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