This World: Capitalization?
To all of you out there, sorry if you were trying to find a general page to capitalization rules in the fandom. This page is actually just dedicated to answering one question I get asked quite frequently by readers on other forums when they see I don't capitalize Pokémon names in writing. There's a bit of a complicated reason behind it, but let me try to make it as simple as possible to explain. The first thing to know is that regardless of what anyone tells you, there's actually two ways to look at capitalization rules in Pokémon fanfiction.
Basically, it's the obvious school of thought, the one everyone usually starts out on and moves outward if they choose to do so. It's the one that says that everything is actually copyrighted, trademarked, et cetera. Therefore, all Pokémon names would technically be proper nouns because they're referring to ideas that are special -- i.e., a specific concept that's been registered with a company. In shorter terms, you say things like a Pikachu and a Poké Ball because they're special objects that have been copyrighted by Nintendo (and anyone else).
This is why I capitalize outside of fanfiction, actually. It's because at that point, I'm removing myself from the world I'm writing in, so technically, I'm referring to the copyrighted objects. That and I'm avoiding constantly having to explain why I'm not capitalizing those words.
Okay, sounds simple, right? Or, at least, it sounds logical enough to justify the more popular way of doing things. Hey, if anyone can come up with a better reason, I'd be happy to hear it. In the meantime, what about method #2?
As a contrast, when you say "a Pikachu," are you referring to a specific Pikachu or some random one you spot on the street? This is the main question behind the second argument. Simply put, whoever's in this camp believes that (almost) all nouns are actually common nouns, not proper. The logic pretty much works the same way, too. You don't say "a Mouse." You say "a mouse." Likewise, it's not Ball. It's ball (as in poké ball). In this camp, writers assume they're writing from the standpoint of someone inside the world of their fanfiction, so logically, someone would consider these common nouns that don't have to be capitalized.
"But wait!" you say. "They're capitalized in the games, manga, and anime, aren't they?"
Yeah, they are, but then again, in those cases, those are official materials published by the same companies who copyrighted everything Pokémon. Yes, they're official, but they're also just more ads for their own products. In other words, they obey the copyright because, well, they hold the copyright, and capitalizing it is just another way to honor their own trademarks without actually putting in things like "TM or "©" after every little instance of "Pikachu" that appears in their material.
More than that, the games at least had a tendency to capitalize anything that was an object or a Pokémon to obtain. So, it wasn't unusual to see things like PIKACHU or BICYCLE. Even today, the games tend to throw out logical capitalization rules by doing things like capitalizing moves in the middle of a word when we've previously assumed there was only a capital letter at the beginning of it, like in the case of BubbleBeam.
The short of it is that while the official material capitalizes everything, it's mostly to honor their own trademarks. It's not entirely true that it means whatever they're capitalizing are definitely proper nouns in every sense of the definition, and it's perfectly possible to assume that "Pikachu" can be used as a common noun that doesn't need to be capitalized. After all, who can argue that you can't capitalize the word "mouse" if it's being used as a common noun (unless it's the beginning of a sentence for some reason)?
This sort of logic carries over to my writing most of the time. In most cases, a Pokémon name or word without a capital letter is a common noun. For example, I might be talking about a wild numel, and I'm just referring to some random one the characters encounter.
The Times I Do
There are, however, times that I actually capitalize these words (besides outside of fanfiction). It's not a contradiction, either. It actually goes along with a fact that's implicit.
Almost none of my characters give their Pokémon nicknames.
Yep, that's right. My characters are usually intensely uncreative. That, or they're true to the anime canon, where almost no one gives their Pokémon nicknames either. In any case, for example, Nurse Joy's Chansey is named Chansey. Officer Jenny's Growlithe is named Growlithe. So on and so forth. Hence, any time you see a Pokémon word that's capitalized in fanfiction, it's just the name of a specific Pokémon.
The Other Times I Do
It should also be noted that I always capitalize move names. There's no set rule for this. While the kids who say you should always capitalize Pokémon stuff would logically say you should always capitalize move names, the kids who say you don't have to capitalize because they're common nouns tend to go back and forth about move names. Some say that they're also common nouns, so you shouldn't capitalize them, either.
Others, such as myself, say they're names of a specific series of maneuvers. As in, it's one thing for a Pokémon to breathe fire, but doing it in a volley of small balls requires a series of quick steps that, together, make up a specific technique. Hence, in this case, it's a name of a specific concept, so it's capitalized.
In short, the run-down is this:
1. In certain cases, Pokémon names are used the same way as ordinary common nouns as "mouse." Therefore, they don't necessarily have to be capitalized.
1a. However, I capitalize everything outside fanfiction to avoid confusion.
2. Any capitalized Pokémon name is the name of a specific Pokémon, not a general one. Therefore, it's capitalized because it's a proper noun in the most basic sense of the term.
3. I take move names to be the names of specific techniques, which also make them proper nouns.
So, it's perfectly possible to have a sentence like this:
"Numel used Ember on the cacnea."
As in, Numel is a specific Pokémon. Ember is a specific technique. "The cacnea" is a random object. (Note the article, "the," in front of "cacnea.")
Hence, the gist of why I capitalize the way I do. It's not the way everyone has to do it, but it's just the way I do it.