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When writing a sentence (for a book/story) do the endearments Honey, Sweetheart, etc. get capital letters? e.g. "Are you ready, Honey?" or "Are you ready, honey?"

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    Generally speaking, when used to address a person, yes, they are capitalized. Consider that they are being used as "nicknames". However, if you ask someone "Did you get your sweetheart a Valentines card?", that is not capitalized (since it is not being used as a nickname).
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 16, 2017 at 18:07
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    @HotLicks Are you sure? That's not the pattern I've mostly seen in romance novels, where endearments are ubiquitous. A case-sensitive Google Ngram backs that up: "Oh sweetheart" is an order of magnitude more popular than "Oh Sweetheart".
    – 1006a
    Aug 17, 2017 at 3:52
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    @HotLicks Oh is a placeholder to weed out instances where "sweetheart" begins a sentence; most instances are dialogue, where the character is saying "Oh, sweetheart"—addressing an individual. "Hey honey/Honey" shows the same pattern, though there the lower case version is only four times as common rather than nearly twenty.
    – 1006a
    Aug 17, 2017 at 13:15
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    @1006a - What is and isn't a nickname is a rather subtle distinction. It's hard for me to explain it without taking more effort and words than I'm inclined to contribute.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 17, 2017 at 21:47
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    It's an interesting question—especially when you move from direct-address endearments to direct-address characterizations. For example: "Hello, friend!" "Howdy, stranger!" "Hi, buddy!" "Hey, mister!" At what point does "Stranger," "Friend," "Buddy" or "Mister" become a replacement for the person's proper name? I'd say it's a judgment call—and not necessarily an easy one.
    – Sven Yargs
    May 3, 2019 at 18:50

5 Answers 5

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Both "Grammar Girl" and the Chicago Manual of Style recommend capitalizing nicknames, not capitalizing terms of endearment, and being consistent in grey areas.

GG:

"Click" and "Clack" are capitalized because they’re nicknames—they take the place of a real name. … A term of endearment isn’t interchangeable with a name the same way a nickname is, and terms of endearment aren’t capitalized.

CMS:

Chicago’s preferred style has always been to lowercase pet names, but you can’t go wrong unless you’re inconsistent, since the issue is guided by preference rather than rule.

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If you are using a term of endearment as a nick-name then I think it should be capitalised (I'm Australian, hence the 's' instead of 'z'): “I love you too, Sweetheart.”

However, if it is not used as a nick-name, then it should not be capitalised: "Jack, permit me to introduce my sweetheart, Heather."

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A term of endearment does not need a capital letter. However, any term that is used consistently enough to be a name should be capitalized.

A good example of how to do this can be found Fritz Leiber's short story, Kreativity for Kats, which you can read in its entirety online.

Using the name (i.e. capitalized) form of an endearment can be used to emphasize a perspective, i.e. it's a tool you can use, not merely a grammatical rule.

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  • That seems to be conflicting with the other answer. So which is it: Aug 16, 2017 at 18:16
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    Are you ready, Honey? OR Are you ready, honey? Aug 16, 2017 at 18:17
  • It can be either. You use the capital letter to imply the relationship that exists between the speaker and the recipient. If you want a general rule, pal, leave the common endearments uncapitalized.
    – user205876
    Aug 16, 2017 at 18:44
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    I agree with this. Capitalization is really a style issue, so it will vary by publisher. However, terms of endearment are practically a requirement of the romance genre: sweetheart, darling, beloved, dushka moya, mi corazon, agape mou, habibti, etc. (also some made-up alien terms); they are, in my experience, almost never capitalized by these publishers. Sometimes when the term is applied regularly and exclusively to a single character it becomes more of a nickname than an endearment, in which case it's capitalized, but usually not even then unless it's a unique-ish coinage.
    – 1006a
    Aug 16, 2017 at 20:18
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Uncapitalized unless it is being used as a replacement for a name. For instance, in Lady and the Tramp, Lady mistakes her humans' names as 'Jim Dear' and 'Darling', as they refer to each other by nothing else. However, even if we weren't at the dog's perspective, I'd still keep them capitalized, as they so infrequently use their real names that these endearments have effectively become their names. Lady was on to something. That's how I remember the rule, anyway.

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  • Hi, interesting example of the use, but how did Lady know to capitalize these names? Are you getting it from captions? Please take a moment to tour the site, see the help center, and welcome.
    – livresque
    Nov 26, 2021 at 22:27
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I think if the endearment becomes a nickname, in the case of a spouse for instance, it should be capitalized if the author feels the same feelings when he/she writes about the character as the author feels when addressing her/his own spouse.

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