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greenpower
05-06-2011, 09:50 PM
Should one capitalize the word sir when it's used in dialogue?
Which of the following would be correct?
"Yes sir." -or- "Yes Sir."

MatthewWuertz
05-06-2011, 10:07 PM
"Yes, sir."

blacbird
05-06-2011, 10:07 PM
No capital. It's not a formal name. But you do need a comma:

"Yes, sir."

in the same way you would with a formal name:

"Yes, Mary."

Melville
05-06-2011, 10:10 PM
Should one capitalize the word sir when it's used in dialogue?
Which of the following would be correct?
"Yes sir." -or- "Yes Sir."

It depends. Is the recipient of the phrase knighted? Then it's "Yes, Sir." ;) If not, and it's just a polite reply to someone of authority: "Yes, sir." I've seen slang written as "Yessir" but not all that often. Don't forget your comma, however.

PinkAmy
05-06-2011, 10:17 PM
I think, capitalize Sir if you use it in place of the first name. If a character never calls John by his first name, but always calls him, "Sir." because sir has become a nickname. It's he same as if John always calls someone.

skylark
05-06-2011, 10:46 PM
I've seen it capitalised and exclamation-pointed ("Yes Sir!") to indicate a particularly sharp military delivery with strong emphasis on both words. I think the comma's left out for the same reason - because in that particular response type it very much isn't there in the way it is said.

Now I'm wondering how you'd present "sir yes sir", because I suspect that strictly it ought to be "Sir, yes, sir" and that doesn't look right for the delivery it would have at all. It just looks far too laid back.

Anyone write military fiction?

blacbird
05-06-2011, 11:35 PM
I've seen it capitalised and exclamation-pointed ("Yes Sir!") to indicate a particularly sharp military delivery with strong emphasis on both words. I think the comma's left out for the same reason - because in that particular response type it very much isn't there in the way it is said.

Now I'm wondering how you'd present "sir yes sir", because I suspect that strictly it ought to be "Sir, yes, sir" and that doesn't look right for the delivery it would have at all. It just looks far too laid back.

Anyone write military fiction?

I have. You should know that the "sir yes sir" response is particular to the Marines, and perhaps in Officer Candidate Schools and Academies (not sure about the latter, having no direct experience of those). In the U.S. Army, where I dwelt for several years, you did not call Drill Sergeants "sir", which differs from Marine practice. They were to be referred to, always, as "drill sergeant". The word "sir" was reserved for officers, including warrant officers. And the proper response was a simple "yes, sir", which is the way I've always written it.

greenpower
05-06-2011, 11:52 PM
Thanks to erveryone for the responses. I was so focused on the word "sir", that I forgot the comma.

writingismypassion
05-06-2011, 11:53 PM
Interesting...I was going to say capitalize it as long as "Sir" is being used to address someone. Just as you would capitalize mom or dad when mom and dad are being addressed directly. I don't think I've ever seen "sir" without being capitalized.

maestrowork
05-07-2011, 01:16 AM
It's not capitalized, unless you're addressing someone with a title: Sir Ian McKellen.

tko
05-07-2011, 01:16 AM
If it's a brisk military response "YES SIR"

Why would you need a comma? There is no pause. I can't find any rule that would require a comma.

I like "Hey Mary," better than "Hey, Mary." Most people would blend the two words together as one when speaking. Either could be used, but they do give a different feel to the sentence."

No capital. It's not a formal name. But you do need a comma:

"Yes, sir."

in the same way you would with a formal name:

"Yes, Mary."

blacbird
05-07-2011, 01:24 AM
I like "Hey Mary," better than "Hey, Mary."

You might like it, but it's grammatically improper. If it hit my desk as an editor, I'd add the comma. Go look at any number of published books and see how it's done.

rugcat
05-07-2011, 01:29 AM
You might like it, but it's grammatically improper. If it hit my desk as an editor, I'd add the comma. Go look at any number of published books and see how it's done.Yessir!

maestrowork
05-07-2011, 01:30 AM
Like blacbird said, it's grammatically correct to use the comma.

However, in dialogue, grammar is a bit more relaxed. I wouldn't mind seeing "yes sir" instead of "yes, sir."

Quentin Nokov
05-07-2011, 03:20 AM
Boy, I'm glad I stumbled into this thread. For some reason capitalizing 'Sir' seemed correct to me. :D *Goes of to edit story* Thanks Greenpower for starting this subject and thanks to everyone who replied.

Chase
05-07-2011, 05:13 AM
If it's a brisk military response "YES SIR"

Why would you need a comma? There is no pause. I can't find any rule that would require a comma.

