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Your Quick Guide to Capitalization Rules

Looking for an easy-to-use reference for capitalization rules in English? Look no further, we've got you covered. From whether to capitalize days of the week to how to handle government departments and more—here is your quick guide to capitalization rules and examples of the rules used in a sentence, phrase, or word.

  • Capitalize the first word of a sentence.
    • This sentence begins with a capital letter.
  • Capitalize proper nouns and their adjective derivatives. Keep in mind that proper nouns are nouns that refer to a specific person, place, organization, or thing.
    • I'll have Canadian whiskey on ice, please.
  • Capitalize brand names.
    • Nike
    • Hilton
    • Cinnabon
    • Sony
  • Capitalize days of the week, months of the year, holidays and historical episodes/eras
    • Monday
    • June
    • Halloween
    • American Revolutionary War
    • the Great Depression
  • Capitalize institutions, governmental entities and departments, organizations and religions.
    • University of Maryland
    • the Electoral College
    • Department of Agriculture
    • the Clinton Foundation
    • Buddhist
  • Capitalize races, nationalities, languages and tribes.
    • Caucasian
    • American
    • English
    • Eskimos
  • Capitalize titles when they are used before names unless a comma is used between the title and name. Do not capitalize the title if it is used instead of a name.
    • The president will discuss the company's goals in coming months.
    • President Trump addressed the nation on Monday.
    • Chairman of the Board Michael Tucker will be speaking with us tonight.
    • The chairman of the board, Michael Tucker, will be speaking with us tonight.
  • When a formal title or kinship name is used as a direct address, capitalize it.
    • Am I going to be okay, Doctor?
    • Hey Mom, we're going to a concert, do you want to join?
  • Geographical regions should be capitalized, but not points on the compass.
    • She's from out West—you can tell from her accent.
    • When you get to the end of the street, turn north.
  • Do not capitalize the words "city," "town," and "county" if they come before a proper noun. If it is part of the proper noun, capitalize it.
    • The city of Chicago.
    • Millford County, West Virginia
    • The county of Marion
    • New York City
    • Marin County
  • The first word in a complete quotation should be capitalized, even if it occurs midsentence. The only instance where the first word is not capitalized is if the quoted material is not a complete sentence and is only used to continue a sentence.
    • The waiter only smiled and said, "You'll have to sit at the bar if you want a seat."
    • We did "want a seat" so decided the bar was better than nothing.
  • Specific course titles should be capitalized but not academic subjects in general.
    • Creative Writing 101
    • He taught creative writing to undergraduates.
  • Capitalize art, architectural, and literary movements.
    • Surrealist painter Max Ernst is one of my favorite artists.
    • The Colonial-style house sat on the northeast corner of the block.
    • Lord Byron was one of the most well-known writers in British Romanticism.
  • When capitalizing titles in heading case, capitalize all nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns. Do not capitalize an article (the, a, an), coordinating conjunctions (and, or, nor, but, yet, so, for), or prepositions (from, with) unless they are the first or last word of the sentence. However, note that there are discrepancies in rules relating to capitalizing prepositions in a title depending on the style guide used.
    • A Tale of Two Cities
    • Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
    • Here Today and Gone Tomorrow
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