Spelling of vernacular names

Tony Irwin tony.irwin at BTINTERNET.COM
Fri Mar 4 18:12:58 CST 2005

One of the reasons for using capitals for common names is that it clearly
denotes specific status. "Five Little Brown Bats were found in the cave"
means something different to "Five little brown bats were found in the
cave". Where common names are used without the qualification of a Latin
binomial, then perhaps it is a good idea to capitalise them. Otherwise, it's
up to an editor to decide on house style and enforce it. Hopefully all
serious publications (including websites) will ensure that use of the name
is clarified by reference to a scientific name. When I was editing our local
natural history society journal, I stuck with lower case initals for common
names, but highlighted them in a bold font -- no confusion, easy to read,
and everyone seemed satisfied!
Tony Irwin

-----Original Message-----

Since we are on the subject of vernacular names I would like to ask a
somewhat related question regarding the proper spelling of vernacular names
in English. Should vernacular names be capitalized, and if so, should all
component words be capitalized or just the first one? For example, the
vernacular name of Rhinostomus barbirostris could be spelled the Bearded
Weevil, the Bearded weevil, or the bearded weevil. Which one of these is the
correct one?


Piotr Naskrecki, Ph. D.

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