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The Capitalization of God

March 25, 2011

Quick English lesson for everyone. The word “God” is only capitalized when it is being used as
a proper noun, not when it is used as a common noun. Capitalizing “God” but not “gods” is not a
monotheist slight against polytheism that implies that Yahweh should be given some sort of
orthographic reverence that all of the other gods don’t get. It’s purely because monotheists use
the word “God” as Yahweh’s proper name.

This is exactly the same as the capitalization of the words “mom” and “dad.” When I write to
you, “my dad bought me a unicorn,” I do not capitalize it. When I write to my brother, “Dad
bought me a unicorn,” I capitalize it. I capitalize it when I am using it as a proper name. Ditto
with “God” and “Goddess.” When you’re talking about someone named “Goddess,” you
capitalize it. When you’re talking about someone else who just so happens to be a goddess, you

This is not oppression or lack of respect to the gods of polytheist religions. This is just how the
English language works when you write it.

So, the following sentences are written correctly:

“I pray to God.”
“I pray to the gods.”
“Hera is a goddess.”
“Yahweh is a god.”
“Wiccans revere the Goddess.”
“Jim Morrison is God.”

And yes, that means the following sentence is also written correctly:

“My favorite god is God.”

The same goes for other words used as proper names for assored deities. This is why we
capitalize “the Lord” when referring to Yahweh but not “a lord” when referring to an aristocrat
in general. But when you directly address that aristocrat by his title–and manners dictate that you
should–you call him “Lord,” capitalized. You might capitalize “Lord” when it is part of a title,
such as in a deity’s honorific, but not when used descriptively. So therefore while you might say
“Zeus is Lord of the Heavens,” and capitalize it, you would also say “Zeus is the lord of many
awesome things, including, inter alia, lightning, meting out justice, Mount Olympus, fatherhood
and the heavens” and not capitalize it.

Of course, the exceptions to this rule of capitalization are the same as with any other word.
Continue to capitalize the common noun, “god” when you use it in the title of a work, such as
Kerenyi’s The Gods of the Greeks or Gaiman’s American Gods (by the same token, do not
capitalize it when you use those same phrases in sentences, such as, “the gods of the Greeks were
sexually active,” and “money and celebrities are truly American gods”). Also, capitalize it when
it’s the first word in a sentence, like always.

Overcapitalization is a sin punishable by ridicule and mockery.