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? – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Sep 16 '14 at 22:04
  • Sentence case: the journal for which I'm writing uses sentence case also for titles and headings. – Massimo Ortolano Sep 17 '14 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. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Sep 17 '14 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. – Massimo Ortolano Sep 17 '14 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 '14 at 18:11

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). – Massimo Ortolano Sep 18 '14 at 6:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.