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What is Capitalization?

As the name suggests, the term capitalization in English is related to capital letters. The English alphabets are written in both capital as well as small letters. As we all know that the capital letters are written as A B C…. Under capitalization, we write a word with its first letter in uppercase and the remaining letters in lowercase. The first letter of the first word of the sentence and also the first letters of names are written in capital letters. However, rules of capitalization are not restricted to this. There are varied rules, factors and exceptions that need to be considered before using capital letters in writing.

Although, it has been said that proper nouns and the first word of a sentence are capitalized, yet we cannot generalize it as there are many exceptions. Unfortunately, today after the advent of internet, the rules related to capitalization have become quite ambiguous. People are forgetting to use capitalization as during online surfing; it isn’t mandatory to write capital letters. Thus, today people have imbibed the wrong manner of capitalization. It is very difficult to change their perception. However, they need to change for the betterment of English language.


Capitalization Rules and Examples

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The detailed rules along with examples related to capitalization are:

The first letter of a sentence
The first letter of the first word of a sentence is always capitalized irrespective of the word or the sentence. 

  • The man was walking towards the gate.
  • How did you go there?
  • Cherry tomatoes are used for the pizza.
  • Don’t go there.
  • Wow! What a great surprise! Where were you?
In case of quotes too the first letter of the first word is always capitalized even if the quote is in the middle of the sentence.
  • Martin Luther King once said, “Love is the only force that transforms enemy into a friend.”

Proper Nouns and words generated out of proper nouns

Proper nouns are names of person, place or anything that comes handy. Proper nouns are always capitalized even if they are in the middle of the sentence.


  • Maria is going to London for higher studies.
  • When Jack was in New York; Sam used to visit him every weekend.
  • The Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world is in Agra, India.
Some non-English names’ last names have two parts and their first part starts with small letters.
  • Mona Lisa, one of the best portraits of all time was drawn by Leonardo da Vinci.
Proper noun derivatives are also capitalized.
  • I am an American, but I am not from India. I am from America.

Proper Nouns related to days, months etc.

  • Dr. Adams visits the clinic on Mondays and Thursdays.
  • The next report will come in the month of July.
Season names are not capitalized unless it is within a title or used as proper noun
  • I don’t like winter.
  • That day, I enjoyed watching Summer of ’42.
  • I like the way Summer removes the gloominess of winter.

Specific groups as they are considered proper nouns
Specific groups are considered proper nouns. Hence their names are capitalized. These groups can be related to anything, but they should do s specific kind of work.
  • Sam is a member of the Labor Party.
  • City Athletics Association conducts games in the city every year.
  • John has just joined the Conservative Party.
  • I am a writer and I am a member of the literary group named The Breakfast Club.

Radio and Television stations
Radio and television stations, channels and programmes are always capitalized.
  • BBC is my all-time favorite.
  • I like to watch Al Jazeera for the Middle East coverage.
  • Till 1980’s, ABC, CBS and NBC ruled America’s electronic media.
  • My all-time favorite TV series is Friends.

Pronoun ‘I’ is always capitalized even if it is used in a quote

  • He said, “Where am I going.”
  • Please switch off the light, I am feeling sleepy.
  • It is too dark, I am not going.
  • Where can I go?
First word after colon if it is an independent clause
  • It has been raining for last two days: It is very risky to drive now as it is a hilly terrain.

Regarding product names or brand names

Brand names are proper nouns, so they should always be capitalized.
  • Sam loves to drink Coke.
  • What would you like to have Domino’s pizza or McDonald’s burger?
  • Starbucks is a popular brand among office goers.
Some of the brands have become so popular that people have started using them as Standard English words.
  • I am feeling thirsty; can I have a coke?
  • Get a Kleenex and wipe your nose.
  • Don’t leave it open; put Band-Aid over that wound.

Capitalization of a proper noun remains even if a new word is made through it.

  • I have read and specialize in Kantian philosophy.
  • Joseph’s car looks like BMW wish, but it is a Toyota.
Abbreviation as well as short and long form a brand name too are capitalized
  • Why don’t you go and have Coca-Cola?
  • I purchased the latest sports model of BMW.
After too much use for years, a word becomes common noun.
  • One should have only pasteurized milk.
  • I will catch the tube and reach there within half an hour.

Family Relations

Family relationships are capitalized when they are used as proper nouns.
  1. Hey Bro! What’s up?
  2. I am afraid, I can’t wait any more. Please give this bag to Uncle John.
  3. Uncle Paul is my favorite uncle.
  4. Hey Sis, Congrats. You got the scholarship.
  5. Pass me the table salt, please, mom.
Family relationships are not capitalized when they are used with a help of common nouns.
  1. My big brother is a disciplinarian.
  2. Today, I am going to meet my favorite uncle Paul.
  3. I am going to congratulate my sis who got the scholarship.
  4. The downtown restaurant is run by my mom.
  5. I am afraid, I can’t wait any more. Please give this bag to my uncle John.

