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Some Important Rules for Capitalization

Updated on July 9, 2020
Poonam-Malik profile image

Teaching English grammar to diverse students has honed my own skills of understanding and explaining.

Introduction

Rules of capitalization tell us when to use an alphabet in its capital form.

It may be pure convention but writing without capitalization is certainly shoddy, if not inappropriate. Also, capitalization gives additional information, like distinguishing proper nouns from common nouns.

To capitalize any letter or alphabet we write its capital form, but when we use the capital form of the alphabet for the first letter of the word it is known as capitalizing the word or ‘initial caps.’ On the other hand, ‘All caps’ means all the letters of a word are in capital form.

Rules to Master Capitalization

The letter ‘I’ is always capitalized when used as a pronoun. Even the computers are programmed these days to capitalize ‘I’ if typed as a single, standalone letter. Frankly speaking, I have yet to find the standalone ‘I’ used in any other context.

I don’t think, I need to give examples for this.

The second rule of capitalization is to capitalize the first word of a sentence. Any sentence as we all know, starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop or ‘?’

Even this rule does not need examples. Am I right?

The third rule of capitalization is to capitalize proper nouns. Proper nouns as we know are specific names and are always capitalized. Apart from the names of persons, we also capitalize the names of cities, countries, rivers, nationalities, and languages. However, do remember that names of days, months, and holidays are capitalized but names of seasons are not capitalized.

Now read the following examples carefully.

  1. Nimish turned right to reach Jagdish Store on D B Road.
  2. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  3. I love Italian food but would love to visit Japan once.
  4. My French friend loves to speak in Hindi.
  5. Christmas is celebrated in summers in the Southern hemisphere.
  6. My birthday month is March.
  7. Sometimes a month has five Sundays.

A good exercise would be to try and explain each capital letter used in the above sentences. You will need to read the rules again and again, but then you will never again capitalize wrongly.

Some More Rules of Capitalization

The fourth rule is to capitalize common nouns when used as a form of address or when used with proper nouns.

This rule is not as tricky as it sounds. But it needs a little more attention surely.

When I am talking about my aunty, it is ok to write

My aunt, Melissa, lives in Florida.

But when I am addressing her, I need to write

Listen, Aunt Melissa, I am reaching Florida next week.

It is ok to write Amit is a doctor.

But while addressing him we must write, “Please tell me the truth, Doctor.”

With official posts and titles, we use the rule as follows.

Jimmy Carter was a very popular president.

The secretary talked to President Obama on the phone.

Donald Trump, president of America, visited India last year.

The fifth rule is to capitalize the first word after a colon only when it is a part of a complete sentence, or when it is a proper noun.

I am absolutely clear about one thing: Balloons are a strict no-no at my party.

We all enjoy shopping at one place: The Golden Mall.

Do you know my favorite pastime: reading.

The sixth rule of capitalization is to capitalize a direction only if it refers to a geographical place.

  1. We drove three miles to the west.
  2. The Himalayas are in the North.

In the second sentence, we are referring to the northern part of India, known as the North.

The seventh rule is to capitalize the first word of a sentence expressed in direct speech.

Robert said, “My younger brother is a professor in psychology.”

The eighth rule of capitalization is to capitalize all the major words in the title of a book, song, article, or work of art. Do capitalize prepositions, conjunctions, or articles when used as the first word of the title.

The Bible, Pride and Prejudice, From Here to Eternity, Love in Tokyo,

Before proceeding to the next section, I would like you to know something very important. The above set of rules is enough to handle most of the capitalization issues with confidence. But then these are not all. Besides, there are certain very tricky issues. There are specific style guides that help us with their own particular norms. Still, you may need to refer grammar books to ensure correct usage.

Time for a Test

I am sure you would love to test your learning in the light of understanding of the above information. So, you need to just capitalize the requisites in the para below.

By the way, I have capitalized some words wrongly and have also left some with correct capitalization. So you need to be careful. Good luck.

One night by a remarkable coincidence her little girl, pansy, was taken with cramp colic on the Anniversary of the disappearance of john Smothers, who would now have been her Grandfather if he had been alive and had a steady job.

"i will go downtown and get some medicine for her," said john smith.

"no, no, dear john," cried his wife. "you, too, might disappear forever, and then forget to come Back."

Suddenly the door opened, and an old man, stooped and bent, with long white hair, entered the room.

"hello, here is grandpa," said pansy. she had recognized him before any of the others.

The old man drew a bottle of medicine from his pocket and gave Pansy a spoonful.

she got well immediately.

"I was a little late," said john smothers, "as I waited for a Streetcar."

Conclusion

I need to tell you two more facts about capitalization and then end with the answer to the above exercise.

The first fact is with regard to the internet, it is incorrect to write TheSmith.com because the website is called The Smith and its URL is www.theslot.com.

The second fact is ‘all caps’ is used in writing ACRONYMS, and also in contractions.

The USA is an acronym for the United States of America as WiFi and SciFi are contractions.

Check your answer here.

One night by a remarkable coincidence her little girl, Pansy, was taken with cramp colic on the anniversary of the disappearance of John Smothers, who would now have been her grandfather if he had been alive and had a steady job.

"I will go downtown and get some medicine for her," said John Smith.

"No, no, dear John," cried his wife. "You, too, might disappear forever, and then forget to come back."

Suddenly the door opened, and an old man, stooped and bent, with long white hair, entered the room.

"Hello, here is grandpa," said Pansy. She had recognized him before any of the others.

The old man drew a bottle of medicine from his pocket and gave Pansy a spoonful.

She got well immediately.

"I was a little late," said John Smothers, "as I waited for a streetcar."

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 POONAM MALIK

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