When do you capitalize god, mom and dad?
Based on the frequency with which I encounter these capitalization mistakes while proofreading scripts, there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding this question. Luckily, there’s a really easy trick to remember when to capitalize these words:
If the word is being used like a name, then it should be capitalized.
So let’s look at the sentence:
“Are you there, Mom?”
Now let’s substitute the name Karen:
“Are you there, Karen?”
The sentence still makes perfect sense, so “Mom” should be capitalized.
Now let’s try another:
“Some people believe there’s a god that lives in the clouds.”
“Some people believe there’s a Karen that lives in the clouds.”
That doesn’t make sense, so “god” is not capitalized.
Even if, in the context of the story, you were referencing a supernatural being named Karen, you still wouldn’t have written the sentence that way. You would have written: “Some people believe that Karen lives in the clouds/Some people believe that God lives in the clouds” — now a perfectly legitimate capitalization.
The “a” preceding the word is a big tip-off not to capitalize. Here’s a full list of articles and pronouns to watch for (i.e. If mom/dad/god is preceded by any of these words, then it doesn’t need to be capitalized):
A final note: Many atheists believe that “god” should never be capitalized, while many religious folks believe that it should always be capitalized. Both are wrong. It depends on the context. It’s a grammar thing, not a religion thing.