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Capitalization

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Capitalization means using a capital letter at the head of a word. When we capitalize words, we set them apart from other words to highlight a special quality. In this lesson, you will learn how to follow capitalization rules.

  • Capitalize the first word in a sentence.
  • Did anyone see my hat?
  • My dad took me to the game.
  • The storm passed right over us.
  • We had to walk all the way home.
  • Everyone knows that Jack is good at baseball.
 
  • Capitalize the first word after a colon.
  • This was the moment: She couldn't look back.
  • Everything was going as planned: We would be in California before long.
  • Exception: Do not capitalize the first word after a colon if it starts a list.

Example:

  • The contents of his bag include: bottled water, snacks, and spare clothing.
  • Capitalize the first word of a direct quotation.
  • A direct quotation states the exact words of the person speaking.
  • I thought, "This isn't so bad."
  • Our coach yelled, "Win the game!"
  • Her reply was, "My dog ate my homework."
  • Nick said, "Please
  • be careful with my project."
 
  • Capitalize proper nouns - names of specific people, places, organizations, and sometimes things.
  • A proper noun names specific people, places, and things.

People

  • Bobby
  • Charlie
  • Amanda

Places

  • Italy
  • San Diego, California
  • Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Organizations

  • Association of Teachers Educators
  • Organization of American Historians

Things

  • National Anthem
  • Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Declaration of Independence
 
  • Capitalize family relations when used as proper names.
  • Here is a present I bought for Mother.
  • I received a letter from Aunt Martha.
  • Exception: Do not capitalize when using as a common noun.

Examples:

  • Uncle Ned, not my other uncle, was born in Vermont.
  • Did you buy a present for your mother?
  • Capitalize the names of planets and other major celestial objects and terrain.

Planets

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

Other

  • Milky Way
  • Sun
  • Moon
  • Halley's Comet
  • Exception: Do not capitalize celestial objects when used as common nouns.

Examples:

  • The Moon is the fifth largest moon in the Solar System.
  • Plants grow from the earth on the planet Earth.
  • Capitalize the names of God, specific deities, religious figures, and sacred books.

Gods

  • Yahweh, Allah, Athena

Religious figures

  • Dalai Lama, Jesus, Mohammed

Sacred books

  • The Bible, the Old Testament, the Koran
  • Exception: Do not capitalize the word god when not referring to a specific figure.

Examples:

  • Polytheists believe in many gods.
  • Monotheists believe in one god, known as God.
  • Capitalize names of regions, rivers, lakes, mountains, and oceans.

Regions

  • Atlantic States
  • Middle West

Rivers

  • Colorado River
  • Ohio River

Lakes

  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Tahoe

Mountains

  • MountMcKinley
  • Mount Whitney

Mountains

  • PacificOcean
  • AtlanticOcean
 
  • Capitalize names of school subjects only when you use them to refer to a particular course.
  • Capitalize names of Educational institutions and degrees.

Particular Course

  • I'll be taking History 101 at the community college.

Educational Institutions

  • University of Maryland
  • Capital Community College

Degree

  • Bachelor's of Science
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Exception: Do not capitalize subjects when talking about them in general.

Examples:

  • After biology, I'm going to my Spanish class.
  • I prefer learning French over geometry.
  • Capitalize proper adjectives.
  • A proper adjective describes specific people, places, and things.
  • Proper adjectives include national and religious identities, such as Mexican, Canadian, Muslim, Jewish.

People

  • American citizen
  • Spanish musician
  • Spanish musician
  • Alaskan native

Places

  • Christian church
  • Native American reservation
  • Greek temple

Things

  • European customs
  • Buddhist statue
  • Shakespearean dialogue
 
  • Capitalize names of countries, states, cities, nationalities, and specific languages.

Countries

  • Costa Rica
  • India

States

  • Alabama
  • Louisiana

Cities

  • Chicago
  • Denver

Nationalities

  • American
  • Estonian

Specific Languages

  • French
  • English
 
  • Capitalize titles preceding names.
  • Capitalize titles when used in direct address.

Titles Preceding Names

  • Over 2,000 people attended the rally for Prime Minister Cameron.
  • India

Direct Address

  • We appreciate your hardwork Mayor.
  • Exception: Do not capitalize titles that follow names.

Example:

  • Over 2,000 people attended the rally of David Cameron, prime minister of the United Kingdom.
  • Exception: Do not capitalize titles when used as general words.

