Why did we stop CAPITALIZING ship names?

When I graduated from California Maritime Academy more than a few years ago it was practice that when referring to an ocean going vessel the name was ALWAYS CAPITALIZED and properly underlined, an inland water vessel could be in quotation marks i.e. The Overseas Marilyn should be the MV OVERSEAS MARILYN, (I can’t underline it so I guess I can accept that compromise).
Anyway many ships are named for Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, and the diverse labor and skillsets to build these ocean going providers of a comfortable society should be recognized.
I witnessed a steel repair in the forepeak of my present ship and can honestly say the Cistene Chapel has a rival!!!

Id reckon it has to do with the age of computers, most formatting styles call for ships names to be Italicized. Similar fate for book titles, which at one point were also underlined. You can’t consistently Italicize handwritting, so block+undeline is the next best way to differentiate.

As you’ve discovered, markdown doesnt naively support underlinig, which is why all caps was likely in favor, until some fancy pants typography nerd said we had to start using Italics, which is supported by markdown most of the time. In mark down, Italicized text is stored *like this* so on simpler, early programs it was likely easier to use all caps to add the emphasis.

It looks like most style guids agree on the ship prefix to be capitalized and the Name Italicized - MV Overseas Marilyn.

Long story short, style guides change, as does the english language. Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive, and written language adapts to best suit it’s users.


As evidenced by the fairly recent convention of sprinkling apostrophes preceding the “s” at the end of plural nouns and the possessive pronoun “it”. Per AP style, if it’s a ship, its name should be in italics. :thinking:

I have a couple problems with this logic and the subject goes deeper than a little English revision.
At some point the transportation industry became well let’s just say an also ran item in the grand scheme of things. People expected perfection, didn’t understand where or how things arrived from overseas and didn’t understand the ramifications of a bad decision somewhere in the chain of operations. As vessels grow larger and more complicated things only become more dependent on correct and timely choices made putting a greater burden on fewer people. Ships are probably among the most complicated, regulated, and subject to the extreme accuracy in manufacture and repair of anything, yet there is not much advertising to draw the next generation into the fold, and bygone era glamour has all but disappeared. ESTEEMED Cohorts I’m capitalizing vessel names as a token of respect and perhaps maybe drawing the attention of young people who might read something and ask questions which might allow them the life of adventure and daring I have enjoyed. You may all do as you please of course but it’s time to plead my case,
Fair Winds and Smooth Seas to you all,

We’ve moved on from the era of typewriters. Titles, including ship names, are now italicized. The point of all caps was not to honor thew namesake of a ship. While a small few may be named for Medal of Honor recipients, far more are named for the 3rd grandson of the brother of the company founder. You can, of course, do as you will (if you don’t write professionally) but it’s far more likely the reader will just think your caps lock key was stuck. If you want to honor the namesake you can use the current technology an d add a footnote explaining who that persons is/was.


I’ve been reading about ships in books since about 1964. Italicizing has been the norm all that time. Capitalizing the exception.

Of course, this makes sense, the peice I was missing between handwritting and markdown.

I don’t mind italics or caps what I do resent is lower case throughout. Sometimes even the first letter is lower case.
As for creepy hedge fund shipowners, well they still got it together enough to produce something and if they are really bad enough then don’t capitalize as a point of rebellion or better yet move on.

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I just wish that vessel names at the bow and stern were written in the most easily read font. Maybe something like Clearview or Highway Gothic?
Sometimes I have difficulty figuring out what is who.

I prefer Italics but how do we make the text list to port when the wind shifts to stbd?

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Like this?

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:+1: :heavy_check_mark:

Hi, John. The Canadian Armed Forces Manual of Military Writing, circa 1972, specified that all ship’s names are to be capitalized. The usual style in civilian publications has long been to use italics. I insist on capitalization in official correspondence but I am willing to accept italics in civil.

Has the style guide not been updaded in 50 years?

The industry has gone to hell in a handbasket ever since some hedge fund townie goofus named his ships after his favorite New England Patriots players

That’s my theory, anyhow.

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