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Capitalization Rules: Grammar Guide

When to Capitalize Words in English

The English language has many rules about when to use capital letters. In general, always capitalize proper names (the names of unique people, places or things), months of the year and the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in titles.

The most important thing to remember is the be consistent. If, for example, you are preparing your resume and you capitalize the title of your previous jobs (Director of Human Resources or Assistant Vice President of Communications) make sure to capitalize each title the same way throughout the document.

Below is a guide of capitalization rules followed by examples. As usual, read the comments for more and leave your own at the bottom of the Hub!



Capitalize the First Word of a Sentence

  • This Hub is about when to use capitalization.

Use Capital "I"

  • My friend and I are going to a musical.

Capitalize Proper Nouns: Specific Person, Place, and Organization Names

  • Abraham Lincoln was born in Hardin County, Kentucky in 1809.
  • Women for Women International is a fantastic organization supporting women all over the world.

Use Capital Letters for Religious Figures

  • The Bible has many stories of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
  • Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, was the daughter of Zeus and Dione.
  • They prayed to God for the storm to end.

Capitalize Days of the Week, Holidays, and Months of the Year

  • My favorite month of the year is November.

Note: Seasons are not capitalized unless used in a title.

  • I love the fall because of Halloween and Thanksgiving.
  • The catalog for Spring 2006 will be out in February.

Capitalize Countries, Languages, and Nationalities

  • We went to Spain to learn Spanish.

Capitalize Family Relationships Only When Replacing a Proper Name

  • I went on a trip with Father. (Father could be replaced with the father's name.)
  • Your father is six feet tall.
  • When we go to the movies with my aunts, my Aunt Marlie always has to be reminded to be quiet.

Capitalize Titles that Precede Names, but not Titles that Follow Names

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein was first elected in 1992.
  • Dianne Feinstein was the first woman mayor of San Francisco.

Capitalize North, South, East, and West When Used as Names of Regions, but not as Compass Points

  • We lived in the Pacific Northwest for four years.
  • Our house is northwest of Fremont.

Use Capitals for Letter Salutations and Closings

Only capitalize the first word (and any names).

  • My dear Ms. Taylor,
  • With much love,

Capitalize the First Word in a Quote Even in the Middle of a Sentence

  • My Uncle Bob used to say, "The last time I said no was when they asked me if I had enough."

Use Capitals for Major Words in Titles of Books, Written Works, or Songs.

  • A wonderful grammar book is Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.

Note: Short prepositions and articles including the, a, or an are not capitalized unless they are the first word.

Capitalize the First Word of Each Line in Poetry or Verse

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost

Use Capitals for Members of a Group

  • Many California Democrats will likely vote for Phil Angelides.
  • Barry Bonds played for the San Francisco Giants.

Use Capitals for Events and Periods of Time

  • The Roaring Twenties was a period of affluence.
  • The Democratic Convention is a nationally televised event.

Capitalize Company Trademarks

  • My infant eats Earth's Best baby food.
  • We prefer Coke over Pepsi.

Use Capitals for Words and Abbreviations of Specific Names

  • Katie Couric recently switched from NBC to CBS.
  • She studied Jungian psychology, which focuses on the collective unconscious.

Capitalize Solar System Names

  • The fourth planet from the sun is Mars.

Note: Sun, earth and moon are not usually capitalized.

  • The moon revolves around the earth.

Capitalize First Words in Outlines

I. Food Pyramid

A. Whole grains

1. Breads, cereal, crackers, rice, and pasta

Whether to Capitalize "Bachelor's Degree"

The Definitive Guide to Grammar: Strunk and White

Do You Know any Other Capitalization Rules?

Joey Mabena on September 09, 2018:

Thank you for the post, very informative especially for the novice writer.

Marie on December 09, 2015:

Do I capitalize industries in an article...i.e. Engineering, Construction, Real Estate Development?

Bob Foster from USA on March 08, 2015:

Sometimes I have problems with whether to capitalize “the” when it’s ambiguous whether it’s followed by a proper noun or the beginning of a proper noun.

