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When great-uncle is used as a common noun, the hyphen and lack of caps make sense. However, when I sign a book to my nephew, is it Great-Uncle Don, Great-uncle Don, or perhaps Great Uncle Don?

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Your last is a shade boastful: I had a great uncle, and also a great-uncle. –  TimLymington Jan 16 '13 at 18:13
    
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1 Answer 1

The general rule is that, in a capitalized hyphenated compound word, both words are normally capitalized if they are of approximately equal significance.

In "great-uncle," "uncle" is the more significant part; "great-" is simply modifying "uncle" after all.

So sign yourself "Great-Uncle Don."

Or, dodge the hyphenation entirely, and sign yourself "Granduncle Don."

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In our family we don't usually say/keep the modifiers and just call all uncles and great-uncles, "uncle". So the book would be signed "Uncle Don" –  Jim Jan 16 '13 at 18:35
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