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Capitalization Rules

The English language has a lot of complexities. Most people don't think about it in everyday conversation, yet there are a plethora of grammatical rules to follow in the written word. When it comes to determining what should be capitalized and what should not, there are dozens of standards to follow.

There is no single guideline to follow determining whether to capitalize words in the titles of the published works (such as books, artworks, films, essays, plays, headlines, and so on). There are, however, some standard procedures, which we'll go over in more detail later.

Basic Rules

1. The first word in the new document or a message, as well as the first word of a new sentence, should be capitalized.

  • ✔️ I`m glad my smartphone has automatic capitalization. It`s very useful.
  • sorry, i`m texting using a laptop of mine. yeah, i`m just lazy.

2. Proper nouns are names of people, pets, places, and things, therefore, always capitalized. The adjectives that are derived from proper nouns should be capitalized as well.

  • ✔️ the Chartres Cathedral
  • ✔️ an English tea
  • ✔️ the Euclidean division

However, some words with proper noun origin gained authority existing on their own and now require no capitalization.

  • ✔️ platonic (from ancient Greek philosopher Plato)
  • ✔️ to mercerize (which means “to strengthen cotton fabrics” from John Mercer)
  • ✔️ balkanize (which means “to divide a region into small states like the countries of the Balkan Peninsula”)

The main idea of capitals is to help the reader to focus attention on something. It can be said the observation wheel at the center of London, but it will be more specific if it is said London Eye, which shows uniqueness and distinguishes it from others.

What should be capitalized

  • Brand names;
  • Companies;
  • Days of week and months;
  • Government-related items;
    Examples: Constitution (but constitutional), Department of Defense. Many authorities do not capitalize the words federal or state unless they are part of the official title: Federal Aviation Regulations, but federal regulations;
  • Institutions
    Examples: Oxford College, National Technical University;
  • Holidays
    Examples: Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas;
  • Historic events and eras
    Examples: the Great Depression, Boston Tea Party, the Paleolithic;
  • Manmade structures
    Examples: the Great Wall of China, the Empire State Building, the USS Constitution;
  • Manmade territories
    Examples: Chicago, Kansas, Cook County;
  • Natural and manmade landmarks
    Examples: Mount Kebnekaise, Glen Canyon Dam;
  • Nicknames and epithets
    Examples: Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett, The Iron Horse;
  • Organizations
    Examples: Institute of Chartered Foresters, Museums and Galleries Commission;
  • The name of celestial bodies (stars, planets, constellations, and others)
    Examples: Milky Way, Uranus, Mercury, Orion, etc. But in the case of the earth, the sun, and the moon it is allowed to use without capitalization when used as a common noun and is preceded by the. It is capitalized when we are discussing them as celestial bodies.
    Examples:
    • ✔️ About 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands.
    • ✔️ You are the sun; you are the only one.
    • Gas emissions affect the Earth`s climate.
      The Moon is so bright tonight.
  • Nationalities and races
    RacesHispanic, Asian
    NationalitiesTurkish, Ukrainian
  • Religions and names of deities
    Examples:
    • ✔️ The Bible (but biblical), Catholic, Allah, Flying Spaghetti Monster
    • Heaven, Hell, Angel, Devil, God
  • Special occasions
    Examples: the Cannes Film Festival, World Orienteering Championship;
  • Streets and roads

What should not be capitalized

  • Animals
    Examples: European goldfinch, German shepherd, coney, great black-backed gull;
  • Elements
    Always lowercase
    • ✔️ californium, einsteinium
    • Californium, Einsteinium
  • Foods
    Except for the brand name, custom recipes or proper nouns Examples: black pepper tuna avocado roll;
  • Medical conditions
    Examples: cancer, flue;
  • Minerals
    Examples: andorite, stibnite, rhodochrosite;
  • Plants, vegetables, and fruits
    Examples: durian, mango, pitaya;
  • Seasons
    Examples: spring, summertime, the autumnal equinox, the winter solstice.
    An exception to this is if the word is a part of some event title
    Examples: annual Summer Jam, Winter Olympics;
  • Science theories and models
    Examples: string theory, five-factor model of personality;
  • Centuries, decades
    Examples: the sixties, nineteenth-century;

Trademarks have their own capitalization according to their merchandise. It is usual that common nouns that describe the product are not capitalized.

