Characters dancing comes up pretty often in fiction. There are nights out clubbing with friends, weddings, heck, sometimes characters just start doing the Macarena in their kitchen. And that inevitably leads to the question of how that should be written. Capitalized? In quotes? Italics? All lowercase? That last option definitely doesn’t seem right. This question is definitely a doozy, and it’s not really covered in most style guides, but with the help of some friends and using my amazing powers of LOGIC!, I came up with some guidelines.
When talking about the title of a dance, treat it as you would a proper noun if it’s a specific dance that’s specifically choreographed to go with a certain song. No quotes or italics—it’s not a song or album.
However, you would not capitalize a dance that could theoretically be danced to any piece of music with the appropriate rhythm / beat. For instance, you can waltz to any piece of music that’s three-quarter time.
We all danced the Electric Slide when the DJ played “The Electric Boogie.”
I want to take lessons and learn salsa dancing.
This is a great reminder that sometimes when you’re writing and editing, you have to make educated decisions on how to treat words and phrases based on similar words and phrases. Take officemate, for instance. Should that be one word, two words, or hyphenated? It’s not in the dictionary, so there’s no definitive answer. However, roommate, bandmate, and teammate are in the dictionary, and all of those are closed compounds (one word). So it’s a safe choice to go with officemate as one word. The key thing is to be consistent.
Back to uppercasing or lowercasing dance names—that’s not in the dictionary or any style guide, but based on how we treat proper nouns such as place names, personal names, and the like, I think my solution is a sound one and I hope it solves your writing conundrum.
Photo by Erick Zajac on Unsplash
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