Capitalization Issues: earth versus Earth

Posted March 21, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

What?? You thought this was the same word??? Hah! This is English we’re talkin’ about. And this one always confuses the heck out of me! The Earth is a planet. It’s a proper noun. Of course it should be capitalized! Except…

A capped Earth is more of a rare bird and should only be capitalized when “in polite company”. In other words, when Earth is hobnobbing with the other planets. And no, the sun and the moon are not considered planets.

So if you’re writing a novel that spans planes of existence, you might want to consider coming up with an alternative term for earth. One example I can think of off the top of my head is Yasmine Galenorn’s Otherworld series in which she refers to the human plane of existence as Earthside. Don’cha just love English when you can make up your own words…*grin*

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. Nor is it just words that get confused, sometimes there are questions as to what and when to capitalize a word. In general, these are questions that come up when I’m proofreading or editing someone’s work, and I want a note for myself or an easy reference to which I can point the author, and it has evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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earth Earth
Credit to: Apple; Skillin, 166

“ICE-S Geisberg Dreckig” is Sebastian Terflothvia’s own work under the CC-SA-2.5 license, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s earth stretching out for miles.

“Solar System” montage by NASA/JPL is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Par-tay time…for Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and all the rest!

Part of Grammar:
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: earths
Past tense or past participle: earthed
Gerund or present participle: earthing

Proper Noun
Never capitalize it when preceded by the

Surface of our planet


One of the four elements in ancient and medieval philosophy and in astrology

Substance of the human body in a poetic or literary sense

Underground lair or habitation of a badger or fox

[British electrical term] Ground

Verb, intransitive:
[Hunting] Drive (a fox) to its underground lair

[Used of a hunted animal] To burrow or hide in the ground

Verb, transitive:
[Earth something up] Cover the root and lower stem of a plant with heaped-up earth

[Hunting] Drive (a fox) to its underground lair

[British; electrical term] Ground

Capitalize when mentioned as a specific planet or in connection with other capitalized heavenly bodies

Name of a planet, a celestial body
The comet landed somewhere on earth.

The foxes went to earth.

Why on earth did you put that on?

Wow, George, the earth moved!

They looked like nothing on earth!

Who on earth would want to eat that?

Okay, Mary, you have to come back to earth.

Verb, intransitive:
The third fox went away through Grange to Halsington and earthed near Watertown.

Verb, transitive:
As a final step after earthing her tomatoes, Helen soaked the earth around them.

They earthed the fox under Jones’ hedgerows.

Did you earth that plug?

Earth is located between Mars and Venus.

It takes six to eight months to travel from Earth to Mars.

It is further from Earth to Mars than it is from Mercury to the Sun.

Within the solar system, the terrestrial planets are the inner planets closest to the sun, i.e. Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.

Adjective: earthly, earthier, earthiest, earthy, superearthly, unearthly
Adverb: earthily
Noun: earthiness, earthliness, unearthliness
History of the Word:
Old English eorthe is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch aarde and the German Erde.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Dirt” is part of a post, “BRB” by Xensen on the Right Reading blog while the planets image is by NASA/JPL in a post, “Cosmic Debate: What’s Up With the Planets?“, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.