Being a Better Writer: The Problem With Proper Nouns in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Hello writers, and welcome back to another installment of Being a Better Writer, where today we’re going to discuss something that’s actually quite topical! So topical, in fact, that this discussion wasn’t even on Topic List #20. Instead, it was prompted over this last week by some real-life work and discussion.

It’s also a topic that is going to directly reference via-link someone else’s writings on the subject. But with that, I feel we need to move into an explanation directly.

See, the genesis of this post comes from my editing on Starforge. This titan of a book is now in the Beta phase, which means looking for typos, misspelled words, misplaced quotation marks, and all that jazz. However, it also means going through and ensuring proper capitalization of proper nouns. At which point, I ran into a bit of a conundrum. Said conundrum led me to Google, which in turn pointed me to this post from 2009 concerning a similar issue in Fantasy writing—though note that it does address Science Fiction as well.

Anyway, what is this conundrum? Well, before we dive into it directly, I have a sort of pop quiz for you. You can do it in your head, but if you’re really determined you can bring out a pen and pencil and do the classic grade-school exercise. It’ll only take a moment either way, but here we go. Correctly capitalize the following sentence:

The terran vehicle rolled up the hill, backed by dozens of terran marines.

That’s it. Got it? Placed those capital letters where they belong? Okay, check out the answers after the break.

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