize that when they use it.

But I suspect that if your mother were ever to write something like "Heavenly Father is the god we pray to" she might write it like I just did since, in this context, god is more like a race than a name, much like I could say "Joe Pesci is the human I pray to". If she were to write "Heavenly Father is the God we pray to" it would be analogous to writing "Heavenly Father is the Elohim we pray to" which would be true but nonsensical.

(gotta give props to Carlin for the Joe Pesci thing)

And since this is a grammar thread, I recognize that "Heavenly Father (Joe Pesci) is the god we pray to" is ending a sentence with a preposition, which is a no-no, but I was keeping the example simple.

"Whores perform the same function as priests, but far more thoroughly." - Robert A. Heinlein
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