BBC story - capitalising bird names

To: "Jeremy O'Wheel" <>
Subject: BBC story - capitalising bird names
From: Carl Clifford <>
Date: Wed, 4 Jan 2012 13:55:35 +1100
Well, I suppose that not using capitals would keep the ink budget down. Many a little makes a mickle.


Carl Clifford

On 04/01/2012, at 1:42 PM, Jeremy O'Wheel wrote:

The Australian Journal of Zoology, and I think most scientific
journals has this to say in its note to authors;

"Do not use initial capitals for vernacular names of species except
where the name is based on a proper name (e.g. regent honeyeater, but
Port Lincoln parrot; sugar glider, but Leadbeater´s possum)."

Grammatically this seems correct, and I presume explains why the BBC
and Australian Geographic follow the same convention.

It might be a specific convention amongst birding organisations to
capitalise common names, but I think it's not a normal convention more
generally, and I suspect most publishers of more general biology than
just birds would not follow this convention.  The Oxdord dictionary
definition of "proper noun" seems to support not capitalising common


On Wed, Jan 4, 2012 at 12:46 PM, Tony Keene <> wrote:
Ah, the tyranny of house styles. A certain institute I used to work at had a house style almost incompatible with the sciences and a publishing group that really should know better in the chemical sciences produces styles that border on the illiterate. As for a response from the BBC, good luck. As Ian Hislop once said "the BBC goes from breathtaking arrogance to grovelling apology wih nothing inbetween." One thing sometimes overlooked is that while a species is treated as a proper noun, the family is not (so Wonga Pigeon, but a flock of pigeons).


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