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Do You Capitalize 'God'?

What about “godly” and “he” when it refers to a deity?

By
Mignon Fogarty
6-minute read
Episode #272
capitalize god

Do You Capitalize ‘Godly’?

Hillary M. from Las Vegas wanted to know if she should capitalize the word like “godly” and “godsend.”

"Godly" and other words that start with "god" are almost always lowercase. Occasionally, religious publications choose to capitalize words that start with "god," but a wide variety of style guides I found that address the issue in some way (1, 2, 3, 4) recommend using lowercase for words such as "godless," "godliness," "godly," “godsend,” “godfather,” “godmother,” and swear words that include "god."

  • You were sent by God.

  • You are a godsend.

‘Godmother’ and ‘godfather’ are also kept lowercase.

Should You Capitalize ‘He’ When it Refers to God?

Stacey from Boise, Idaho, wanted to know whether she should capitalize the pronouns  “he,” “his,” and “him” when they refer to God.

I’ve certainly heard the rule that pronouns referring to a deity should be capitalized, but most of the style guides I checked (including some with a religious bent) recommend using lowercase and note that some versions of the Bible (including the King James Version and the New International Version) use lowercase pronouns to refer to God (3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Ultimately, it's a style choice, and some religious publications do capitalize the pronouns (1), but the most common style seems to be to keep them lowercase.

Do You Capitalize the Words ‘Atheist’ and ‘Agnostic’?

Jessica from Las Vegas, Nevada, asked whether she should capitalize the word "atheist."

The names of religions and their followers are capitalized. So you capitalize the words “Christianity” and “Christians,” “Buddhism” and “Buddhists,” “Hinduism” and “Hindus,” and so on. The followers of Islam are called Muslims, and again, both words are capitalized.

On the other hand, words that describe people who don’t follow a religion, such as "atheist" or "agnostic," are not capitalized. They aren’t names as much as they are descriptions of a philosophy.

Do You Capitalize the Word ‘Bible’?

The names of religious books such as the Bible, Talmud, and Koran are also capitalized, unless they’re being used generically. For example, when you’re referring to the Christian Bible, “bible” is capitalized; but if you’re calling something your grammar bible, then you’re using “bible” generically, and it should be lowercase.

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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