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I'm writing a caption for a figure that includes a few sub-figures:

A duck (left) and tiger (right). (Left) The duck has wings and a funny bill. (Right) The tiger doesn't look like a duck at all.

My question: what's the proper way to capitalize "left" and "right" here? (As it is it's inconsistent, which is probably the worst choice)

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It's correct the way it is.
It's not consistent because left and Left do not mean the same here. "left" implies the figure on the left-hand side, which could have its own name or number. "Left" is now the tag/name of the figure, after the first mention.

There's a pitfall, though. Capitalization at the beginning of a sentence will conflict with this convention. so, do not use left after the first mention.

You know all this applies to right and Right as well!

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I think you could just use the capital letters L and R in parentheses; this should usually be understood. Example: a tiger (L) and a duck (R). – Milind Ganjoo Apr 16 '12 at 7:12
@MilindGanjoo but this doesn't address Kris's point, which seems to be that capitalization should change depending on weather it's the first mention... – Shep Apr 16 '12 at 13:04
Well the point I was making was that you could just use those two capital letters L and R everywhere. Since these symbols only make sense in their capital forms, you wouldn't have to worry about whether to capiatalize further mentions. – Milind Ganjoo Apr 16 '12 at 13:43

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