Proper nouns are words that represent specific things – for example, names of people or places. Here’s where it gets complicated: What about words that don’t necessarily refer to a specific person or place, but are still capitalized? These words are often referred to as proper nouns. For example, “I bought a ping pong table.” Some people would argue that the word ‘Ping’ in this sentence is a proper noun because it’s a trademarked name. But not everybody agrees with this assessment.
I have the following question. Is “Ping Pong” capitalized?
The rules of capitalization are not abundantly clear cut. For example, there is no difference between “I went to the store to buy some milk.”, “I Went To The Store To Buy Some Milk”, and “I went to the store to buy some milk.” On the other hand, with proper nouns you never omit letters, so something like “my dad is a nice guy” would be incorrect since you’ve left out two letters from ‘My’.
My personal opinion is that the rule of thumb for determining whether something should be capitalized is simply to make sure you capitalize anything more specific than a common noun. This means capitalizing adjectives and verbs whenever they’re part of a proper name (like if you named your pet fish “swimmy” instead of just “fishy”, then his name would be capitalized). The way I see it, “ping pong” is a made up word, just like “swimmy.” So if you’re talking about actual ping pong (like in table tennis), then it’s OK to capitalize. But saying something like, “I bought a Ping Pong ball,” would not be proper capitalization.
The Oxford comma [in lists of three or more items] has been hotly disputed for years now and doesn’t seem likely to go away any time soon. Whether you use it or not is really a matter of personal preference (and sometimes company policy); however, everyone agrees that the serial comma [the comma that falls before the conjunction at the end of a list of three or items] should never be used. The reason for this is that it can sometimes cause confusion.
For example, The New Yorker style guide recommends against using the serial comma as follows:
The fruit on the bottom of his backpack were brown bananas, apples and pears.”
Without the serial comma it’s unclear whether “apples” are included in “the fruit on the bottom of his backpack.” Is “brown bananas, apples and pears” one item or three? It all depends on what you want to say. However, if you decide to use a serial comma in your list of items, be consistent throughout your work. Inconsistency only leads to more confusion.
Just like most other rules in grammar, there are exceptions to when to use an Oxford comma or serial comma.
For example, you would use the serial comma when listing items before a conjunction such as “and.” The fruit on the bottom of his backpack were brown bananas, apples and pears, and plums.
However, if someone told you to write:
The fruit on the bottom of his backpack were brown bananas and pears.
No one will think that apples are included in your list of unmentioned items because modern English doesn’t work that way. You don’t need an extra comma before “and” (or any conjunction for that matter) because it’s understood what comes after “apples” is not part of the list of fruit already mentioned.