Examples:

  • ✔️ Domino`s pizza
  • ✔️ Ivory soap

If the first letter is lowercased in a trademark, it is advised to capitalize it only in order to begin the sentence.

Example:

✔️ EBay sent me this.

Titles and relations

Titles should be capitalized when used before names unless they are preceded by a comma. If the title follows a name or is used instead of a name capitalization is not required.

Examples:

  • ✔️ The chairman of the board, John Smith, will preside.
  • ✔️ Chairman of the Board John Smith, will preside at the summit.

Some writers capitalize on the highest ranks of public figures to show respect.

Examples:

  • ✔️ The Queen
  • ✔️ The President
  • ✔️ The Pope

Titles are different from occupations; occupations are not capitalized before full names.

Examples:

  • ✔️ film director Guy Ritchie
  • ✔️ coach Jimmy Johnson
  • ✔️ businessman Richard Branson

However, the title replacing someone`s first name is usually capitalized.

Examples:

  • ✔️ Professor McGonagall
  • ✔️ Dr. Adams

Formal title capitalized when used as direct address.

Examples:

  • ✔️ What is wrong, Doctor?
  • How was your day, Sweetheart?

Kinship names when used alone or precede a personal name should be capitalized.

Examples:

  • ✔️ Grandma Ruth will join us later.
  • ✔️ Aunt Marie gifted my daughter with a tiara.
  • ✔️ Will you help me, Dad?

However, kinship names are not capitalized when they follow a personal name, do not refer to a concrete person, or are used with pronouns or possessive nouns.

Examples:

  • ✔️ Looks like my mom is already here.
  • ✔️ Joe`s mama at the library right now.
  • ✔️ The Wright brothers are famous because of their aviation achievements.
  • ✔️ No grandma will let you go until you are loaded up.
  • ✔️ Nicknames are always capitalized

Nicknames are always capitalized

  • ✔️ It`s me, Skinny Pete.
  • ✔️ His name is George Karl 6, but I call him Fluffy.

Geography and directions

Specific geographical regions or directions that specify a name of the area of city or country are capitalized. Compass points and directions (such as north, east, west, south) are not capitalized.

Examples:

  • ✔️ Be prepared, they are coming from the west.
  • Go East till the second crossroad, then turn right.
  • ✔️ My friend lives in the southeast.
  • I live in the North section of my town.

Some areas are capitalized because of their fame.

Examples:

  • ✔️ I`m from the South Side of Chicago.
  • ✔️ He`s from Northern California.

Quotation and “the”

In most cases the is not capitalized before the proper nouns.

Examples:

  • ✔️ We saw your pictures of the Grand Canyon.
  • I see you enjoying The Nirvana.

In cases when it is a part of the official title, the should be capitalized.

Example:

✔️ It is always just the time to listen to The Cure.

The first word in a quotation is always capitalized. Even if the quote is midsentence.

Example:

✔️ Max said, “The battle is finally over, but the war is far from the end.”

When quoted material is shattered and continues a sentence no need to capitalize it.

Example:

✔️ Max said that the battle is “finally over” and that the war is “far from the end.”

Academic subjects and movements

General academic subjects are not capitalized. However, the names of specific course titles are.

  • ✔️ I`m interested in Microbiology 1, social studies, and Algebra 101.
  • I`m good at Math.

All art movements are capitalized.

Example:

✔️ Malevich really did change the game with the Suprematism movement.

Colons

There is no need to capitalize after the colon. If there is only one sentence following the colon, do not capitalize it. Only proper nouns and acronyms have their initial letter capitalized following a colon. However, if there are two or more sentences after the colon, capitalize the initial word.

Example:

✔️ I should take here: sketchbook, pencils, liners, snacks.

