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Let's say there's an article or a book titled solutions for ad hoc problems in foobar. How is ad hoc title-cased? As a preposition ad with a pronoun hoc or as an adjective? I mean, which of these four is correct?

  1. Solutions for Ad Hoc Problems in Foobar
  2. Solutions for Ad hoc Problems in Foobar
  3. Solutions for ad Hoc Problems in Foobar
  4. Solutions for ad hoc Problems in Foobar

I see that English dictionaries tend to list is as adjective/adverb which suggests Ad Hoc. But also, if treated as an adjective, it shall have a hyphen, which is clearly wrong.

(Note that I just copy-edit other people's work so I can't remove the phrase from the title, which could be an option...)

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  • In-depth is an adjective. In depth is a phrase.
    – Helmar
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 12:15
  • @Helmar Ah right, sorry for that.
    – yo'
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 12:24
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    My two cents. Ad hoc is a Latin term with a well-defined meaning. You should consider it in it's totality, not as two separate words. In your examples, ad hoc is being used as an adjective. I would capitalize both ad and hoc or neither, depending on the publisher's convention. I would not us a hyphen because the term ad hoc ties ad and hoc together by virtue of it being an integrated term. There shouldn't be any possibility of confusion. Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 15:01
  • You could possibly make your question more clearly about EL&U if you modified your question to ask about the underlying issue, something along the lines of is ad hoc a single (compound), English adjective, or something else, in this title? That would give you your answer, based on your existing style (i.e. whether you capitalize both real and estate when the two words are used together as an adjective, or whatever the appropriate rule is if ad hoc isn't a single, English adjective).
    – 1006a
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 15:40

2 Answers 2

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This is a question about publishing conventions, not the English Language. Title casing isn't a linguistic issue, in the same way that "How to best perm my dog's hair" doesn't come under "Biology".

So, as with all convention-based questions, we look to see what other people tend to do. For example, search Amazon Books for "ad hoc". This reveals a number of titles:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=ad+hoc&rh=n%3A266239%2Ck%3Aad+hoc

Generally, these say "Blahing With Ad Hoc Blah". So, you should probably go with "Ad Hoc".

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  • No, no and no. The same publisher, if he publishes both Czech and English works, won't capitalize ad hoc in Czech, because he won't capitalize any other word but the first one, never ever. On the other hand, in English he will capitalize many words. So this is English-specific and a matter of language (I don't see how this is not a matter of English language). Thanks for the second part though.
    – yo'
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 12:55
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    What you are describing is publishing conventions being different in English and Czech. That still doesn't make it a question about English. It's a question about publishing conventions. Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 13:06
  • To give you another example: Let's say that I have a friend called Jonathan and another called Jonathon. (with an O). Can we ask a scholar of English to tell us which of these is correct? After all, both of my friends are English, so this must be an English Language question, right? The scholar will say "This isn't a linguistic question. Each of your friends can spell their name however they want. The "rules of English" have nothing to say on the matter." It's the same with title case - it's a totally artificial construction so anyone doing it can use whatever rules they want. Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 13:11
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    @yo': In some languages title-casing has been made a part of the language grammar (usually via a language governing body). In English title-casing is not a part of the language grammar. So in English there are lots of opinions about title-casing but none can be said to be correct or wrong. It's just a matter of taste/style. FWIW my native language also has the same attitude when it comes to title-casing, it's artistic and not a part of the grammar, so for a very long time I assumed all languages were like that.
    – slebetman
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 15:23
  • @yo': Also note that in English article titles are not consistently title cased. They can be bolded but normal sentence cased (like Czech), they can be all caps, they can be title cased (and when title cased which words are or are not capitalised are not always consistent)
    – slebetman
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 15:27
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To my thinking, this is more a case of making a style choice for Latin locutions than it is determining correct English language usage. I therefore suggest "ad hoc" is best presented in lowercase italics:

  • Solutions for ad hoc Problems in Foobar

If you prefer to ignore the non-English aspect, the AP style guide for title case says this:

Don’t capitalize articles, prepositions or conjunctions that have fewer than four letters.

Because ad is a preposition and hoc is a pronoun, the former should be capitalized and the latter should not.

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    hoc is not an article, AFAIK, it's a pronoun...
    – yo'
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 13:32
  • AFAIK, you are absolutely correct. It appears the 50+ year interval between instruction and recall has taken a toll. Hoc signifies 'this thing,' not 'this.' Mea culpa.
    – Doc G.
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 15:42

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