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Should You Capitalize 'the Force' from Star Wars?

By
Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #497

should you capitalize the force from star wars

A few days before Christmas, I got a message from my good friend Richard asking about capitalizing the word force from Star Wars, as in “May the Force be with you.”

He had been at a dinner party talking about the new Star Wars movie, and then someone insisted that the Force should be capitalized. This is apparently what happens when literary people and Star Wars fans meet for dinner (or are one and the same).

Should You Capitalize ‘Force’?

Richard wrote, “I'm arguing that [the Force] isn't an officially recognized faith and thus is lower case.”

I agree that the Force isn’t a faith, but I thought there might be other reasons to capitalize it. I started browsing through the AP Stylebook religion section to see if there was some kind of analog to the Force. I thought about the Spirit, since it wouldn’t seem out of line to say, “May the Spirit be with you,” but the only entry close to that was for the Holy Spirit, which the AP does say to capitalize but only because it is considered a deity and all monotheistic deity names are capitalized. 

I don't see the Force as a deity. 

Obi-Wan Kenobi describes the Force like this:

"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together."

In this description, the Force seems somewhat similar to the Chinese life-force concept of qi or chi, which most style books say to keep lowercase.

Perhaps the Force is more like Platonic ideals, like Truth and Beauty, which are sometimes capitalized. For example, the Chicago Manual of Style says,

“Words for transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense … are often capitalized.”

I ran this thinking by Chuck Wendig, who recently wrote a New York Times bestselling Star Wars novel called Aftermath, and he said my reasoning sounded fine to him.

The Force is capitalized in the book Aftermath, and the Wookieepedia Manual of Style also recommends capitalizing it. So there you go—if you’re writing about the Force, capitalize it.

And, in other Star Wars formatting- and spelling-related news…

It’s Chewie, not Chewy!

My agent, Laurie Abkemeier, who is a big Star Wars fan and has seen the new movie at least three times, pointed out that a review in Variety magazine had spelled Chewbacca’s nickname as Chewy (like a cookie) instead of Chewie, which is the proper spelling, according to Wookieepedia. Oh, the horror! To the author’s credit, he changed the spelling after seeing her tweet. Yay, Laurie.

Yoda Photo: Mignon Fogarty

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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