Use Proper Capitalization of Words

Edited by Jb Gingoyon, Maria, Eng, Lynn and 3 others

Your writing reflects who you are.

Proper capitalization of words is important in writing. Whether it will be informal or formal writing, proper capitalization is needed. How would you feel if someone writes a letter to you with grammatical errors and improper capitalization? Of course, you may feel bad because the first letter of your name is written in lowercase letter. Instead of "Jane", it is now "jane". This does not look professional. Even if you are going to use MS word when planning to write, the software will detect your typo mistakes: It will be marked in red. You want to be good at writing with proper capitalization, but you do not know much about the rules, as to how and when to capitalize. In this page, you will learn how to use proper capitalization of words:

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Rules in Capitalization

  1. 1
    In a quoted sentence or phrase, you should capitalize the first letter of the first word.
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    1. "I cannot do my homework today, because I feel sick," she said.
    2. "Watch out!" she screamed. "You almost hit the cat in the road."
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  2. 2
    As a direct address, you should capitalize any letter of a common noun.
    This acts as a substitute of a proper noun, for example, a name.
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    1. May I go out, Teacher?
    2. Can I go with them, Mom? They are going to see a movie.
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  3. 3
    Titles of government officials, especially high-ranking ones, that are used before their names should be capitalized.
    In this usage, you must capitalize the first letter of the title. However, you must not capitalize it when used without a name.  
    1. Senator Charles has declared a new law.
    2. The senator has declared a new law.
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  4. 4
    When the title is used as an intervening or modifying phrase in a sentence, it should not be capitalized.
     
    1. Robbi, the general manager of VisiHow, will meet you this afternoon.
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  5. 5
    Capitalize the first letter of all proper nouns.
     
    1. Her name is Elizabeth, and she is my sister.
    2. I visited The Great Wall of China in 2010.
    3. I have been wishing to go to France someday.
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  6. 6
    In writing a letter, the title with a name in the signature line should be capitalized.
     
    1. Truly yours, Ms. Jessa, Chairperson
    2. Sincerely, Maria, Retail Banking Center Head
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  7. 7
    When using the words, "state" and "federal" in your sentences, you should not capitalize the first letter if they are used as general terms.
    If they are part of an official agency name or stated in government documents, you should capitalize the first letter.  
    1. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the criminals should bring to justice and pay for what they have done.
    2. You should comply with all the country, state, and federal laws, as well. This will help your business grow well without any problems in the future.
    3. During our summer vacation, we will visit four states.
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  8. 8
    When using the words "department", "office", and "bureau" as reference to a group of people in your writing, you should capitalize the first letter.
    Below is an example which you can have an idea on when to capitalize them:  
    1. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been studying the case for a very long time. Now, the Bureau has solved the problem with solid evidences.
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  9. 9
    Never capitalize the first letter of names of seasons.
     
    1. To tell you the truth, Jack, there is no winter in the Philippines.
    2. I love summer breeze and autumn colors.
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  10. 10
    The four cardinal directions (South, North, East, and West) should not be capitalized unless they are used to refer to specific regions.
     
    1. I have four relatives from the North.
    2. Drive, go south four blocks and then turn right.
    3. They live in the northeast section of the town. [In this case, you should not capitalize the first letter, as it acts as a modifier of the word "section".]
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  11. 11
    You should always capitalize the first letter of the first and last word of titles of publications, such as books, magazines, novels, etc., despite their parts of speech.
     
    1. I just watched the movie "The Wolverine" last night.
    2. My friends read the book "Deeper Than the Night" by Amanda Ashley. They told me that the story was nice.
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  12. 12
    If there are short verb forms (are, is, and be) and other words within the title, you should capitalize the first letter of each.
     
    1. The movie, "I Know What You Did Last Summer" was shown in the year 1997. I was still a kid at that time.
    2. Hey, do you like the song "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain? This is one of my favorites.
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  13. 13
    However, do not capitalize little words like in prepositions (in, on, at, etc.) conjunctions (but, as if, so, nor, etc.), and articles (a, the, an) within the titles, regardless of their length.
    In doing so, you should also keep in mind the capitalization rule in number 11.  
    1. "The Day of the Jackal" is a classic thriller movie filmed in 1973.
    2. I have read the novel "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens when I was in high-school.
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  14. 14
    Do not capitalize the first letter word of a sentence with a colon.
    Do not capitalize if the sentence before it has an incomplete thought.  
    1. I really enjoy reading literary pieces: poems written by William Shakespeare are among my favorites.
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  15. 15
    Capitalize the first letter word of a sentence starting with a colon, if it has two or more sentences.
     
    1. Garlic is used in different purposes: It is mainly used for cooking. Also, it used for making herbal medications, as many people believe in the efficacy of the herb.
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  16. 16
    Do not capitalize the first letter of the word in a sentence starting with a colon, if it starts a list of something.
    See example below:  
    1. These are the things that you should bring tomorrow: warm clothing, sleeping bags, foods and drinks.
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  17. 17
    In writing a letter, always capitalize the first letter word of a salutation as well as the complimentary close.
    See examples below:  
    1. Very truly yours,
    2. Sincerely,
    3. Yours truly,
    4. Respectfully yours,
    5. Dear Ms. Aniston:
    6. My dear Mr. Almero:
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  18. 18
    You should capitalize the first letter of words derived from proper nouns.
     
    1. We always capitalize the first letter of the word "English", because it is derived from England, a proper noun.
    2. We should not capitalize the first letter of the word "math", because it does not have any derivation.
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  19. 19
    Capitalize specific course titles in a major.
     
    1. I was failed in Algebra 2 last semester. I am planning to retake it this month.
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Now you have learned the fundamental rules in proper capitalization. You can now write with ease and confidence. You do not have to memorize all of them. You just have to understand how and when to use them in your writing. Good luck!

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Tips Tricks & Warnings

  • All proper nouns should be capitalized. Common nouns should be in lowercase letters. However, there is an exception. See rules above.
  • The personal pronoun, I, should always be capitalized.
  • Refer to rule number 16, you should not use a colon to list down something, if the sentence prior to it has an incomplete thought. Bullet points and numbering are common to be used when listing down items with an incomplete sentence. In this case, the use of proper capitalization is optional.
  • If you have problems with any of these steps, ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.

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Categories : Language

Recent edits by: Anonymous, Ephraim, Lynn

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