Countries, nationalities and languages

Countries, nationalities and languages are proper nouns. So they are always capitalized.
  1. Latin is one of the oldest languages of the world.
  2. British troops were advancing towards German occupied area.
  3. I am going to live in Paris for the next five years. But, I am afraid, my French is not good.
  4. Although my family is originally from Scotland, yet today I am proud to be an American.
  5. The reason behind my oriental features is that my mother was from Indonesia.

The first word of a quote

Irrespective of its placement in a sentence, the first word of a quote is always capitalized.

Matthew said, “I am going to office.”
Soldiers shouted in unison when the major said, “Let’s kill the enemy.”
“You better get going, otherwise you will be late”, advised Ryan.

If only a part of the quote is used in the middle of a sentence, then it is not capitalized.
  • Tony Adams, the captain of the team said, “Hey boys; perk up, otherwise we will not be able to win.”
  • Tony Adams, the captain told his team members to perk up otherwise they will, “not be able to win.”
  • “Let’s get going and attack the enemy post!” shouted the commanding officer.
  • The commanding officer shouted at his men to “attack the enemy post.”

The names of God, religious personalities, holy books

Proper nouns which refer to gods, holy books or the titles of religious figures should always be capitalized.
  • Some people read the Old and New Testaments for historical purposes.
  • Father James and Father Anthony needs to see you in the office.
  • The Holy Quran is the most respected religious book by the Muslims.
Religious titles used as proper noun should be capitalized. However, if they are used as common nouns then they are not capitalized.
  • Pope John Paul II presided over the ceremony at the church.
  • The pope himself presided over the ceremony on Easter Sunday.
In the first sentence, pope is a part of title. That’s why, it is capitalized. However, in the second sentence, pope is used as a part of designation. So, It is not capitalized.
  • Rabbi Elijah is taking care of the house for fellow Jews.
  • The rabbi is respected in Jewish community.
  • There is only one God.
  • Some say that there is only one god, which is absolutely true.

Titles Preceding and Following Names

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Formal titles are capitalized when they are placed before and after the names. These titles can be earned (given during or after a job or work) or acquired (received like a family name due to a position in the society). However, when the title is used as job or position, then it is not capitalized.
  • Robert Downey Junior added a new dimension in the character of Sherlock Holmes.
  • Robert Downey Junior has become more famous in Hollywood than his father, Robert Downey Senior.
  • I am really scared to face Mother Superior as she is very strict.
  • When my grandfather was in London, he used to work in Messrs. Adams & Kerry.
  • Sir Lancelot was a knight in King Arthur’s court.
  • Queen Victoria was the queen of England throughout the major part of the nineteenth century.
  • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the queen of England.
  • During My time, Mr. William was principal of the school.
  • Jayden’s father was a major in the British army.
Major Words in a Title

There are complexities involved with the capitalization of titles. In informal writing, only the first word is capitalized. In case of formal writing, noun, verb, adjective and adverb are capitalized. However, preposition, conjunction and article are capitalized only when they are the first word. This rule applies with the subtitles too.
  • Sense And Sensibility is better than Pride and Prejudice.
  • The Beatles wrote Strawberry Fields Forever
  • The first movie of the series is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
  • Virginia Woolf wrote Orlando: A Biography
  • The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists.

Sometimes artistically and especially in printing, people use capital letters to emphasize a point. However, one should never do this while writing. In internet parlance, all capital letters in writing means shouting or yelling at the audience.

Directions such as left, right, north, south, east and west are not capitalized. However, the direction names are capitalized when they are used within a name or proper noun. Left and right are also capitalized when indicating political views.
  • Captain Malcolm! Go towards the east and you find the treasure.
  • Go south on the highway, and then take the third exit.
  • The clouds are moving eastward.
  • Knives go on the right-hand side of the plate.
  • During the Civil War, the North battled with the South.
  • The Far East has always held some mystical appeal to those who have never been there.
  • USA and Canada cover major part of North America.

Periods and Eras

Specific periods, eras and events in history are capitalized. Centuries and numbers are not capitalized.
  • He fought in World War II.
  • Age of Enlightenment
  • American Revolution
  • In the Middle Ages, poor hygiene was partly responsible for the spreading of plague.
  • He was a King in sixteenth century.
  • The world saw technological development and two wars in the nineteen hundreds.
  • In the fifteen and sixteenth centuries, England blossomed into an empire.

More topics in Capitalization
Capitalization Rules
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