Confusing Capitalization Rules 

Confusing Capitalization Rules

In today's lesson, we'll cover two confusing capitalization rules. Here we go!

Rule 1: Seasons

Capitalize days of the week and months of the year, but don't capitalize seasons unless the name of the season is being used as part of a proper noun.

Last winter, we watched fireworks on a Thursday in January.

I can't wait for spring break this year! It starts MondayMarch 9 and goes to FridayMarch 13.

We do not capitalize winter or spring in these sentences since they are both being used to name seasons. 

The 2020 Summer Olympics were hosted in Japan. 

When I was a classroom teacher, I read Brian's Winter with my students. 

Here, Summer and Winter are words within proper nouns, so we capitalize them. Summer Olympics names a specific event, and Brian's Winter is the title of a book. 

Rule 2: North, South, East, & West

Capitalize north, south, east and west when referring to specific regions, but don't capitalize them when referring to directions.

I love hiking in the West

I can't wait to visit Southern California!

The West and Southern California are specific regions, so we capitalize them. 

To get to my house, go west on Highway 35.

I live south of town. 

Here, west and south are being used to describe direction, so we keep them lowercase. 

BONUS Rule 3: Family Names

Rule 3 - Family Names

Capitalize family names when you use them as a specific person's name. 

Don't capitalize titles used after possessive adjectives or the words a, an, or the.

Aunt Edna asked my dad if he wanted to sit near Mom.

Aunt Edna and Mom are being used as a specific person's name, and neither has a possessive adjective/pronoun or article before it, so they should be capitalized.

Dad has the word my before it, so it should start with a lowercase letter.

BONUS Rule 4: Courses

Capitalize titles of specific courses. 

Don't capitalize titles of general courses unless they are derived from proper nouns.

My brother teaches chemistry and English.

Chemistry and English are both being used as the titles of general courses. Chemistry is not derived from a proper noun, so it should be lowercase. English is a proper noun, so it should be capitalized. 

Tip: The names of languages are proper nouns, so they should always be capitalized.  

This fall he'll be teaching Chemistry 101 and English 203.

Here, Chemistry and English are in the titles of specific courses, so they should be capitalized. 

Test Yourself

Directions: Correct the mistakes (if any) in the following five sentences. You'll find the answers below.

  1. In the Winter, my Mom plans to vacation in southern California.

  2. My sister is a French teacher at a school South of the airport.

  3. I signed up for English 303 next semester.

  4. My Brother and Sister will help Aunt Cindy with her garden this Spring.

  5. Mom and Dad always ask me to shovel the driveway during the winter.

You can learn more capitalization rules here if you'd like.


  1. In the winter, my mom plans to vacation in Southern California.

  2. My sister is a French teacher at a school south of the airport.

  3. I signed up for English 303 next semester. (no changes)

  4. My brother and sister will help Aunt Cindy with her garden this spring.

  5. Mom and Dad always ask me to shovel the driveway during the winter. (no changes)

If you'd like to teach or learn grammar the easy way—with sentence diagrams—check out our Get Smart Grammar Program.

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Elizabeth O'Brien

Hello! I'm Elizabeth O'Brien, and my goal is to get you jazzed about grammar. 

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