I work in tech, so I'm continually running into terms that aren't standardized in a dictionary. This is the one in question:

Change Data Capture (CDC)

When defining an abbreviation such as CDC, it is incorrect to capitalize any words that are not proper nouns. Thus, if "change data capture" is not a proper name, it should be written "change data capture (CDC)." In other words, my question is not about how to capitalize descriptions of abbreviations, but rather about how to determine whether a phrase is a proper name.

I've searched for "change data capture" and have found it both capitalized and lowercase, and even the Wikipedia article is inconsistent. It seems to be referring to a process and not a product...but how can I tell if it is proper or common?

  • 1
    It seems pretty likely that "change data capture" is not a trademark, given the number of instances that it is not capitalized on the web. But, generally speaking, you can search trademarks at uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/… – user66965 Oct 27 '16 at 21:07
  • 1
    Thanks, @surlawda, I ran a search and didn't find the term. However, since trademarks aren't the only kinds of proper nouns, I'm still looking for the answer to the larger question: Are there heuristics I can use to identify proper nouns? The closest thing I can come to is from Wikipedia: "In English, proper names in their primary application cannot normally be modified by an article or other determiner (such as any or another), although some may be taken to include the article the, as in the Netherlands, the Roaring Forties, or the Rolling Stones." – Nicole L Oct 29 '16 at 21:21
  • 1
    I have been a editor for many years and I am not aware of any way to identify a proper noun except by researching the term in question. At most magazines where I've worked, the research department would compile lists. With the internet, it's become easier to search these things, and I do that routinely. It's a pain, because many believe that any phrase that can be reduced to an acronym should be capitalized, descriptive titles like "president" are often capped--there seems to be little awareness that capital letters are meant to actually signify something. It's really a case-by-case situation. – user66965 Nov 3 '16 at 18:31
  • I'm surprised there's so little activity here for an issue this prevalent. – William Entriken Nov 30 '16 at 13:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.