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Grammar headache

I'm trying to figure out whether 'heaven' should be capitalized or not. I've trawled online but views seem conflicting and I can't find a source I trust enough to take as law. What do you do?


  • edited January 2013
    I would say yes for Heaven and Hell, as in classic literature, f-m-t, but don't quote me. Aren't they place names, proper nouns?
  • This tastes like heaven - or he's in Heaven.

    As ever, context.
  • I agree with Baggy on context, and her examples.
  • Personally I'm on the heaven side of the fence, but you have to consider the genre, readership and intent.

    Earth is usually Earth, so why not Heaven.

    I can't imagine me writing anything about a heaven or the Heaven - maybe belief is also a factor.

    I'll stop now - I'm not helping.
  • The Book of Common Prayer, the King James Bible and the Concordance to the Good News Bible (1983) all print heaven with a small aitch. Hope this helps.
  • Yeah, they seem to be the major arguments - Proper noun vs uncapitalized in Bible, but I can't seem to find a standard. The story is referring to heaven as a place, people of several religions are trying to convert a dying man who just doesn't care, so the word comes up several times. 'Tis difficult!
  • Just found this:

    "Heaven and Hell are 'places'. Whether or not they really exist is debatable and yet to be proven (I don't believe either place exists and am not of any denomination of Christianity), but they would still be capitalized as they are proper nouns. Make-believe places in story books are also capitalized, although they do no exist.

    That said, while I know this, I actually tend not to capitalize them most of the time. I wasn't raised Christian and I never have been Christian, and it feels strange to me to capitalize them. Like I'm giving them some sort of validation in my own life. If anything, I seem them as general ideas, a concept, an idea, a metaphor. It's never come naturally to me to capitalize them and I would have to think three times before doing so. I realize this can be seen as quite disrespectful. I guess I just don't use the words often enough to worry about it much."
  • I'm not religious either, but I'm not sure if religion should be a reason for a grammar choice. We don't hesitate to capitalize Valhalla or Hades, even words like Torah (though that is, of course, slightly different), so why should heaven (Heaven?) be different? Saying that, I don't naturally capitalize it either.

    The main problem is I'm editing stories for the next Running out of Ink, and two stories reference heaven - one references it once in passing but capitalizes it, and the other references it several times but never capitalizes. I don't want inconsistency throughout the issue but maybe I should just leave it with the authors own choices if there doesn't seem to be a clear right or wrong?
  • I suspect if you query it with the authors they'll possibly respond as we have - no definitive answer that's either right or wrong.
  • Yes, I think I'll just leave it as the individual writers chose - thanks everyone for your help!
  • I'm editing a story for someone and throughout they have placed the punctuation outside the speech marks, e.g. 'Don't worry', said Mike, 'It's not the end of the world'. I know they speak of the British and American convention, that British grammar conventions state punctuation goes outside speech marks while in the US it is inside ('Don't worry,' said Mike, 'It's not the end of the world.') but I'm not sure if that is just for academic writing. I've searched online but can't find anything to state the rules change for fiction, but browsed a few UK books on my bookshelf and they follow the "US" convention.

    What I'm asking is, is what this writer has done wrong?
  • I agree with BB's original explanation of heaven and Heaven (context) and I also feel the same about her thoughts on capitalising words gives them a sort of distinction. I was writing something this morning and was thinking that the word god looks incorrect but was that because I was speaking to a person who believed in 'God'. Hey ho. As you say FMN it shouldn't make a difference but it does !

    The speech mark question for me is simple - speech marks should be outside the punctuation.
    I have not heard of British and American conventions in this but this is the way I have always known to do it.
    'Don't worry,' said Mike, 'It's not the end of the world.'
    is correct.
  • [quote=lexia]speech marks should be outside the punctuation.[/quote]

    This is as I've had it explained by several authorities on the matter (can't quote one off top of head, sorry).
  • My Oxford A - Z of Grammar & Punctuation unhelpfully says:

    'There should normally be a comma, full stop, question mark or exclamation mark at the end of a piece of speech. This is GENERALLY placed before the closing inverted comma(s).'

    So how do you define generally? The book doesn't.
  • I believe it's one of those controversial things, unhelpfully unresolved. There's a marvellous uni site somewhere where a grammar guru explains it all in great detail. I'll try and find it. I think the bookmark is stored on my lap top. There are occasions when, for example, the full stop should definitely be outside the quote marks, but because it's not the accepted style,it flags up an error.

    There are times when I find it infuriating. The convention appears to be governed by style, not grammar. I'll try and look up the examples I had.
  • Never seen it any other way than punctuation inside speech marks.
  • The only exception would be a quote within dialogue - but that's a separate query.
  • How about:
    Did Bill say, "I'll be there in a minute?" wrong
    Did Bill say, "I'll be there in a minute"? correct
  • If it's part of a section of dialogue, I'd expect it be:

    'Did Bill say, "I'll be there in a minute"?'


    'Did Bill say he'd be there in a minute?'
  • This is an interesting thread. I have problems with punctuation, within a conversation, and when I read books
    I try to take in as much as I can.
    Could this be the place to come for help in the future. I have so much to learn.
  • JanJan
    edited February 2013
    This might help clarify:-


    Edited to advise; in the second link you need to scroll down to 5.13 for Quotation mark opinion.
  • I think I will print the pages out and keep them for reference in my folder.
    Thankyou Jan.
  • Chambers Dict says 'often with Cap' for heaven as a place where (a) God lives. Which basically means you have a choice - you can use a capital in that context if you want to!
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