Grammar Tips: Capitalization

8 Oct

Capitalization is the writing of a word with its first letter in uppercase and the rest of the letters in lowercase. While experienced writers are stingy with capitals, and it is best not to use them if there is any doubt, recent trends in advertising and social media have caused some issues with recognizing when to use capital letters.

As the video notes, there are a few different situations that require capitalization. While there are a few basic rules to follow, there can also be special situations that will require capitalization.

Capitalize the first word of a document and the first word after a period.

  • Ex. The first word in a sentence will be capitalized.

Always capitalize I! 

  • Ex. I am going to the movies with Joe.
  • Ex. The show I wanted to see started at 7.

Capitalize proper nouns (and adjectives derived from proper nouns).

  • Ex. the Berlin Wall
  • Ex. a Shakespearean play

Capitalize titles when they are used before names. Do not capitalize titles if they are used in place of names. 

  • Ex. President of the University John Smith
  • Ex. The president will speak at noon

Capitalize a formal title when directly addressing the person. 

  • Ex. Can I ask a question, Doctor?

Capitalize relatives’ family names when they are used before a personal name or in place of a personal name. 

  • Ex. I took Mom to the mall yesterday.
  • Ex. Did you get Aunt Jenny a birthday present?

Capitalize specific geological regions. 

  • Ex. Uncle Joe lives in the South.
  • Ex. Shane is from the Southside of Chicago.

Capitalize days of the week and months of the year. 

  • Ex. The next test is on Wednesday.
  • Ex. My birthday is in September.

While there are other situations, sticking to these rules should help! Ready to test your capitalization knowledge? Try your hand at this quiz! If you are having difficulty with capitalization or any other writing task, please schedule an appointment in the Writing Center!

© Alyssa Ryan 


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