Q. Sometimes, in spiritual circles, people like to capitalize words like Love or Truth or Divine. For example, “that which is ultimately beyond the mind itself, but is what I call the Divine” or “this deep Love that resides within you at this moment.” My feeling is that capitalizing these “concept” words gives them an air of importance and sacredness, and they are quite often written with this intention. But they really aren’t proper nouns. Are there any guidelines for using such capitalizations? And even more important, what about using both capital and lowercase throughout a book-length manuscript with some policy of consistency?
A. We like consistency, but the problem is that even in a book with spiritual content, not every use of Truth or Love will merit caps: sometimes the terms will have a generic meaning. Writers and editors of such content must work mindfully when they uppercase and lowercase so as not to confuse readers. There will naturally be gray areas where either styling would do. In many documents, the safe choice (and Chicago style) is to simply lowercase everywhere, since uppercasing everywhere would almost certainly lead to inappropriate capping in some cases.