Consider the technical term 4-terminal: if I were to start a paragraph with this term, or using it as column heading in a table, would I have to capitalize the t or not?

My understanding is that it should not be capitalized because it is the 4 which counts as first symbol, but maybe I am wrong.

  • 1
    Are you using title case or sentence case? Sep 16, 2014 at 22:04
  • Sentence case: the journal for which I'm writing uses sentence case also for titles and headings. Sep 17, 2014 at 4:38
  • 2
    If you're using sentence case, then I would go with your interpretation; the first item takes the capital. However, I would spell out "Four" in prose, and I'd even spell it out in the table heading if you have room. Sep 17, 2014 at 10:02
  • Thank you! As for the prose, in a technical article it would be very uncommon to see four-terminal, also because it derives from the more general term n-terminal, where the n is written as a mathematical symbol. Sep 17, 2014 at 10:12
  • A common grammar rule is that you should never begin a sentence with a Hindu-Arabic numeral, but instead should spell out the word, and then capitalize it. However, in technical writing, many people ignore this rule because it can be confusing. I doubt I'd write "Sixteen MB of RAM are required ..." instead of "16MB of RAM are required ..." etc.
    – Jay
    Sep 17, 2014 at 18:11

1 Answer 1


Per the discussion in the comments: if you're using sentence case, I'd go with 4-terminal (lowercase T) because the 4 is the first character.

(I would still flinch to see a sentence which started with "4-terminal" instead of "Four-terminal," but I'm not in technical writing.)

  • An example that comes to my mind is that of a caption: one might need to start a sentence with "4-terminal" for reason of compactness. Also in the case of mathematical symbols rules say that you should avoid beginning a sentence with a mathematical symbol (you can't change the capitalization of a mathematical symbol: x is not the same as X), but sometimes you are forced to (in this specific case, examples abound). Sep 18, 2014 at 6:52

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