I like "Hey Mary," better than "Hey, Mary." Most people would blend the two words together as one when speaking. Either could be used, but they do give a different feel to the sentence."

The idea that if you don't pause, there's no comma, and if there's no comma, you don't pause is a misunderstanding of comma use.

The comma marks divisions of structure within a sentence. Sometimes there's a coincidental natural pause; sometimes there isn't one.

The structure of "yes, sir" is a comma in dialog to separate the person addressed from the rest of the sentence. It's to avoid confusion, not force a pause.

Used many times here at AW as an example is eliminating the confusion between:

"Let's eat, Grandma."

and

"Let's eat Grandma."

tko
05-07-2011, 12:19 PM
A comma is used for (1) a pause (2) a list (3) to clarify.

Since there is no pause, since it's not a list, and since it's perfectly clear w/o the comma, why use one? It's awkward.

"Hey Jude," does NOT use a comma, and it would look stupid if the Beatles had put one in. "Hey, Jude, make it better????"

Neither does "Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand? I'm goin' down to shoot my old lady. I caught her messin' round with another man . . . "

"Yes Sir, That's My Baby" versus "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby. The former is correct, and sounds better.

Finally, if the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Blue Eyes aren't enough authority, I give you the comma song, written by an English teacher, which doesn't use a comma after "Hey."

http://www.songsforteaching.com/readinglanguagearts/commas.php

"Hey Momma, when do you use a comma?

Well, dear, you use it in a series....
Words in a series are in linear list
They're separated by commas, well, that is
Except the last 2 where you'll show that you're a comma whiz . . . "

Lastly, you'd be much better off writing "Grandma, lets eat." No confusion, even if you forget the comma, and more true to real life dialog. Awkward examples do not make the comma usage correct.

The idea that if you don't pause, there's no comma, and if there's no comma, you don't pause is a misunderstanding of comma use.

The comma marks divisions of structure within a sentence. Sometimes there's a coincidental natural pause; sometimes there isn't one.

The structure of "yes, sir" is a comma in dialog to separate the person addressed from the rest of the sentence. It's to avoid confusion, not force a pause.

Used many times here at AW as an example is eliminating the confusion between:

"Let's eat, Grandma."

and

"Let's eat Grandma."

BenPanced
05-07-2011, 12:28 PM
Yessir!
yes'm.

maestrowork
05-07-2011, 02:32 PM
Commas aren't just for lists or pauses.

Lil
05-07-2011, 06:51 PM
Commas are also used for direct address, which is what "yes, sir" is.

Chase
05-07-2011, 11:04 PM
Lastly, you'd be much better off writing "Grandma, lets eat." No confusion, even if you forget the comma, and more true to real life dialog. Awkward examples do not make the comma usage correct.

Shouldn't the contraction be let's? Or does the apostrophe put too long a pause in the word?

I have to admit this is the first rant against good comma use backed up by those icons of grammar, the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Most go with what Shakespeare never wrote but was copied third or fourth hand by hearsay.

Totally illogical but in the grandest style, pause, breathe, ever.

Edit. Changing the sentence around is always an option with examples we don't like. It's an example from a textbook.

OpheliaRevived
05-07-2011, 11:19 PM
2nd poster is correct. Sir is only capatalized if it is the first word in a sentence or if the character being referred to as "sir" has the title of knight.

dpaterso
05-07-2011, 11:51 PM
Even the "knighted character" usage has its quirks, "Sir" isn't used on its own, it's always used with the character's full or first name, e.g.

"And we are here tonight with Sir Ian McKellen, who has kindly agreed to give us a moment of his time. Well, Sir Ian, I think the audience agrees with me, your performance as 'Magneto' was simply magnificent."

I wouldn't put too much faith in song lyrics as a "how-to" reference. :)

-Derek

Quentin Nokov
05-08-2011, 01:33 AM
Basically, you wouldn't capitalize sir the way you wouldn't capitalize ma'am?

Yes, sir. -- Yes, Sir.

Yes, ma'am. -- Yes, Ma'am.

The latter of the two being incorrect and, to me, look rather funny either way.

dpaterso
05-08-2011, 02:04 AM
Basically, you wouldn't capitalize sir the way you wouldn't capitalize ma'am?

Yes, sir. -- Yes, Sir.

Yes, ma'am. -- Yes, Ma'am.

The latter of the two being incorrect and, to me, look rather funny either way.
Lowercase -- sir and ma'am are respectful honorifics, not titles or rank labels.

-Derek

maestrowork
05-08-2011, 02:59 AM
Right. Ma'am isn't capitalized unless it's the first word of the sentence.

