From a grade school textbook:

Good morning, children. I'm an astronomer. I study the stars and the planets. They're amazing!

We live on the Earth. The Earth is a planet. It rotates all the time. The Earth takes 24 hours to rotate completely.

There are eight planets in the solar system and they all go round the sun. Some planets go quickly and some planets go slowly. The Earth takes 365 days to go round the sun.

At night you can see the moon and the stars. The moon goes round the Earth. The moon takes 28 days to go round the Earth.

In the day you can see the sun. The sun is a very big star. It's 100 bigger than the Earth! It's the only star you can see in the day.

[ Stella Maidment and Lorena Roberts, Happy Street, New Edition, Class Book 2, Oxford University Press, published 2009, 2013, 2014 ]

This work may contain some astronomical errors, but that is not the theme now. I've highlighted some instances where two bodies appear in the same sentence, including "sun" and "moon", and where only one takes a capital letter (Earth). I'm reading this Q&A (in particular this answer) on the use of definite articles with earth/moon/sun; the Wikipedia article on capitalization has a reference to the Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing, which suggests to:

Capitalize astronomical terms such as the names of galaxies, constellations, stars, planets and their satellites, and asteroids. However, the terms earth, sun, and moon are often not capitalized unless they appear in a sentence that refers to other astronomical bodies.

The sun is an ordinary star.
Venus and Earth differ significantly in the composition of their atmospheres.

[ Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing, section 9.1 ]

Is capitalization preferred with Sun, Moon and Solar system, as in the the star, the satellite, and the body containing them; is it generally accepted to give specific consideration (as does the MHoTaSW) to cases where more than one name appears in the same sentence, and to prefer lowercase when there is only one?

  • 1
    @DanBron Thank you. I have edited according to your comment.
    – Gangnus
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 21:43
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    There's a degree of inconsistency in capitalising the Earth, but not the Moon or the Sun. But lots of people do that these days. Otherwise it seems fine to me. The question is a peeve and/or off topic proofreading. Commented May 11, 2015 at 22:38
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    "It's 100 bigger than the Earth!" is obviously wrong, but I would guess that's an error in transcription.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 23:08
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    Not really a proofreading question though, is it? The OP has clearly identified where his confusion lies, and has also offered what he believes are the correct solutions.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 0:06
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    Aren't both "moon" and "sun" common nouns? Other solar systems have suns, for example. And obviously other planets have moons. Commented May 12, 2015 at 0:58

1 Answer 1


This text has a very annoying way of talking down to children by using absurdly short sentences. It also has one blatant astronomical error ("The moon takes 28 days to go round the Earth."). But I do not think it contains any real grammatical errors, just infelicities.

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    Somehow, the astronomical error about the Moon’s orbit seems far less blatant than the absolutely, erm, astronomical error about the size of the Sun relative to the Earth. Commented May 11, 2015 at 23:48
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    @JanusBahsJacquet in terms of diameter it's actually about right (the sun is about 109 times as big as the earth in diamater). I think most kids would think of the relative size in exactly that way. In terms of volume it's about the cube of that (naturally) -- 1.3 million times as big, and in terms of mass about a third of a million times the mass. At worst I'd say it was 'ambiguous' rather than 'wrong'
    – Glen_b
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 4:54
  • The most blatant astronomic error is the phrase: Sun is a very big star. While the Sun is a yellow DWARF. It is a small star. Other errors are not really important, they belong to the usual imprecision of a popular text.
    – Gangnus
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 7:49
  • But I have read in the grammar books, that while we are talking on astronomy, Sun and Moon should start from the uppercase. Also, it is not the Earth that takes time, but some PROCESS it is involved in.
    – Gangnus
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 7:52
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    @Gangnus: Sun/sun and Moon/moon is a matter of personal preference. I would hesitate to say that one or the other is actually "wrong". Likewise: "very big" implies a comparison. The sun is "very big" compared to the earth, but not very big compared to other stars.
    – fdb
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 12:23

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