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Oh thank goodness for this site! I just googled my question and this is the first to come up, not sure how frequently it's used and when I'll get my reply back, but I'm okay for another fortnight yet. I'm working on my poem for an assignment and I lost marks on my short story for the last assignment because I didn't use capitals for some words. This time my poem is based in India, and I have used several animals in this poem. I know I need to start with a capital letter if they are at the beginning of the line, but what about halfway through? The animals are written as; the royal bengal tiger, the burdened elephant, the ox. I have used these animals as metaphors. Two other metaphors have used the lotus flower and the typhoon. Do these need to be in capitals as well? India and Ganges are clearly meant to be in capitals and I have done that. But I'm just not sure about the above. When I googled India, the tiger for example began with capitals. But I really really can't afford to lose any marks on this, as the creativity is meant to be the hardest bit, not the punctuation and grammar! Thank you so so much to anybody that has a better clue than I and responds to this. Thanks!
Comments  
AnonymousThe animals are written as; the royal bengal tiger, the burdened elephant, the ox.
Those are fine. There are cases where in poetry certain important nouns are capitalized, but I would not do it for this assignment.

If you have further doubts about this, you should ask your teacher.

CJ
The capitalisation of the common names of living creatures can be something of a grey area, subject to individual stylistic choice.

In ordinary text, I personally do not see the need to capitalise any such names, except for those words, such as the names of people or countries, that would be capitalised anyway according to the normal rules of English. So, "tiger", "elephant", "ox", and "Bengal tiger", "Indian elephant", "Przewalski's horse". Other people may advise you differently.

Similarly, there is no need, in ordinary text, to capitalise "lotus flower" or "typhoon".

Exceptions may be made if, in the context of what you are writing, the thing assumes the importance or quality of a proper noun. This may be the case if the elephant (say) assumes a strongly metaphorical role (standing for a divinity, for example), and may be more likely in a poetic setting (in which the rules of "ordinary text" are not always followed). This really becomes a matter of individual personal judgement. Without seeing the whole thing I couldn't really form an opinion about whether it might be appropriate in your case.
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Mr WordyBengal tiger
Ah! Good point! I missed that. Bengal would be capitalized.

CJ
Thank you very much for your reply CJ. I think I'll follow your advice and ask the tutor, just to be safe. Thanks.
Exactly. I agree with you on only using the capitals for actual names of people, places etc So it threw me when I saw it written as The Royal Bengal Tiger. I think the problem with that then is where do you stop? There are loads of words in my poem that are just as important, and so would I use capitals for all of them? No. I'll just stick to names. And I'll double check with my tutor as CJ suggested, to make sure I don't lose out. Hopefully she won't be as strict with this, as you say, poetry doesn't follow the conventional rules of correct grammar and punctuation. Thank you very much for your time and advice Mr. Wordy.
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I would agree that vernacular names of flora and fauna should not take capitals, in ordinary texts, except in components that derive from a proper name.

In verse, capitalisation can have a particularly undesirable effect, as it may recall either the customary capitalisation of nouns in the 18th century, or the use of capitals in humorous verse for absurd emphasis (e.g. "Matilda told such Dreadful Lies / It made one Gasp and Stretch one's Eyes").

In some specialist works on fauna and flora, e.g. field guides, vernacular names are sometimes presented with capitals, to distinguish them from the surrounding text; but that now has a slightly old-fashioned look. Sometimes other methods (such as emboldening) are more effective.

Best wishes,

MrP
Thank you very much M.Pedantic, I think, as in the example you've shown, in poetry it really is up to the author, and as long as it's consistent, then I'm free to go with what I feel is right. I'm going to point it out in my commentary though, so I don't lose marks on it. Again, thanks.