Kenn
05-08-2011, 06:15 PM
It's not capitalized, unless you're addressing someone with a title: Sir Ian McKellen.

And then you would be addressing them incorrectly. In this case, you should say 'Sir Ian'.

I do not think this is as black-and-white as some people seem to think. If it is used as an honorific title to replace a proper noun, I would say 'Sir' rather than 'sir'. For instance, you might be well advised to address a judge as 'Your Honour'. But it might be a question of style, and usage might be different in America.

LynnKHollander
05-09-2011, 12:42 AM
Why would you need a comma? There is no pause. I can't find any rule that would require a comma.

Pauses are not governed by commas; clauses are. Sir is direct address, an interjection, and is set off with commas. The dramatic reader, reading aloud to an audience, may need to pause, but the silent reader doesn't.



'The stops point out, with truth, the time of pause
'A sentence doth require at ev'ry clause.
'At ev'ry comma, stop while one you count;
'At a semicolon, two is the amount;
'A colon doth require the time of three
'A period four, as learned men agree.' ~~ which I located in Eats, Shoots and Leaves, quoted by Lynne Truss, who adds immediately after this: "I think it's rubbish. Complete nonsense." I agree with her.

AmsterdamAssassin
05-10-2011, 12:36 AM
Siryessir!

Jettica
05-13-2011, 08:28 PM
Ah The Beatles... They're well know for their focus on correct grammar. Music always came second.

Hallen
05-13-2011, 10:21 PM
Grammatically, this might not be strictly correct, however, if you are directly addressing an officer, then I think it's more clear to capitalize just as if you are addressing a Knighted person. This may offend members of the empire, but it seems to make sense to me.

"I don't know, Sir, but I'll find out."

Would you write:
"I don't know, Captain, but I'll find out."
Or
"I don't know, captain, but I'll find out."

It's slightly different than referring to any particular gentleman as "sir". Sir is the alternative title for any officer in the military (at least in the US).

Sir always refers to a single officer. I'd probably go with lower case for the "yes, sir" part simply because it's more of a formal way of indicating compliance rather than directly addressing the officer.

And the "Sir, yes sir" thing is only used in training; OCS for the Army and boot camp for the Marines. The Marines are the only ones to use the term "sir" to refer to a NCO (sergeant) and this only happens during boot camp.

CC.Allen
11-22-2011, 02:14 AM
Would you write:
"I don't know, Captain, but I'll find out."
Or
"I don't know, captain, but I'll find out."

Wow, I am blown away after reading this thread...

First things first, I would write:

"I don't know, Captain, but I'll find out."

I have always felt sure of this, but now something in the back of my head is beginning to wonder??? Naaa... I'm pretty sure of this; nevermind.

Okay, back the OP. I was not sure of the answer, that is why I was here trying to confirm or deny my belief, before I started checking through my entire MS. I have written MS without caps in the situation of:

"Yes, sir." or Yes, sir, I will be right there."
and
"Yes, ma'am." or Yes, ma'am, I will be right there."

However, I have all along assumed that I would need to go back and change them all. I am pleased to find out that I don't, albiet very surprised.

My thought process: My two MCs are a governor and a lieutenant. Often they refer to each other with proper titles:

The lieutenant agreed, "Yes, Governor."
or
The governor agreed, "Yes, Lieutenant."

Often times they regard to one another as "sir" to replace the titles. Rarely they will also use each other's first names or even their title with a last name.

However, I am happy that with the number of replies here and zero disagreements, that I will not go back and capitalize the lot.

Thanks all!

Becky Black
11-22-2011, 02:57 PM
I wouldn't put too much faith in song lyrics as a "how-to" reference. :)

-Derek

Quite. :D Song lyrics are more akin to poetry than prose and poetry is more about effect than rules.

Rufus Coppertop
11-22-2011, 03:50 PM
Shouldn't the contraction be let's? Or does the apostrophe put too long a pause in the word?


It should definitely be Grandma, let's eat, otherwise it means Grandma allows eat.

AnWulf
11-23-2011, 05:49 AM
If I were writing the words separately, I'd go with TKO ... leave the comma out. It's not needed and breaks the flow of reading. If yu were copyediting my novel and changed it ... I'd stet it.

From the OED, problem solved:

yessir |ˈyesər, ˈyesˈsər|(also yessiree |-səˈrē|) informal
exclam.
used to express assent: "Do you understand me?" "Yessir!"
• used to express emphatic affirmation: yessir the food was cheap.
ORIGIN early 20th cent.: alteration of yes sir .