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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 '17 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 '17 at 3:52
  • @1006a - But likely "Oh sweetheart" is not being used as a nickname. – Hot Licks Aug 17 '17 at 11:58
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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 '17 at 13:15
  • @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 '17 at 21:47
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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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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: – Busy Typist Aug 16 '17 at 18:16
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    Are you ready, Honey? OR Are you ready, honey? – Busy Typist Aug 16 '17 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. – Global Charm Aug 16 '17 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 '17 at 20:18
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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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