True or False: Always Capitalize Bible and God

bible in a churchI just posted to my website a grammar column about when to capitalize the first word following a colon.

I used bible (lowercase) in the column when referring to The Associated Press Stylebook, my primary resource for guidance in word use and punctuation. I got an email suggesting that I had made an error: I should have capitalized Bible.

Had I been referring to the Bible that contains what we commonly call the Scriptures — the stories of Abraham or Moses, the Psalms, the prophecies of Isaiah, the life of Jesus, and the letters of Paul and the vision of John — I would have capitalized it. But I was not referring to that Bible.

I defended my choice by pointing out in my response that neither Bible nor God has to — nor should — be capitalized in every case. You can avoid capitalizing either when appropriate, and it won’t mean that you’re irreverent or breaking a written-in-stone grammar or religious rule.

The Associated Press Stylebook is my grammar bible.
Some say that Business Adventures by John Brookes is a bible for billionaires.

When you refer to a figure that is the God of any monotheistic religion — a religion that recognizes only one God — you capitalize it. Christianity, Judaism and Islam all are considered religions with one (although of course not the same) God.

There are many polytheistic religions in the world, faiths that have multiple gods that represent different beliefs, values, myths and legends. The Asatru religion, for example, has many Norse gods and goddesses. Or a reference to a god might have no religious component at all.

It was sad to see him declare money his god.
She wore a god-awful sweater to the game.

As a ruthless editor, I never mind being challenged or questioned; I learn with each query that comes my way. If you answered True to the headline test, I hope you’ve learned and welcomed the lesson as well.

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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