Fishing for Answers: lords or Lords

Sometimes a writer has questions to ask, and the best people to answer those questions are friends, writers and readers, like you! Fishing for Answers is where I will ask for your advice and thoughts concerning everything from writing, story creating, to publishing and author life. Pretty much anything!

My question for this post is about this sentence:

“The lords and ladies gathered into the ballroom.”

I have come across several sources that say “lords” and “ladies” in sentences, like this one, do not need to be capitalized. But there are others that would say they should be capitalized. It might simply come down to what the writer’s preference is, but I would like to hear your thoughts about it.

Would you capitalize “lords” and “ladies” here? Why, or why not?

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31 thoughts on “Fishing for Answers: lords or Lords

  1. No capitalization. In this case, the plurality indicates that you are NOT referring to a specific lord and Lady.

    When the title is being used as a specific person’s title, it’s part of their name and should be capitalized. When it’s being used to refer to a kind of person (ie, status or occupation) the title is a simple noun and therefore wouldn’t be capitalized.

    If there were no plurals, you could say “the Lord and Lady entered” because the title is being used in lieu of the actual name and is therefore a name.

    Think of “lord” or “lady” as a profession and it makes the differentiation easier. 😉

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  2. E. You probably noticed my use of Lord or Lady capitalized a lot throughout The Beauty Thief, and this was an issue I struggled with myself. There was no definitive answer from searching the web, and the only rule I could remember was to capitalize when using another word in place of a name. My editor, who follows Chicago Style Manual prefers everything lower case unless connected directly to the name but not in place of the name. It didn’t look right to me in the final edit, so I left them capitalized wherever I used a title in place of a name. So, if I was referring to Princess Caityn in conversation, out of respect, she would be referred to as “My Lady.” I’m still on the fence over this one, in a terrible way, but I couldn’t let it stop me from publishing, so I hope the way I used capitalization doesn’t hamper the reading of it. And just like two spaces between sentences is outdated punctuation, maybe capitalizing words in place of names is, too?

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    • This question actually came because I have a wealthy noble family in the book I’m editing, and like you I’ve searched the web and it was too confusing. Many just say to pick what you prefer and stick with it. But I think Gunter has the right idea, to only capitalize when it’s in place of the person’s name. I’m still not sure if “My Lady” would be in place of her name, though, as I’ve seen it used many times as “my lady” as a form of informal address elsewhere; but I’m not sure. Maybe “my lady” is used when the lady is not an actual lady of wealth, and “My Lady” is when she truly is a noble Lady?

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  3. I’d leave it lowercase. It’s definitely not being used as a part of the proper name (e.g. Lord Bob) or as a direct address (e.g. “Hi, Lord!”), and I wouldn’t consider “lord” or “lady” a proper noun in and of itself, as I’ve been told I should do with “Marines.” If someone does consider the title a proper noun on its own merit, that might be why they choose to capitalize it.

    Chicago Manual of Style says to leave it lowercase, even if you’re just referring to “the lord and lady,” except in British English when referring to royal dukes, where you would write “the Duke.” In American English, it would still be just “the duke.” At least, I think that’s what the style guide is saying.

    This is complicated. :p

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    • It definitely is complicated! Hence why I posted this question. 🙂 Would this mean that in a sentence like: “How are you, my lady?” if the lady here is a noblewoman would it still be lower case, or could you say “My Lady”?

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      • In terms of it being a title, it would be lowercase. I could see an argument for capitalizing it as a direct address, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done, so I’d leave it lowercase under that logic, too.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d say no capitals. If you’re using both words in general terms like you are in the sample sentence, they’re not acting as proper nouns and therefore don’t need to be capitalized. If you call out a particular lord or lady, then their title would be capitalized along with their name (Lord John Bennett, Lady Catherine Bennett). It’s basically the same advice that Michael gave earlier, and I agree with his other points, too. 😉

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    • Carisaaa! I’m so glad you made it on here! 😀 And thank you *bows head*, I’m glad you like the blog. 🙂 Is your wordpress blog up and running yet?

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