Bea on November 04, 2014:

You've got an error in this sentence:

My Uncle Bob use to say, "The last time I said no was when they asked me if I had enough."

It's not "use." It's "used."

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on March 25, 2014:

I would not capitalize "spring break" in the middle of a sentence. It is similar to a season, e.g., winter, spring, summer, fall. Seasons are not capitalized either. :)

Rose on March 20, 2014:

Do I capitlize "Spring Break" when in the middle of the sentence?

Jatinder Joshi from Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada on September 13, 2013:

Thank you for sharing a summary of the capitalization rules. Helpful indeed.

Heather on September 07, 2012:

I have to writ a paper using the APA citationa format. I am stuck on writing the APA reference, where sentence case needs to be used for the article title. As far as I have always understood, the word Interntational is supposed to be capitalized no matter what (but I could be wrong). The article title is Rights-based Restorative Justice: Evaluating Compliance with International Standards. Putting that it in sentence case, would both words International AND Standards be capitalized, just International, or neither?

Ellielama on June 04, 2012:

Point of clarification: You only capitalize the first letter of every line of poetry or verse if the original author did. If you are writing your own poem, you absolutely do not have to capitalize the first letter of every line. Most modern poets don't do it.

Linda on May 29, 2012:

Do we use capitalization when referring to type 1 and type 2 diabetes in an essay

Anj on May 26, 2012:

It isn't necessary to capitalize every first word of each line of poetry.

Rachel on April 07, 2012:

do u capitalize breeds of dogs

rebecca on March 22, 2012:

does the f in sanfrancisco have to be capitalized

helen on March 12, 2012:

hello. im a hospitality student and i was recently asked to make a menu as a paper. i have revisions but dont know how to capitalize my menu list. please help.

Jonathan on November 20, 2011:

Do I need to capitalized al the words of my title? "My Field Trip"

maira on November 17, 2011:

At first i didn't khow if i coud captlis a name in a meadle of a sentence

z on November 02, 2011:

hi thanks so much i am taking the language arts benchmark today (middle school) and this was helpful.

Judy Barci on October 18, 2011:

when you say $5m is it a capital M or not and how about $20k is it a capital k or not?

E-Ham on February 15, 2011:

In a cover letter, would third grade teacher be capitalized?

Dave on February 07, 2011:

I found the question in this 4 year old list of comments. But it was never answered. Sure would be nice if someone went back four years ago, pulled out the questions, add them to the original list and answered them.

Deed Book 1 at page 1 or Deed Book 1 at Page 1?

If Deed Book 1 at page 1, why is it not capatolized?

Craig on January 23, 2011:

I often get frustrated, when I look at CVs, just how many people add a capitol letter to their role. I am a television producer but often see people referring to themselves, mid-sentence, as Television Producer. I think this probably says more about their self importance - but it does inspire the title of a book title "There is capitol 'P' in 'producer'". Can anyone tell me what is gramatically wrong with that title? Should there be a capitol 'N' on 'no' for example?

scottish wedding services on January 03, 2011:

I am still waiting for your response you found after trying a new methods about publishing blogs.

Arf on December 08, 2010:

Hey Robin,

Should I capitalize sales team and sales and marketing department? What's the rule for such things?

Jack on December 03, 2010:

Hi,

When typing an essay analyzing a science lesson, would I capitalize as follows: "Life Science lesson", "Animal unit", and "Science lesson"?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on December 01, 2010:

Hi Dana,

I would not capitalize "city". Thanks, Robin

Dana on December 01, 2010:

Hi. When writing a report and stating "The city of Madison" does city need to be capitalized? I am discussing Madison, WI.

Horacio on December 01, 2010:

When should the word "constitution" be capitalized?

Anh on November 30, 2010:

Would you capitalize a specific field? For example, would you capitalize the field of speech-language pathology?

Mike V. on November 17, 2010:

Hey Robin. Thanks for taking the time to put this guide together and moderate this discussion. I know you haven't replied in 10 months, but I have to admit I am extremely impressed that you've answered all these questions over the past years. I married an English teacher, so I see first hand how time consuming it can be trying to convey the intricacies of our language.

