Capitalization in Grammar

Hi, and welcome to this video about capitalization! Today, we’ll be reviewing the most common capitalization rules in English and using some examples to see how to apply them. Let’s get started!

Often, one of the first rules that people learn is that the first word in a sentence should always be capitalized; it doesn’t matter if the sentence is a statement, a question, or an exclamation. Super simple.

The first color you picked was the best.
I wish this book was about something more exciting.
Did you see the video I posted?
This is the best ice cream I’ve ever had!

Another easy rule to remember is that the pronoun I will always be capitalized, even if it appears in the middle of a sentence.

Proper nouns are also always capitalized. Remember, a proper noun is a noun that refers to a specific person, place, or organization. This includes things like titles, company names, sports teams, political groups, and more.

For example, in this sentence, Kyle is capitalized, because it’s a name that refers to a specific person. Here, Pointville High School is capitalized because it’s the name of a specific school. Now, in these examples, you wouldn’t capitalize school or store, because those words aren’t naming a specific place.

This same rule applies when you refer to family members by their family title, like “mom,” “dad,” or “grandma.” Let’s take the word mom, for instance. If you wrote, “I asked Mom to drive us to the mall,” the word mom would be capitalized, because it’s acting as the name of a specific person; it’s a proper noun. However, if you wrote, “My mom works at an insurance company,” the word mom would not be capitalized. In this case, mom is referring to her relationship to you as a family member; it’s not referring to her by name.

Titles that precede names work in a very similar way. They are capitalized when they’re part of a person’s name, but not when they’re used as descriptors. Take the word mayor, for instance. You would capitalize mayor in the sentence “Mayor Bob Jones will be speaking at 1 pm,” because it’s part of his name. However, if you wrote, “Bob Jones, mayor of Huntsville, will be speaking at 1 pm,” you would not capitalize mayor, because it’s not part of the name of a specific person.

Titles of published works are a bit more difficult. If you’ve ever had to reference the title of a book, article, or other written work, chances are you’ve gotten stuck trying to remember which words to capitalize and which ones to leave uncapitalized. The rule for this is pretty simple: capitalize all the major words except prepositions or articles, unless it is the first word of the title. Here are a few examples.

The Catcher in the Rye
A Tale of Two Cities
The Light between Oceans

Notice that the only prepositions and articles in these titles that are capitalized are the ones at the very beginning; all of the others are lowercase. All of the other words are considered important, so they are capitalized.

Here are a few more super quick rules before we move on:

  • Capitalize days of the week
  • Capitalize holidays
  • Capitalize months
  • Capitalize directional regions of countries (Northeast, Southwest, Midwest, etc.) but not compass directions (drive two miles north and turn west)

Okay, now that we’ve looked at words you should always capitalize, let’s take a look at some that you should never capitalize unless they’re the first word of a sentence or appear in a title.

  • Capitalize days of the week
  • Do not capitalize the names of seasons
    (winter, spring, summer, autumn)
  • Do not capitalize the names of elements
    (oxygen, magnesium, nitrogen, etc.)
  • Do not capitalize general animal names unless a proper adjective is included. For instance, you wouldn’t capitalize black bear or red panda, but you would capitalize the G in German shepherd.
  • Do not capitalize the word the before proper nouns unless the article is part of the proper noun.
  • (How hot is the Sahara Desert? I saw the Big Dipper using my telescope! I subscribe to The New York Times.)

  • Do not capitalize the first word that comes after a colon or semicolon.
    (I wanted to get three items: paper, glue, and scissors.)

There are many, many more rules and exceptions to rules that I haven’t mentioned; these are simply the most commonly used rules.

I hope this video was helpful! Thanks for watching, and happy studying!

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: October 20, 2021