Author Topic: Should animal common names be capitalised?  (Read 3661 times)


  • Dr admin
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1622
    • View Profile
    • The Plesiosaur Directory
  • Animal: Frilled lizard
Should animal common names be capitalised?
« on: March 17, 2013, 11:52:59 AM »
I always thought the vernacular names for animals should be written entirely in lowercase (unless the name derives from a place or person) but some books and museum exhibits capitalise the first letters. Is their any standard convention? Books about plants and birds tend to have the common names capitalised.

Here's wikipedia's guidelines (, which deviate from the norm from group to group - there seem to be local styles depending on the tradition in each field. But I'd prefer consistency when, for example, I'm writing text for a gallery about all sorts of animal groups. Are there any formal rules out there?
« Last Edit: March 17, 2013, 11:53:23 AM by animaltoyforum »


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1355
    • View Profile
    • Fauna Figures Toys & Collectables
Re: Should animal common names be capitalised?
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2013, 03:29:48 PM »
I never ran into that much, although I seem to recall that common names would be left in lower case. If the text is meant to emphasize the animal's name I would prefer to see it bolded than capitalized. This would also distinguish the name from the latin binomial genus name.


  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 394
    • View Profile
Re: Should animal common names be capitalised?
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2013, 06:49:13 PM »
I agree with sbell that it is correct to use lowercase for common names.  My last post on turtles, I used capital letters for common names, which did not feel right.  I followed the example of this reference: Turtles of the World, 2012 Update: Annotated Checklist of Taxonomy and Synonymy, Distribution, and Conservation Status. Turtle Taxonomy Working Group, van Dijk, P.P., Iverson, J.B., Shaffer, H.B., Bour, R., and Rhodin, G.J.
In the future I will follow the rules of grammer instead and use lowercase.  Thanks for bringing up this topic, animaltoyforum.

EDIT: Capitalization has been changed to lowercase for common names of turtles in Groups/Turtles/Reply #48 about Yujin Series 1.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2013, 07:46:04 PM by stemturtle »


  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2930
  • "Et tu, Bronte?"
    • View Profile
    • brontodocus at uni
Re: Should animal common names be capitalised?
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2013, 06:57:32 PM »
Hmm, it's difficult for me since English is not my native language, anyways (in German we would capitalise every noun without exception). But I always understood the vernacular name of a taxon (at least of a species) as a proper name that should be somehow distinguished from common nouns. For example, if somebody is talking about African wild dogs - does that mean Lycaon pictus or any possible canid (e.g. one of the jackal species) native to Africa? Without knowing if it's correct or not, if it's referring to a certain species I prefer to capitalise every word a vernacular name consists of (with the exception of articles and prepositions). I think it's sufficient enough to distinguish between vernacular and binominal scientific name by italicising the latter as recommended by the ICZN.