Thanks again (I came here to see if I should capitalize "Miracle on Ice")

kookoo88 from Cripple Creek on November 17, 2010:

Hi. I know that when you direct address mother or father, they should be capitalized, what about brother, sister, cousin, husband and wife?

example: "How are you, Husband?" - - "I'm fine, Wife."

Jennifer Austin on November 16, 2010:

I am writing a book and in it I often refer to "the City". I have a specific city in mind, but intentionally never use the actual name. I want it to seem relateable to many people, not just one geographic location. My question is: Should city be capitalized? For example:

Their house in the City was too small.

They would be heading into the City to do some shopping.

I could replace "the City" with the name of an actual city, so should it be capitalized?

Michael on November 11, 2010:

I have a client who INSISTS that we use the spelling 'found in Downtown Raleigh' instead of 'downtown Raleigh'

I have to do it to make them happy but who's right?

Natalie on November 10, 2010:

Would I capitalize Reading Teacher's Meeting?

Jennifer on October 20, 2010:

When I write an email to my group, I open with:

Good morning Burn Team and friends,

Is this correct??? It plagues me!

Allison on October 12, 2010:

it really helped!!!

Andy on October 07, 2010:

How about:

I would like to thank you for the Thank You Card.

I would like to thank you for the thank you Card.

I would like to thank you for the thank You card.

Julie on September 29, 2010:

DO you capitalize words you are referring to in quotes? For example, "In Japanese, "sumimasen" sometimes means "excuse me." Is the S in "sumimasen" or the E in "excuse me" capitalized?

Kat on September 17, 2010:

Are career fields capitalized? e.g Would you say, "I work in Sales", or "I work in sales"? No grammar site on the web covers this topic and your help would be wonderful!

Also, can you reference the rule for directional identifiers; is "Western Kentucky" really a defined geographical region? It doesn't seem right to capitalize eastern Lansing, MI -for example (a directional location)- because it could be confused with East Lansing, MI (a specified geographic place). I see "lower Manhattan" identified in writing a lot; so wouldn't that be equivalent to writing "southern Manhattan"? Thanks so much!

Sally Brown on September 17, 2010:

I have a feeling that ..well not a feeling, it's an observation. This page shows examples of capitalization but I don't see rules per se. The difference hit me when I began to see so many 'rules' that the impact of the word became lost.

I thought about how to determine a rule and

decided a good place to look would be historically in major newspapers from the beginning. Example - New York newspapers in the 1800's.

But to be clear I need to add a rule. This

comes from life experience.

To really know your subject you must learn

the history of it. in this case I suggested

looking at the 1800's newspapers. I said

those because they'll have the greatest

number of examples of capitalization and they,

probably did the best job of checking their

work while trying to apply as much accuracy

to capitalization as possible. But the true

history of capitalization rules should be

checked, at least in my opinion, back to the

King James Bible in 1600 something and follow

the path of 'rules' (by example) through to

now.

I suspect you'll see many examples now that are

poor examples because .. well of too many

reasons to list.

Remember that English language is not the

only language that capitalizes. So it would

be wrong to limit your historical search to

English.

Thanks for the page.

Judy on September 14, 2010:

the letter n in northern Minnesota, or the letter c in central Alaska?

Ameline Sia on September 14, 2010:

Capitalize both words in a hyphenated word in titles, sub-titles or other references

• Inter-Continental Forum on Security on the High Seas

maddie on September 12, 2010:

would you capitalize the word city? ex. I live in the City/city of Topeka.

Rosie on September 03, 2010:

Hi,

I was wondering why some of the grammar exercises don't have names of diseases and trees capitalized. (oak tree, maple tree, scury, tuberculosis) Can you help to answer this question.

Thank you

talia on August 17, 2010:

In a sentence, do you use caps after you do a "..."?

Delma on August 06, 2010:

I am informing parents of the new teacher. Should I capitalize the word science in the following sentence?

