I'm not going to play next year if coach makes me ride the pine again this season. (source)

The sentence syntactically suggests "coach" has to be a proper noun, although it is not capitalized. It looks to me "coach" here functions the same way as "Mom" in "I asked Mom where my book was."

Should it be capitalized when used as title before a name? For example:

Have you talked to Coach/coach Anderson?

A discussion on a sports journalism forum on this topic has mixed opinions and seems ultimately inconclusive, so I wonder what the proper writing rules are.

  • It's fine either way. Mom can also be in lowercase. It depends on the person's underlying usage (semantics). Colloquial English will also often drop article for nouns. Sep 22, 2018 at 19:23

2 Answers 2

  • The coach told me to make the play. No capitals.

  • I don't know why Coach Anderson told me to make the play. Capitals. It would be capitalized but is not a proper noun. Names preceded by a title call for capitals to be used.

Names of countries and cities are proper nouns or people are proper nouns, for example.

Wikipedia on proper nouns: proper nouns

The practice of capitalizing a name after a title is not the same thing:

- President Lincoln

- Judge Smith

- Coach Anderson

Coach can be used as a title preceding a name, and, therefore, is capitalized. It is pretty much universally accepted that in an article or formal context (like a formal announcement or invitation or notice on a notice board) a last name preceded by a title would be capitalized. The question is not about proper names. It's about titles for people and their last names.


You correctly understand that "coach" refers to the person who is in that position, and as such is a so-called "proper noun" for entities.

But the typographic conventions that attempt to reflect such categories of Speech are not controlled by anyone who has the power to torture those who disobey those conventions, so there is considerable variation in that regard.

  • a side question: what does "ride the pine" mean?
    – dan
    Sep 23, 2018 at 0:35
  • 3
    @dan Benches are often made from pinewood, and the expression means sitting on the bench during games instead of being allowed to play. Sep 23, 2018 at 0:51
  • 1
    Given that your answer is "yes" and the other answer is "no", a citation or two would be really helpful, here. Also, your random capitalization of "Speech" doesn't help your answer look authoritative. Sep 23, 2018 at 0:52
  • 1
    @dan Actually if you click on the source link in my question, it takes you to the definition of the idiom you are asking about.
    – Eddie Kal
    Sep 23, 2018 at 2:31
  • @Deancue: To be fair, the context doesn't suggest that the link might be to the definition of that idiom, and you'd have to be compulsively clicking (or at least mousing over) every link you see to stumble upon that definition page.
    – BoltClock
    Sep 23, 2018 at 4:02

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