The rules of capitalization are quite extensive and depend somewhat on the context in which the words are used. We’ll focus on the basics. Go to NoRedInk practice pages – scroll down to “Rules of Capitalization” in the left-hand column. The basic rules are to capitalize:

  • The first word of a sentence
  • Names of the days of the week, months of the year (but NOT seasons)
  • All names of holidays (except for small words such as “of” “de” or “of”)
  • Streets, cities, and other places (the Eiffel Tower, Richard Drive, Burlington, Massachusetts)
  • The pronoun I
  • Periods and events (but not century numbers) (Victorian Era, Great Depression, Constitutional Convention, sixteenth century)
  • Names, including initials and middle names, of individuals
  • Titles which precede names (Dr. Wilson, Professor Plum, but NOT when the title is removed from the name… Bill Plum, professor of literature). Titles can include:
    • Family Titles (Uncle Buck, “Mother, may I play outside?) NB: Family relationship names are capitalized when they precede a name or are used in place of person’s name, especially in direct address (I like Uncle Willy, OR “Can you hear me, Uncle?” – BUT – Willy, my favorite uncle, rode in the front seat)
    • Social Titles (Hank Williams Jr.)
    • Professional Titles (General Watson, Doctor Tellson)
  • When writing a formal letter:
    • The first word and all nouns in a salutation (Dear Friend, To Whom it may concern)
    • The first word in the complimentary closing of a letter (With regards,)
  • All proper nouns (excluding prepositions, conjunctions, and articles) including specific organizations and agencies  (Major League Baseball), brand names (Moxie), monuments and schools (Burlington High School) and the first word and all the major words in titles of books, articles, works of art, etc. (The Old Man and the Sea)
  • Names of languages
    • Also, capitalize adjectives formed from names of geographical locations, languages, races, nationalities, and religions (English muffins, Jewish temple, Latino culture – fun fact: french fries aren’t names after France – they are named after the process of cutting into long strips, which is called “frenching”)
  • Directions that act as proper names, but not general directions (The Midwest, He’s from Western Kentucky, the North … NOT … north of Dallas)
  • Names of nationalities, races, religions and deities and their corresponding pronouns (He is a French Caucasian who studies Islam).
  • Specific course titles in school (I like my math class and Creative Writing)
  • NOT the first word of a fragmentary quote (He said he was “happy to be alive”)



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