I wanted to let you know that Mister Green is the new science teacher.

gelica on July 24, 2010:

thanks Robin for the rules in capitalization. It helps me a lot. at last i have now my assign.. and Im ready to pass it...thank you very much..!

Iris on July 23, 2010:

So what would be the proper usage of capitalization in the following sentence: (Should I capitalize 'group' in the second sentence?

A & T is a group of companies, located in Pakistan. The Group is engaged into manufacture and installation of scaffoldings.

linda073080 on July 14, 2010:

Rules for capitalizing titles: 1)Always capitalize the first word of a title; 2) capitalize the title's nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs; 3) do not capitalize articles, short conjunctions, or short prepositions in the titles; 4) subtitles follow the same rules

Mike on July 02, 2010:

After reading two years of posts here, I'm still unsure of the capitalization of "the Law of Gravity versus the Law of Lift". Certainly, they are names of something very specific, but do not utilize a proper noun as in "Newtonian physics". Are these special terms?

wordphreak on June 18, 2010:

You would need a comma in Hi, Bob. It's not the same as adressing him as Dear. While he may be dear, he is not hi. Dear is an adjective, hi is a greeting.

Leah on June 10, 2010:

In a letter to the Fairview School District, would 'School District' be capitalized when referring to a benefit to the school?

The letter is explaining some heating/cooling controls and the benefits it will have in the new building. Then says, "The School District receives a benefit from these additional controls." Is it correct or should School District be lowercase??

Iman on June 03, 2010:

Hi Robin,

I was wondering, if I am speaking about a major that I studied in college do I have to capitalize it?

Elijah on May 26, 2010:

Would you capitalize Thirty-Third Street or Thirty-third Street?Many thanks!

Denise on May 06, 2010:

When talking about a company if you do not want to repeat the name of the organization in a written document do you capitalize the word Company?

anonymous on April 21, 2010:

hi, I am wondering when to capitalize compass directions when using it as an adjective. E.g. east Berlin or East Berlin

susan on March 23, 2010:

Would you capitalize Bus Route 108? And if so, would you capitalize Bus Route Number 108?

cjwilkerson on March 17, 2010:

Should "general manager" be capatilized in the following sentence?

This person will interact with the general manager to assist with customer and facility schedules.

Gina on February 28, 2010:

My niece science project: the title should have every word capitalized? ex: What Kind of Stone Store Petroleum?, or What kind of stone store petroleum ? This is the title for the big board.Thank you so much

Sandy on February 22, 2010:

What's the rule for capitalizing the word "City" in a sentence?

I know when it's something like "the City of Minneapolis" it would be capitalized, but what about when you're referring to the City of Minneapolis specifically but don't use the full name?

e.g., I-35W is a congested roadway within the City.

In this case, I've always capitalized City whereas if I was talking about a general city I wouldn't capitalize the word.

e.g., a city has many options for improving roads.

Is this right to capitalize in the first example or is it only when you use the full name of a city??

Anand on February 15, 2010:

While writing letters addressing multiple pple should the satutation be:

1. Dear Everybody

OR

2. Dear everybody

Will the 'e' in 'everybody' be in the upper or lowercase.

Thanks.

Minnie on January 27, 2010:

How about when you are doing a job description?

Should it be:

The science faculty technicians work as a team within which the post holder is responsible to the senior technician for the following duties

or

The Science Faculty technicians work as a team within which the post holder is responsible to the Senior Technician for the following duties?

Or a combination of both?

Thanks,

Bodo on January 21, 2010:

I like the insights above. I hope you don't mind if I repeat a question that may have already been asked/answered above. Do you say ".....the government of Canada...." or " ....the Government of Canada..."? Am asking because terms such as the people of Malawi are not capitalised in sentences. I do not think government should be capitalised also. (unless in official/formal use e.g. The Governent of Tobago has signed a deal with the Government of Jamaica.) Thanks in advance.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on January 11, 2010:

I would capitalize "Diamondback" but not "rattlesnake". Thanks!

