Wordiness is far from godliness
Effective academic writing

Speaking of God ...

... should you capitalize a pronoun referring to God? According to yesterday’s installment of Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day, you shouldn’t.

When referring to God, most professional writers and editors don’t capitalize the pronouns — e.g.: “God is a spirit. I have had tremendous messages from him, which are from the Bible; it’s not something I've dreamed up or had a vision of. It’s important to study the Bible on a daily basis so he can speak to me.” Billy Graham, as quoted in “Of Angels, Devils and Messages from God,” Time, 15 Nov. 1993, at 74.

Is Time bowing to secularism? No. As The Chicago Manual of Style points out, “in few areas is an author more tempted to overcapitalize or an editor more loath to urge a lowercase style than in religion.” ([§ 7.77], at 265 [14th ed. 1993]).

But in fact the Bible itself — both the King James Version and the Revised Standard Version — doesn’t capitalize he or him in reference to God. Thus, while members of the clergy might capitalize these pronouns in letters to the congregation, other writers should make them lowercase.

Garner is right about the King James Bible. See, e.g., Genesis 1:5. The New American Bible follows the same convention. On this question, I suppose whatever is good enough for the Bible is good enough for the rest of us.


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