Abbreviations

Abbreviations usually are capitalized. However, there are some cases when they aren’t. Abbreviations of titles should be capitalized. When the abbreviation is used to replace the name of something it is capitalized as well. State abbreviations (such as KY, NY, AZ), that are used as postal codes, both letters capitalized. With three-letter abbreviations (such as Arc, Ala, etc.) only the first letter is capitalized. General abbreviations that are used to measure time (a.m., p.m.) and measurements (lb, yd, cm) are not capitalized.

Highlighting of important questions

Writers sometimes capitalize important parts (such as points or questions) midsentence to draw the readers’ attention.

Examples:

  • ✔️ That makes me think, What are we after all?
  • ✔️ His main rule was, Never to betray a friend.

Titles and subtitles

In the case of capitalizing the composition titles such as songs, films, books, poems, essays, chapters, etc., it is rather complicated and policies may vary. The most common advice is “capitalize only important”. Not a very helpful one.

Still, there are a few quite universal rules for capitalizing titles.

  • The first word of both title and subtitle should be capitalized.
    Bird facts: The hawks
  • The last word should be capitalized.
    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Adjectives, adverbs, nouns, and subordinating conjunctions (such as although, because, since, until, etc.) should be capitalized.
  • All pronouns (he, she, it, etc.).
  • All verbs, including to be, and all its forms.
  • Capitalize the interjection no, not.

Should not be capitalized:

  • an article a, an, the if it`s not first or last in the title.
  • coordinating conjunction (such as and, or, nor, but, for, yet, so) unless it`s first or last in the title.
  • the word to, regardless of the infinitive, unless it`s first or last in the title.

However, the use of short conjunctions (as, if, how, that, etc.) may vary and be either lowercased or capitalized by different writers.

It is recommended by some authorities to capitalize all prepositions with three or more letters (such as about, across). Others advise to lowercase all prepositions that are shorter than five letters.

There are no hard and fast rules, save that the initial element should always be capitalized, even if it would not normally be, as in My To-go Order (some would write My To-Go Order). Some authors, editors, and publishers prefer not to capitalize words that follow hyphens unless they are proper nouns or adjectives.

Subtitles are used in many books. When incorporating them, place a colon after the title of the work and follow the same composition capitalization guidelines for the subtitle.

Examples:

  • ✔️ Oliver Twist: The Parish Boy's Progress
  • ✔️ The King's English: A Guide to Modern Usage

Any title with more than two words might be difficult. How would a title like "not yet wealthy" be capitalized? Because the first and last words of any title are always capitalized, the only issue is whether or not to capitalize “yet”. “Yet” is an adverb in this situation, because adverbs are always capitalized. As a result, make it Not Yet Wealthy.

Assume the title is “wealthy yet unhappy”. One of the seven coordinating conjunctions is yet (the others are and, or, nor, but, for, and so). Because coordinating conjunctions in titles are not capitalized, the correct answer is Wealthy yet Unhappy.

In the same vein, consider the following three sentences: I Got It Off the Internet, Please, Put It Off for Today, and I Pressed the Off Button. The preposition off is written in lowercase in the first example. However, in the second example, the word must be capitalized because put off, which means "to delay," is a two-word phrasal verb. Capitalize all one-word verbs, aiding verbs, and phrasal verbs. Off is capitalized in the third phrase since it serves as an adjective in the title, and adjectives are usually capitalized.

Although the seven coordinating conjunctions are not capitalized, you may have observed that English has many more than seven conjunctions. The majority of these are referred to as subordinating conjunctions since they connect a subordinate clause to the main clause. Examples include as, before, since, although, until, and when.

There are three ways to cap subordinating conjunctions: capitalize them all, lowercase them all, or capitalize them if they are four-letter words or longer.

Lettering salutations discipline

The first word in the letter opening and closing salutation is capitalized. As well as a person`s title when it goes after the name on a signature line or is a part of an address.

Examples:

Dear Mr. Smith,

John Smith, Major
1234 Grove Street
Anywhere USA 12345

Sincerely,
John Smith, Major

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