Capitalization

Q. A client asked CMOS about capitalizing coach when it was used as a nickname. They got the following in reply:

Yes, it’s conventional to cap words like Coach or Captain or Auntie when they stand in for a person’s name. If you refer to “a coach” or “the coach” or “my aunt” or “the captain of the ship” in a sentence, however, it is lowercased.

I would have thought that Captain would be considered a title and come under the general rules in 8.18 and not be capitalized other than in direct address—likewise Auntie ought to come under the kinship exception in 8.35 and would be capitalized. As coach is a title, and includes no name, I was lowercasing it other than in direct address. Please advise if this is incorrect.

A. Your client’s information is correct. If a person is called Coach in place of his or her name, then anytime the word coach is substituted for that name it should be capped. To decide, see whether an actual name would fit in the same sentence. If it fits, cap coach as a name:

“Hi, Coach!” / “Hi, Jim!” (The name works as a substitute, so cap Coach.)

I saw the coach smile and wave / I saw the Jim smile and wave. (The name does not work as a substitute, so lowercase coach.)

I saw Captain Smith smile and wave / I saw Sally Smith smile and wave. (The name works, so cap Captain.)

I think her aunt is a bookie / I think her June is a bookie. (Lowercase aunt.)

It doesn’t matter what the word is: captain, coach, aunt, joker, brain. If it’s used in place of a name, cap it.