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When Do We Use Capital Letters?

Categories: Vocabulary for Success, Vocabulary Resources |

You know all of the basic capitalization rules. Start a new sentence with the first letter of the first word capitalized. Always capitalize the pronoun “I.” Always use a capital letter to start the spelling of the names of people, nationalities, countries, cities, and places.

However, there are more rules for capitalization, some of which are not that straightforward or widely used as they should be.

Here’s the complete list, so you don’t misuse capital letters again!

Capitalize proper nouns (names of people, places and things) and adjectives derived from proper nouns.

For instance, you will need to use capital letters for both George Orwell and “an Orwellian idea”, for an Oreo cookie and for a ComicCon fan.

Capitalize abbreviated words and acronyms.

For instance, UK, USA, NASA, and the APA should always be in all capital letters.

This helps alert someone not familiar with an acronym that this is not a proper English word but an acronym they’re reading.

Capitalize book titles, film names  and other cultural concepts and artifacts.

Capitalize names of book titles, film titles, paintings, publications and journals, organizations and any observance or special day.

Here are some examples: Labor Day, Moby Dick, The Journal of Academic Pediatrics, Picasso’s Guernica, and The Godfather.

Capitalize the first letter of days and months.

Don’t confuse months with seasons. Months and days of the week have to be spelled with a capital first letter, but the words for seasons (winter, spring, summer and fall/autumn) don’t.

Capitalize company names, brands and other trademarks.

Unless otherwise intentionally not capitalized by the company or brand itself, all brand and company names need to be capitalized.

Coca Cola, Marc Jacobs, Sony, Microsoft, and Samsung need a capital first letter. Because the owners of the company and brand have chosen to use lower-case letters to start their names, brand names like iPod and company names like eReflect are exceptions to the rule.

Capitalize titles, monuments and other historically important places, planets, seas, streets, and other landmarks.

You need to capitalize Big Ben and Stonehenge, the University of Harvard, and King James VI.

You need to also capitalize fictional places too. So Harry Potter, Westeros, and Voldemort all deserve a capital first letter.

Use a capital letter if you’re talking about a famous ship, train, or other vessel.

The Mayflower and the Titanic, the Orient Express and Apollo 13 all need a capital first letter.

Capitalize professional titles that come before the name of a person.

If you’re talking about Professor Wyatt and Doctor Watson, make sure you capitalize their titles (doctor and professor). Other titles that get capitalized include the following: King and Queen, Pope, Judge, Senator, Prime Minister.

There you have it, a complete list of the rules of English capitalization!

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