I have a story with several characters. I've decided that I won't give them names, but refer to them as their titles. For example, the grocer. The cleaner. The officer. Currently I capitalize these names: the Grocer met the Cleaner and they talked about the Officer. I do this because I think it makes it easy to intuitively determine that the individual is that, instead of just any grocer / cleaner / officer, and also because I think it's an interesting creative device.

Is it wrong to do this? Would I be better off not capitalizing in this way?

3 Answers 3


There is a slight difference, if you capitalize the job titles.

You can easily tell a story about a grocer, a cleaner and an officer without capitalizing their job titles. There won't be any confusion, if you always refer to these persons by the same handle. Readers will think that those are the jobs of these people, but that they have a life and personality beyond that occupation.

If on the other hand you capitalize their job titles, the jobs become their defining characteristic: the Grocer is nothing but a grocer, in all areas of his life. Being a grocer is no longer a job the Grocer has and from which he returns home to be a father and hobby musician, like the grocer, but it is who he is. Depending on your story, the Grocer has either become a depthless persona existing only in the fictional store that is the sole scenery for your tale, or he is a person obsessed with the shelving and selling of food.

If your story is about normal people who just happen to have those jobs, do not capitalize their job titles. If your story is about the personification of officerdom interacting with the personification of cleanerdom, capitalize them.

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    I agree. Also, because "the jobs become their defining characteristic," that puts distance between reader and grocer. If I'm not a grocer (or if I am but don't consider it a big part of my identity), the Grocer is not immediately relatable to me. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 4:39

If you are just referring to them by titles instead of names, you don't need to capitalize, but the narrative will seem impersonal. If the titles are being used in place of names, do capitalize them. Be aware, however, that this will change the entire feel of the book --it will make it seem more stylized and allegorical. If that's what you want, then go right ahead.

Typically (as mentioned by Monica) if you use a title in place of a name, you drop the article --thus Father, rather than a Father or the Father. Alternately, however, you can keep the definite article as a part of the title, but in that case, it would also be capitalized, The Grocer, The Officer. The first option reads as more natural, the second has more of the allegorical feel.


In old fairy tales, the protagonists were sometimes referred to this way: the king, the princess, the miller's son. But there was only one of each, so it was okay to leave them lowercase.

If there might be the slightest confusion about which grocer, officer, etc. is being discussed, you should capitalize them. If there is only ever one grocer in the story, you're probably okay to leave it lowercase.

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