Example:

  • The prime minister attended the rally today.
  • Capitalize the pronoun I and the contractions: I've, I'll, I'm, I'd.
  • Martin and I are best friends.
  • First I'll eat, and then I'll practice.
  • No, I'm too tired to go.
  • That's what I've always wanted.
  • Then I've got to get ready.
 
  • Capitalize titles.
  • The following have titles: books and stories, poems, songs, magazines, newspapers, works of art.

Books and stories

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • "The Princess and the Pea"
  • "The Wind in the Willows"

Poems

  • "The Road Not Taken"
  • "Charge of the Light Brigade"
  • "Paul RRide"

Songs

  • "Jingle Bells"
  • "Old McDonald Had a Farm"
  • "Itsy Bitsy Spider"

Magazines and Newspapers

  • Scholastic
  • The New York Times
  • People

Works of Art

  • The Starry Night
  • American Gothic
  • Guernica
  • Exception: Do not capitalize short prepositions, conjunctions, or articles in a title, unless they are the first word.

Example:

  • I enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities, but I love Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is my favorite book in The Chronicles of Narnia..
  • Capitalize the first word in every line of a poem.

Once there was a little boy, With curly hair and pleasant eye-

A boy who always told the truth,

And never, never told a lie.

(From "The Boy Who Never Told a Lie." Anonymous.)

 
  • Capitalize historical events or periods and documents.
  • American Revolution
  • Civil War
  • The Renaissance
  • The Middle Ages
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Exception: Do not capitalize century numbers.

Example:

  • Benjamin Franklin lived in the eighteenth century, a period that saw the Enlightenment in Europe and the United States..
  • Capitalize names of groups and departments.
  • United States Senate
  • New York Yankees
  • National Park Service
  • Salvation Army
  • Declaration of Independence
 
  • Capitalize the names of national, political, social, racial, civic, and athletic groups.
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Asian-Americans
  • Anti-Semitic
  • Republicans
  • Action Against Hunger
 
  • Capitalize brand names and trademarks.
  • Microsoft
  • Nike
  • Ford
  • Staples
 
  • Capitalize acronyms and initials.
  • An acronym abbreviates a word or phrase using the first letters.

Acronyms

  • USA
  • BBC
  • DNA

Initials

  • John F. Kennedy
  • A.A. Milne
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
 
  • Capitalize days of the week, months of the year, and holidays.

Days

  • Monday, Tuesday...

Months

  • January, February...

Holidays

  • Labor Day,
    Halloween, Easter
 
  • Capitalize seasons when used in a title.
  • Fall Fashion 2013
  • Summer Institute
  • Winter Olympic Games
  • Exception: Do not capitalize seasons, such as spring and fall.

Example:

  • I can't wait until the summer to attend Summer Heritage Festival. .
  • This spring, we're going to Spring Mountain. .
  • Capitalize directions used as names.
  • the West
  • the Middle East
  • North Pole
  • South Beach
  • Exception: Do not capitalize directions when used as compass routes.

Example:

  • Birds fly south for the winter, and many go to South America..
  • The migrants traveled west for work and settled in West Texas. .
Summary
  • Capitalize family relations when used as a proper name.
  • Capitalize proper nouns like the names of specific people, places, organizations, and specific things.
  • Capitalize the first word in a sentence, first word after colon, and the first word of a direct quotation.
  • Capitalize names of planets and other celestial objects.
  • Capitalize names of regions, rivers, lakes, mountains, and oceans.
  • Capitalize names of gods, specific deities, religious figures, and sacred books.
  • Capitalize names of countries, states, cities, nationalities, languages.
  • Capitalize names of educational institutes, degrees, particular courses.
  • Capitalize proper adjectives describing specific people, places, and things.
  • Capitalize titles of people.
  • Capitalize the first word in every line of a poem.
  • Capitalize the pronoun I and contractions - I've, I'd, I'm etc.
  • Capitalize the main words in the titles of books, stories and poems, films, works of art, magazines, newspaper, essays, and songs.
  • Capitalize historical events or periods and documents.
  • Capitalize names of departments, national, political, social, racial, civic, and athletic groups.
  • Capitalize acronyms and initials.
  • Capitalize brand names and trademarks.
  • Capitalize name of season used in a title.
  • Capitalize directions when used as names.
  • Capitalize the days of the week, months of the year, and holidays.
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