Quick Capitalization Rules
You probably already know some of the simpler capitalization rules for names, the first word in a sentence, and proper nouns. But what are some other cases where capitalization rules apply?
English Capitalization Rules
BASED ON WORD TYPE
Names—both first and last—are always capitalized, but there are other types of words that must also be capitalized.
Cities, States, and Countries
- You would capitalize Chicago, but you wouldn’t capitalize city.
- California also gets capitalized, but state does not.
- The United States gets capitalized, along with North America, but country and continent do not.
Companies, Religions, and Political Parties
- Apple and Uber are both capitalized, but bank is not.
- Names of religions like Islam and Christianity are capitalized, but church and mosque are not.
- Republican, Democrat, and Green are capitalized, but party is not.
Days, Months, Holidays, and Seasons
- Tuesday and July are capitalized, but days of the week and months are not.
- Every holiday, whether it is one word or multiple will be capitalized: New Year’s Day, Fourth of July, or Thanksgiving.
- Seasons are not capitalized. "My favorite season is spring."
Nationalities, Languages, and Time Periods
- Nationalities will all reference citizen’s of a country—French, Bolivian, Chinese.
- All languages, including Spanish, Portuguese and German, are capitalized.
- Historical time periods, like the Middle Ages or The Renaissance are also capitalized.
BASED ON GRAMMAR
After a Colon
- Even though the portion of a sentence after a colon is an independent clause, you don’t need to capitalize the first word after the colon. For example, The separation of church and state is a constant discussion in the United States: many argue that God cannot be present in any element of government.
- The exception to this rule is when the first word after the colon is a proper noun. For example, The First Amendment guarantees rights besides freedom of religion: Americans also have the right to free speech.
The First Word of a Quote
- When quoting another person in the form of a complete sentence, the first word of the quote is capitalized. For example, After dinner, my mother said, “Tonight, we’re all going to have a special treat.”
- The exception to this rule is when a portion of a quote is used rather than a complete sentence. For example, My mother said we would have a “special treat” after dinner.
Words in Titles
- Titles of books and movies are capitalized with a few exceptions. The first word, last word, nouns, verbs, adjectives are all capitalized. Any other words remain in lower case. For example, The Grapes of Wrath or Married with Children.
In some cases, capitalization rules are based on a style guide. Check your assignment or with your teacher for specific guidelines when proofreading.
WriteLab brings together Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, and English Language Instruction. Student writing is analyzed in seconds with the WriteLab app—giving students feedback and suggestions on how to revise and polish their draft.