Todd on January 11, 2010:

Hi Robin, I was wondering if the word diamondback rattlesnake would be capitalize. I see it sometimes capitalized and others not. However, I always see Western or Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake capitalized. Thanks

Dana on December 05, 2009:

Which is the correct format?

The Police Service ( referring to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service)

or

The police service....

Bethles on December 02, 2009:

I work at a law firm. Would you capitalize the name of Agreements/Consents/Letters etc.

Examples:

Letter of Intent

Limited Liability Company Agreement

Exclusivity Agreement

Radhika on November 23, 2009:

What if the terms of endearment come together? Do I have to capitalize them all? Like, don't call me Honey, Sweetheart, Darling etc etc.

Becky on November 15, 2009:

I am writing a recommendation letter and want to avoid a capitalization error. Should I capitalize the class titles ie... "excelled in Math, Science and Literature"? What about the phrase "always interested in math and science"

Heidi on November 09, 2009:

Hi Robin,

Very informative - thanks for the refresher course! I have a question regarding titles. Is the following sentence correct? In Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, there are many suspects. Do you capitalize Mystery Stories? Thanks!

Kalima on November 08, 2009:

We have a little debate going on about this sentence:

"I'm sorry, but who are you to judge another western teacher's grammar?"

I think that 'western' (in this case) should be capitalized. What do you think?

A different teacher says, "Actually, I considered capitalizing "Western," but most grammarians seem to agree that the lower-case "w" is more appropriate in the context given in the post."

Do you agree?

Jill on November 06, 2009:

what about "City Council staff members" - should staff and members capitalized?

Arun on November 05, 2009:

Hello

Would you please clear about the planets.

For example earth, sun and moon. Are they exception to this rule.

Thanks!

Randi on October 24, 2009:

Hi

Would a school club, such as "Speech and Debate" be capitalized? Along the same lines, would Speech and Debate Captain and Speech and Debate Tournament be capitalized as well?

Thanks!

Atu Osei on October 19, 2009:

First, I just want to let you know that you are doing a good job.

Question: For my cover letter, would I write, "I'm a Graduate Student seeking to ....." or " I'm a Graduate student seeking to ......"?

Thanks

cutienosy on October 19, 2009:

Hi, I'm writing a document on policies and procedures and using a lot of job titles and office names. Such as team manager and Floating Support Office. Am I right that team manager should not be capitalised and that the office name should be?

Many thanks,

Larry on October 16, 2009:

Please advise if you would capatilize lead state agency in the following sentence: We have forwarded our funding recommendation to Caltrans, the lead state agency for administering the Federal Section 401 Program.

Sandy on October 08, 2009:

Would you capitalize "Judge" in this sentence?

The "Judge" of the dog show is Judge Smith. She will be judging the sporting breed.

LG on October 07, 2009:

Would Western Africa be capatalized?

Dave on September 25, 2009:

I would capulize days of the week, months, staes, and counties. You would also capulize courses, class, and languges.

MA on September 03, 2009:

You didn't add about courses.

English

history

biology

Biology 101(if it has numbers, cap it)

Pat on September 02, 2009:

Hi,

Would you capitalize department as in the Department?

Thanks.

Maja on August 18, 2009:

Technically, it depends on the kind of ship as to how you capitalize it. US Navy style guide holds that you capitalize the whole name, e.g. USS CHAFEE (DDG 90).

Matt on July 27, 2009:

What about game names in a foreign language?

un-translated example:

'yut' (Korean game)

translated example:

pasteboard dump (also a Korean game, but different from 'yut')

It is not a brand. They are both traditional games.

Patricia on July 06, 2009:

I'm sorry- I left out a dash or something there on my first sentence. I didn't mean for it to read like that. I meant to say that I made lists for them such as ...

I really like your site.

Patricia on July 06, 2009:

Robin,

When my students are writing, I make lists for them dogs, animals, etc. Do I capitalize types of dogs? Dalmations, Beagles, etc. What about animals like- This is a King snake. Would King or snake be capitalized? Also, what about a place like- We went to the Boardwalk. Boardwalk is the name of the place. Do I capitalize "the"?

