When learning English grammar, capitalization rules provide a set of concrete guidelines with few, if any exceptions. English grammar capitalization rules are often the easiest for children to learn since most of them follow a similar pattern and application. Students, whether children or adults learning English, see examples of capitalization rules every day and can find a plethora of examples to support their newfound knowledge.
Capitalize Based Upon Word Placement
Words must be capitalized based upon their placement.
- The first word of every sentence is always capitalized.
- Titles are a bit tricky, but if you can remember to capitalize every important words and leave simple words such as “a” and “the” lower case, you are following the basic rule. Just remember that the first word of a title, even if it’s “a” or “the”, is always capitalized. For help with proper capitalization in titles, consult a style guide. APA and MLA style guides may vary on subtle points of title capitalization.
- Words used in salutations, such as the opening of a letter, are also capitalized. The first word of the salutation, “Dear sir,” is capitalized. Writers should also capitalized the first word of the closing statement, such as “Very truly yours”.
- One of the tricky rules of capitalization involves the use of the colon. The colon, represented by two dots stacked on top of each other ( : ) introduces a list of items. Do not capitalize the first word after the colon.
Capitalize Proper Nouns
One of the easiest capitalization rules to grasp is that of the proper noun. Proper nouns are specific and unique people, places, characters, pets, etc.
- The first and last name of a person is always capitalized, as are names of places such as towns, cities, states, counties, countries, and continents.
- Capitalize the names of rivers, mountains, streams, lakes, oceans, and other specific and unique places.
- Even the names of stars, moons, planets and galaxies are capitalized!
Some examples of capitalizing proper nouns are:
- Florence Henderson played the part of Carol Brady.
In the example above, the name of the actress “Florence Henderson” is capitalized, as well as the name of the character she portrayed on a television show, “Carol Brady.”
- NASA explored the Moon, followed by a trip to Mars.
- The Andromeda Galaxy contains many stars.
- I live near Coldwater Creek in the town of Prospect, Virginia.
The examples above include numerous specific places from outer space to the United States. Each place name is capitalized.
- Capitalize people’s titles whether they come before the person’s name or after it, or are used instead of the person’s real name. For example, the Honorable Judge Eugene Crane may be called Judge Crane or simply Judge. Always capitalize his title, “Judge.” Be sure to capitalize titles if used in direct address, such as, “Will my dog be okay, Doctor?”
Resources for Teachers and Writers
If capitalization rules trip you up, improve your writing by visiting one of the following sites. Some provide more details about the rules above plus several other rules of capitalization. Others provide teachers with worksheets and other resources to teach capitalization.
- Grammar Book provides a comprehensive online resource for all the rules of capitalization, listing these plus many others with examples.
- Glencoe education publishing offers a downloadable PDF lesson plan on teaching English capitalization skills.
- Another clear, concise lesson plan on capitalization may be found on Education.com