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I see it quite a lot. It looks a bit like this:

It can be seen in Figure 3 that...

My gut feeling is that there is no reason to scream in the middle of a perfectly calm sentence. I would like to write it like:

It can be seen in figure 3 that...

However it seem to be very common. Which one is the recommended way of writing, and more importantly what are the reason(s) for using a capital letter there?

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Figure 3 is recommended, and it's pretty much in line with every style book I've consulted (Chicago Manual of Style, AP Stylebook, O'Reilly, etc.).

From a logical point of view, I completely agree with you. However, the standard convention of Figure 3 makes perfect sense, because Figure 3 is . . . well, Figure 3. It's an element of the article, book, etc. that deserves its own capitalization. Think of it as another chapter (to which you would refer with uppercase spelling) or heading.

O'Reilly Default Stylesheet: http://oreilly.com/oreilly/author/stylesheet.html

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If the figures are labeled "Figure 3", you would refer to them so in the text. Similarly for "Fig. 3".

When the label is only "3", refer to it as "figure 3", using lowercase.

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There's no right or wrong on this; it depends on which style manual you're following. (And if you're not restricted to one style manual, you can do what you like, as long as you're consistent.) For example, Chicago (3.9) recommends lowercase, while APA (4.17) recommends uppercase. I don't think one capital letter = a scream. People probably capitalize it because they're used to capitalizing names and it is similar to a name.

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