I'm a LaTeX and LyX beginner. One thing that's making me scratch my head is LyX's Toggle noun button.

According to the manual, I should use noun case for people's names, and the default rendering style is small caps.

Fine. But I'd like some more detail.

If I was writing an article about, say, the life of Joe Bloggs, should I set his name in noun case? Even in the title?

If I list Jane Bloggs in my acknowledgements, should I set her name in noun case?

Where else should I use noun case?

ADDENDUM: Just to be clear, I fully understand the principle of separating semantics from presentation. My question is: what are the semantics? For example:

  • Should I use noun case for citations, to show that the author being cited is human, not an organisation?
  • What about when the author of this document is human? Should I set my own name in noun case in the author field?
  • Is noun case just for citing or acknowledging, or is it used whenever a human is referenced by name?
  • Okay, so this is not so much a (technical) LyX or LaTeX question, but more a question about typographic conventions. I have taken the freedom to edit your tags (-lyx, +typogaphy) accordingly, which should increase the chance to attract the typography experts to your question. – Daniel Jun 1 '13 at 7:49
  • 1
    You're absolutely right. Thanks, Daniel. I used the LyX tag because I was under the impression that the noun style is a LyX feature. – Pitarou Jun 2 '13 at 9:31
  • That's an excellent question! I can't remember reading a book or paper that highlights all persons' names throughout (apart from bibliographies, but I guess that's another matter). – Daniel Wolf Nov 18 '14 at 11:22
  • @Pitarou noun is indeed a Lyx feature, and the lyx tag is thus quite fitting in my opinion. – Zero3 Dec 17 '15 at 5:58

The following is taken from the LyX wiki on semantic markup:

What is the difference between "noun" and "small caps" or "emphasized" and "italic"?

The concepts of "noun" and "emphasized" draw on the idea of "semantic markup" (as opposed to traditional "static" or "physical markup"). Semantic markup means that you do not mark a text element in a definite way ("this is italic" or "this uses small caps"), but you mark it as a semantic element ("this is a noun, i.e. a person name" or "this is to be emphasized").

How this really looks in the output can be (re-)decided at any time later, or it is determined by specific classes differently (so "emphasized" might mean "italic" in one class and "bold" in another). This has many practical advantages. If your publisher tells you "Please do not mark person names with small caps, but use italics" or "Please do not mark person names at all", you do not have to change any person name in your document, but simply change the definition of "noun", e.g. (to have no marking at all): \renewcommand*\noun[1]{#1}

The LyX philosophy is to encourage semantic markup. This is why the "semantic" elements are put prominently on the LyX toolbar.

Of course, the idea would be to have much more of such semantic elements. However, they have not yet been implemented in a proper way. Some elements are provided as "character styles" which can be accessed via "modules". Check out the "Logical Markup" module or the "Linguistics" module (the latter with semantic elements such as "Expression", "Concept", "Meaning"). But this is a different implementation in terms of the user interface, and those "insets" behave differently. A proper and unified semantic markup UI is yet a desideratum.

Taking the above into consider, LyX promotes a way of consistent typography whereby you specify the same thing using the same markup and can update it to your liking at any given time rather than (what is commonly referred to as) hard-coding things one way or another.

A practical example of this (using pure LaTeX) using your reference to nouns:

\newcommand{\noun}[1]{\textsc{#1}}% Original formatting of nouns
\noun{Jack} and \noun{Joe Bloggs} went up the hill \par
to fetch a pail of water. \par
\noun{Jack} fell down and broke his crown, \par
And \noun{Joe Bloggs} came tumbling after.

This input yields the output

enter image description here

If there is a change of heart and you wish to adapt the setting of nouns, you merely have to change the way \nouns are interpreted, without changing anything else in your document. So, by adding \renewcommand{\noun}[1]{\textsf{#1}} to your LaTeX preamble in LyX, the output after compilation changes to:

enter image description here

...or to \renewcommand{\noun}[1]{\MakeUppercase{#1}}:

enter image description here

...or to \renewcommand{\noun}[1]{\textit{#1}}:

enter image description here

The use-case should be obvious. (La)TeX's macro programming allows for this and it should be used. As such, in the interest of consistency throughout your document, mark Joe Bloggs as a "noun" wherever you see it:

  • "If I was writing an article about, say, the life of Joe Bloggs, should I set his name in noun case? Even in the title?"


  • "If I list Jane Bloggs in my acknowledgements, should I set her name in noun case?"


  • "Where else should I use noun case?"

    Wherever you feel things should be consistent with nouns (whatever your definition of a nou; a person's name, for example).

Note that you would be able to change the meaning of \noun mid-document (even though it might not promote the same consistency). However, it's best to define the same things in the same way exactly for that reason.

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    for any one who is curious, noun's LaTeX definition is hardcoded in LaTeXFeatures.cpp. – scottkosty Jun 1 '13 at 5:19
  • I don't like saying this, because you clearly spent some time writing this, but you haven't actually answered my question. I'll add some clarification to my question. – Pitarou Jun 1 '13 at 5:25
  • @Pitarou: I thought I did answer it at the end of the question: '...mark Joe Bloggs as a "noun" wherever you see it'. – Werner Jun 1 '13 at 5:30
  • Your extra clarification helps a lot. Thanks. What about the author and citations? – Pitarou Jun 1 '13 at 5:38
  • @Pitarou: I would assume as part of your author declaration would be appropriate. Citations, however, are usually dealt with by a reference package like biblatex and formats names (or nouns) in its own way. You may use the same formatting though. – Werner Jun 1 '13 at 6:05

Personally, I do not want authors in small caps in any place, as in my opinion this difficult the reading flow. But where you must exactly use small caps or another style, or just plain text for authors depend of (in order of importance):

  1. Authors guidelines from the journal for your article.
  2. Authors guidelines from your university for your thesis.
  3. Usual conventions of your readers/audience.
  4. Maintain consistency throughout as much as possible in all the document.
  5. Personal preferences.

As Werner perfectly explained, since \noun allow change easily this style, it convenient specially when you are unsure of the default final style for names of authors, but I do not rule out possible exceptions, in spite that the lack of consistency is awful. If you are unsure about that, you can make as many new macros as you want for possible/reasonable style exceptions, as \nounformarginnotes, \nouninfootnote, etc., and use exceptions also consistenfly. In case that finally you want return to a unique noun style, all the work is change all/some of these macros definitions in the preample to \newcommand{\whatever}[1]{\textsc{#1}}.

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