The definition of capitalization is fairly simple. It’s the practice of making certain letters uppercase, or capitalized, when needed. Knowing when to use proper capitalization isn’t as simple, especially for non-native English writers.
When it comes to capitalization, it’s important to use the correct case because it lends to your credibility as a writer. If an article contains excessive capitalized words in unnecessary situations, it will send a message of inexperience to the reader. If a brand or proper name isn’t capitalized, it could send a message of disregard for the lack of attention to detail. Bottom line, it’s essential to use the correct case!
If you’re unsure of when to use capitalization in your writing, review the rules and examples below to give you a better idea.
#1: Beginning of a Sentence
Always capitalize the first letter of a word in the beginning of a sentence.
#2: The Pronoun “I”
Always capitalize the pronoun “I” and its variations: I’ll, I’m, I’ve, I’d.
Rules of Proper Nouns
A proper noun is different from a common noun in that it refers to a specific, distinctive person, place or thing, rather than a generic person, place or thing. These include:
#3: Names of People
Capitalize public figures, specific people, and specific nicknames.
- Uppercase: Mother Theresa, Stephen King, my sister Amanda, my friend Scooter
- Lowercase: charity worker, writer, sister or friend (when used generically)
#4: Names of Places
Capitalize landmarks, buildings, geographical regions, cities, states, countries, and continents.
- Uppercase: Central Park, Willis Tower, North West, Los Angeles, Florida, Canada, Europe
- Lowercase: the park, the building, left, city, state, country, continent
#5: Names of Organizations
Capitalize political, government, national, racial, social, civil, religious, and athletic groups.
- Uppercase: American Red Cross, Peace Corps, New York Yankees, Chinese, Democrats
- Lowercase: community, charity, the baseball team, politicians
Capitalize specific product names, names of companies, names of websites, and trademarked words.
- Uppercase: Kleenex, Apple, iPad, Yahoo!, McDonald’s
- Lowercase: tissues, cola, tablet, cheeseburger
Capitalize days of the week, months of the year, and holidays.
- Uppercase: Monday, December, Halloween
- Lowercase: today, next month, the party
#8: Family Members
Capitalize the names of family members when you’re using the family title in place of their real name; and capitalize their family title when it’s part of their name.
- Uppercase: I love Mother. / My Aunt Mary is funny.
- Lowercase: I love my mother. / My aunt is funny.
#9: Professional Titles
Capitalize professional titles when they precede a name, but not following the name.
- Uppercase: You should call Mayor Jones.
- Lowercase: I called John Jones, mayor of Rockville.
An acronym is an abbreviation of a longer phrase represented by a series of letters. Acronyms should be capitalized.
- Uppercase: SEO, MLM, JPEG, MLB, ATM
- Lowercase: Very few exceptions because acronyms often abbreviate proper nouns.
Ultimately, the rules of capitalization include many more scenarios depending on the unique situation. In this list, we included the most crucial rules in order to ensure everybody has a grasp on the case of capitalization.
Always do your best to use correct capitalization and to avoid using capitalization when it isn’t needed.
We realize it can be tricky; if you’re not sure, do your research and don’t hesitate to ask!
Do you have any questions about capitalization in specific instances? Comment below!