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Are species names proper nouns?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by MissFit, Nov 27, 2006.

  1. MissFit

    MissFit Senior Member

    Is the common name of a species a proper noun and therefore capitalized? Does it depend on how the name is used? I did some searching around the Internet and I found both capital and lower-case usages of all types in both technical and non-technical writing. Does anyone know if there is a general rule?

    Here are some example sentences:
    [Referring to the entire species] The Eastern Bluebird is one of North America's most beautiful birds.
    [Referring to a single animal] I saw a Crested Goshawk near the golf course.
    [Plural] Because of their distinctive coloring, spotted salamanders are easily identified.
    [As an adjective] We have observed the grey wolf population rebound dramatically in recent years.
     
  2. ash93

    ash93 Senior Member

    London
    England, United Kingdom - English but can speak Urdu, Memon and Hindi
    We usually capitalize them over here and they are generally referred to as proper nouns.
     
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The usage as you have illustrated is normal.
    If the species name is being used specifically and in association with an individual or the species as a whole, capitalise.
    If the species name is being used generically, or attributively, don't.

    Most importantly, don't assume that any one guide on this subject is "correct". The style varied widely - check the Wiki entry - and may vary depending on whether you are talking about birds, mammals or fish.
     

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