An earthy (Earthy?) Problem of Language

Solar System Planets.
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I had used the word in this context and in lower case:

“…using the power of all forms of communication to tell the story of a new way of thinking about our relationship to the earth and the future.”

A kind editor, who is a PhD ecologist, suggested that to use the lower case was “a subtle but ubiquitous way to de-emphasize our home planet.” I think I agree with him, but wondered what the strict grammarians would say.

Depends on who you ask to some degree. Earth as soil is agreed on as lower case. But

The problem with the word “earth” is that it, along with a number of other words, can be used as both a common noun and a proper noun. The use of “earth” to refer to soil, ground, or land is almost certainly a common noun and should not be capitalized unless it is at the beginning of a sentence. “Earth” to indicate a place, however, is somewhat more complicated. In general, if “earth” is being used to refer to the planet, but is not being used in an astronomical context, it should be written lowercase.

So: would you leave my sentence as written, or yield to the upper-case version to honor the Planet planet as has been suggested?

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About

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

4 Comments on “An earthy (Earthy?) Problem of Language

  1. I would leave it as written. I think only if you are referring to our planet would you capitalize it (as it states above.)
    However, if the meaning in the sentence is ambiguous and can be misconstrued, than either change the word or use the capital. I think your sentence can be taken either way.

  2. Isn’t the version you choose as the author creating the context of useage? Since I’m familiar with your writing and concerns I think your sentence should use the planterary Earth, which is more than dirt and land, it’s also air, water and all forms of life. That’s not an astronomical reference but nobody will be confused about your intent.

    The title of this piece is a different kind of clumsy and I would take out either version of earthy. The subject is language.

  3. My opinion is to use the capitalized version “Earth”. If for no other reason than to emphasize and show respect for our mother planet.

  4. I agree with Bill. And in your sentence, I thought the “earth” refers to the planetary body, proper noun, and dirt? Plus, it’s more poetic?

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