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In previous meta questions and chat discussions, I've gotten general agreement on the capitalization conventions this site should use for common species names, race names within a species, and scientific species names. Since I (and no one else to my knowledge) have never put it all in one place, I've summarized that at the end of this question for your viewing pleasure. They're the rules I use when cleaning up questions for readability. I'm not pedantic about it, but having consistent style does help people answer our questions better, in my observation.

My question today is about Pokémon, spurred by this question. Clearly a singular individual whose given name just happens to be its species name gets a capital letter. So, Pikachu as an individual character is capitalized. But should the common species name be capitalized? Maybe some of them are proper nouns, but I think it should be "bulbasaur", for example. Yet all references on the Internet always capitalize the names. When we are doing an anatomically-correct series, where we realitify (my word, go with it) a fictional species, should we continue to use its fictional capitalization or make it follow a more conventional route? Or -- the most interesting argument to me -- do we say that the entire species is always named for a proper noun, i.e., the given name of the first individual of the species that researchers met? Like maybe the first Bulbasaur was named Bulbasaur, and researchers named the species Bulbasaur, and we call all individuals by that name, because we are dumb humans, but secretly, many of them are named Tai Li, Veronica, or Sandovar Malachai Epsilon The Nearly Outstanding. We've just gotten lucky that we've never met a first Pokémon of any type whose name doesn't fit on a playing card.

What should the capitalization convention be for a species generated from a Pokémon prototype in the "anatomically correct" series?


Appendix: Species/Race Capitalization Conventions

We use lower case for common (non-technical) species names, including fantasy and science fictional species, unless they were named for proper nouns. That means:

  • human vs Earther vs Neanderthal
  • dog vs cocker spaniel vs German shepherd
  • targ vs Klingon
  • monarch butterfly vs Nevada skipper
  • velociraptor vs Abelisaurus

Races within a species are generally capitalized, but that seems to be because all races are tied to some proper noun, so it is unclear what we would do if we ever found one that wasn't:

  • African (humans)
  • Caucasian (humans)
  • Latinx (humans)
  • Dorsai (humans, fictional)
  • Silvanesti (elves)
  • Qualinesti (elves)

Scientific names follow the standard naming convention that the first word (genus name) is capitalized and the following species name is always lower case:

  • Homo sapiens
  • Homo neanderthalensis
  • Velociraptor mongoliensis
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  • $\begingroup$ The convention is that names of genera, binomial names of species and trinominal names of subspecies, varieties etc. are set in italics. So it is genus Homo (not Homo), species Homo sapiens (not Homo sapiens), and subspecies Panthera pardus tulliana (Persian leopard) or variety Prunus persica var. nectarina (nectarine peach -- note that "var." is set in upright type). If an authority abbreviation follows the (sub)species name it is set in upright type, e.g., Quercus robur L. (European oak). $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 15 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ Note that in Homo sapiens the species name is the full binomial phrase; sapiens is called the specific name or specific epithet. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 15 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ Note also, especially in the fantasy setting, it's not unusual to capitalise race / species names: Elves, Dwarves, Men, etc. I'm happy with editing for clarity so long as the OP's particular style is respected (and if they have one!) $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Feb 16 at 0:01
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I'm in favor of treating Pokémon as proper nouns in all instances to stay consistent with the franchise and general internet usage. While this site can help make Pokémon anatomically correct, we aren't here to make them grammatically correct.

I like to imagine there's a little Trademark™ Or Brand ® symbol next to the name clarifying that it's intellectual property, even if each exact Pokémon type isn't trademarked; that makes their usage consistent with proper nouns.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm good with this as policy. It is where I was leaning. $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 16 at 15:10

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