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Capitalization Rules

Elizabeth O'Brien

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Capitalization Rules

Use these capitalization rules to rule the world of capitalization!

Capitalization Rules

In most grammar books, you'll find pages and pages of capitalization rules.

I focused on the nitty-gritty here, and I've only given you six main rules and a few sub-rules to remember.

1. Capitalize Proper Nouns & Proper Adjectives

Proper nouns are nouns that name specific people, places, or things.

James, Paris, Colorado, Costa Rica

Proper adjectives are adjectives that are formed from proper nouns.

Proper Nouns: Spain, Ireland, Italy

Proper Adjectives: Spanish, Irish, Italian

Sometimes, it can be hard to know when a word is being used as a proper noun or not. Here are a few more tips that will help you.

    A. Capitalize words that show a family relationship when you use them with a person's name.
    Uncle Jack, Grandma Marge, Papa Phil

    * Don't capitalize words that show a family relationship when you use them after a possessive pronoun.

    my mother, his sister, our grandma

    B. Capitalize the names of school subjects only when you use them to refer to a specific course.
    I am excited to study history this summer.

    I'll be taking History 101 at the community college.

    * Always capitalize the names of languages.

    I'd love to speak French, English, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese

    C. Capitalize the names of holidays, historical events, and periods.
    This Wednesday, we'll study World War II, and then we will watch the Cambrian Tennis Championship.

2. Capitalize the First Word in Every Sentence

That is one of the easiest capitalization rules to remember. The only trouble comes when you can't tell where one sentence ends and another begins.

Wrong -->

I would love to eat ice cream tonight because it is so yummy my favorite flavor is chocolate.

Right -->

I would love to eat ice cream tonight because it is so yummy. My favorite flavor is chocolate.

3. Capitalize the First Word in Direct Quotations

My sister asked, "Where are my shoes?"

    A. If the quotation is not meant to stand alone and is only a sentence fragment, you don't need to capitalize it.
    My sister claims that I "did not do the dishes correctly."

4. Capitalize the First and Last Words of Titles & Every Word Between Except Articles & Short, Unimportant Words

Wow. That was long. Do this for titles of books, poems, stories, movies, paintings, and magazines.

When the above rule says not to capitalize articles, it's referring to a specific kind of adjective called an article. The articles are a, an, and the.

Reader's Digest (magazine)

"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" (poem)

The Lord of the Rings (movie)

5. Capitalize Abbreviations of Titles & Organizations

Abbreviations are shortened forms of words or phrases.

I live in the U.S.A.

Today I will see Dr. Shriver.

This is my neighbor, Mr. Botts.

6. Capitalize the Pronoun I

That rule is short and sweet. Just remember that whenever you use this pronoun, you capitalize it. Note that this does not apply to any other pronoun.

I am going to buy oranges.

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