Proper Names

Q. The author of a journal article argues that the terms listed below should be capitalized because they are “descriptive units.” The terms are descriptive of the patterns seen on Native American rock art. However, they are not considered to be types of rock art and are capitalized unpredictably in published works. Should these terms be capitalized or not? Cross, Split Shield, Midpoint Band, Patterned Lines, Perching Crow, Teeth, Eyes, Face.

A. Capping is probably a good idea. Since many of the terms consist of common words, caps will aid comprehension of them as names of patterns and prevent the reader from taking the words in their common meaning. And if the manuscript was prepared with caps for all these names, retaining them will save work and lessen the possibility that you will miss a few and end up with inconsistency.