Holier than thou

We’re baa-ack! We hope you enjoyed Desirae Roosa’s business-writing mini-course (if you missed it, click here for Part One). Now it’s time to return to regular programming – and for our first grammar post in six weeks, we’re shooting for the heavens.

A reader asks, “Should I capitalise ‘He’ and ‘Him’ when I’m talking about God?”

Some of us were taught in school that we should capitalise pronouns relating to God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Doing so was thought to show respect, because it distinguished God from all the average Joes wandering around with the same pronouns.

buddy-christ.jpg

But it didn’t make a lot of logical sense. Nowhere in the rules of grammar does it say that capital letters equal higher status. We capitalise based on the type of word and its position in the sentence – no value judgments necessary.

And the argument for sticking to tradition, no questions asked, doesn’t hold water either. Many English translations of the Bible use all lower-case pronouns, and we know the original texts weren’t capitalised because Hebrew doesn’t use capital letters.

Over the years, there’s been an overwhelming shift away from capitalising God pronouns. All the major style guides, including the hallowed Chicago and AP, prefer lower case. If you’re writing/editing for one of the rare organisations that does still insist on He and Him, by all means, follow their rules. Otherwise, hands off that Shift key.