Thanks,

Thanks,

Stephanie S on June 18, 2009:

Hello:

I am helping a friend with a paper for college about mental health disorders.  I noticed that somewhere in this website an individual perhaps asked if mental health disorders should be capitalized.  I have been told that disorders such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective d/o should not be capitalized.  Are here any exceptions when writing a research paper? Sorry if this question is redundant.

 

AD on June 11, 2009:

I am being paranoid... Have I been correct with my caps in these sentences:

To provide personal assistant services to the Managing Director and Executive Management team

Preparation of board and audit committee meetings which includes...

Linda Pauley on June 04, 2009:

Take the time to learn about our Great Nation.

Should "Great Nation" be capitalized?

Sara on June 02, 2009:

It stinks! I'm getting out of here!

KARL on May 25, 2009:

Do you capitalize "Blueberry Coffee Cake?" what about

heart-shaped cookies (Heart-Shaped Cookies) Does the ending like cookie, cake , and ect. not get capitalized?

What about bake sale (Bake Sale)

Thanks

Belinda on May 23, 2009:

Do you capitalise ethnic groups if they are statistica outputs, e.g. 10% were Black and other minority ethnic groups, 5% were non-White British...

Also do you capitalise government published groups of data - e.g.

There are 5 groups to describe houseing style:

Town and Fringe

Villager

Urban

Rural and Wellies

It is thought that 5% are from Town and Frindge and 10% are Rural and Wellies in Lala LAnd...

Thanks!

Tam on May 17, 2009:

What about occupations. When I grow up I want to be a

Professional Football Player

Teacher

Artist

Lawyer

????????????????????????????

Mike on April 30, 2009:

Do I capitalize the word "legislature" if I am discussing a specific state legislature?

Brenda on April 29, 2009:

Hi, I have a question. If you are typing a letter of recommendation for someone and you use a school name and the class; ie - He completed his student teaching experience in Kindergarten at Davis Elementary School in the South General School District. Is this correct capitalization??? Thanks for your help.

Carol on April 23, 2009:

Is unemployment and/or benefits capitalized in the sentences She is collecting unemployment benefits or She is collecting unemployment?

writing mom on April 07, 2009:

I am writing a children's book and am confused about capitalizing my characters. I am using alliteration. Please help in the following examples. Is it Jake the Dog, or Jake the dog? Josh the Jackrabbit? or Josh the jackrabbit? Here's a bit of a diff. example: Jake the Dog is a Golden Retriever?? or Jake the Dog is a golden retriever?? Sammy the Sea Otter, or Sammy the sea otter?? Thanks

George on March 24, 2009:

I know I should capitalize the pronoun for God, but does the rule also apply for Jesus?

For example, Would Jesus minds us celebrating His birthday late this year?

Kathy on March 19, 2009:

Many of my clients work in hotels, and I'm constantly battling the food departments over menu capitalization. Here's what they I had to start with:

Imported & Domestic Cheeses $5.95/GuestChévre, Maytag Blue, Brie, Boursin, Wisconsin Cheddar, Gouda and Baby Swiss, Garnished with fresh Fruit, French Baquette Slices and Gourmet Crackers

Here's what I think it should be (although reading above, I'm not sure about French...)

Imported & Domestic Cheeses $5.95 per guestChèvre, Maytag Blue, brie, Boursin, Wisconsin cheddar, gouda and baby Swiss, garnished with fresh fruit, French baguette slices and gourmet crackers

Please advise--and thanks for this great resource!

Sasha on March 17, 2009:

Hi Robin,

Great Article! How about capitalizing a phrase or slogan?

Is this the correct way to capitalize?

"Let Us Shield You with Great Insurance"

Linda on March 17, 2009:

Here's a question I didn't see answered. In a title, would you capitalize all words if the entire title is in caps such as "CLARIFICATION OF RULES". Somehow, "CLARIFICATION of RULES" just doesn't look right.

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