If someone were writing a paper on a particular train station, for brevity, it is easier to refer to it as "the station." Should station in that phrase be capitalized?

It is unrelated to Capitalization: when does a phrase become a proper noun? and Definite article with proper nouns, titles followed by a common noun, but apologies if this is a duplicate.

2 Answers 2


Let's take Penn Station as an example. Penn Station is the place's name; thus, it will be capitalized as a proper noun.

Penn Station is just one of many stations, though, and whether I refer to it as "a station in Manhattan" or "the station closest to that restaurant", station is still a common noun and would not need to be capitalized. The fact that it contextually refers to a specific station does not change that.

  • Why does it not become a proper noun as combined with the article that precedes it, it now refers only to a specific entity, and no longer a general class of entities (at least while in the scope of the paper)?
    – soandos
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 8:53
  • 1
    If I ask my friend to pass the salt, I am referring to a specific salt shaker, but that doesn't make salt a proper noun. Proper nouns aren't about being specific; they are about being actual names. Similarly, I have a crush on the girl next door refers to a specific girl ("and no longer a general class of entities"), but girl is still not a proper noun, and Amy/Sally/Jane still is.
    – user13141
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 8:57
  • Is a good rule to follow "If an article is required, then it is a common noun?"
    – soandos
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 9:02
  • I think that guideline will occasionally serve you well, but there are too many exceptions for me to advise it as a rule. Someone might, for instance, mention their trip to the Eiffel Tower or mention the latest photos from the Hubble Space Telescope. They could also say something like The Sally I know wouldn't do that.
    – user13141
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 9:08
  • 1
    @onomatomaniak: My answer below was to be a comment here, but grew longer than I thought.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 11:22

Grammar apart, at least in one case a capitalization seems appropriate. What if your paper talks also about various other stations, so that you happen to use the word station quite a few times? Sure, you will refer to the particular station as the station, but still you may need the the in front of the other stations in some places for grammar's sake. What then? Your only way would be to capitalize every reference to the particular station.

In legalese, it is sometimes seen so: XYZ (hereinafter referred to as "the Company")... And thereafter, every occurrence of company (where it refers to XYZ) is capitalized, to differentiate it from a generic company.

  • But outside of legalese, this is not used?
    – soandos
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 11:24
  • I use it, for clarity. I haven't seen much of it in common use, though.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 11:30
  • It's used. By Harvard, in fact; on their website, they call themselves "the University". And I think this is quite common for cities, universities, and other institutions. For example, in New York City and its suburbs, "the City" has only one meaning, and my impression is that it's usually capitalized. (In London, "the City" is actually a proper name, since it doesn't mean London.) Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 13:42
  • I think usage often favors uppercase in cases where a particular noun is introduced using a definite article, to make it clear that the term will always be used to refer to the same thing. For example, if one paragraph about Acme Corp. refers to it as "the company", a sentence elsewhere that talks about "the company" might be talking about some other firm, but if Acme Corp. is referred to as "the Company", then "the Company" would always refer to Acme Corp.
    – supercat
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 17:12
  • @supercat Legalese: 'hereinafter referred to as ...'
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 5:21

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