There are many rules and exceptions for capitalization. Consult a dictionary if you are not sure. Below, you'll find the rules and helpful examples for the most common uses.
- Capitalize the first word
Capitalize the first word of every sentence, the first word of every line of poetry, and the beginning of every line in an outline.
- Capitalize the first word after a colon
Capitalize the first word after a colon when it (1) begins a complete sentence, (2) begins with a proper noun, or (3) begins a list.
- Follow this instruction: Turn off the lights when you leave the building
- Advertise the following: American Express and VISA accepted.
- Please order the following supplies: 1. Scissors 2. Laser printer paper.
- Capitalize the beginning of a quote
Capitalize the first word of a direct quotation within a sentence but not the second part of an interrupted direct quotation, unless another capitalization rule applies.
- Genia asked, "Why can't you go to the movie on Friday?"
- "Not everyone," she said, "will agree with your decision."
- "I'll take my vacation," he remarked, "Christmas Day."
- Capitalize full sentences in parentheses
Capitalize the first word of a comment in parentheses if the comment is a full sentence.
- The Midtown Arbor Society (which receives no government funding) helps homeowners select shade trees. (Like most groups, they rely on donations).
- Capitalize proper nouns
Capitalize the pronoun I, proper nouns (the names of specific people, places, and things), and proper adjectives (words formed from proper nouns). Do not capitalize the articles a, an, or the that precede proper nouns or proper adjectives.
- Aunt Joan
- EBC Company
- the Statue of Liberty
- Capitalize common nouns
Capitalize common nouns when they are followed by numbers or are part of a proper name.
- We took Flight 687 to Louisiana.
- Kennedy High School
- Capitalize the names of ships, trains, planes, and spacecraft
- Royal Princess
- U.S.S. Enterprise
- Capitalize the names of all nations, languages, and ethnic groups
Do not capitalize economic or social groups.
- Native Americans
- upper class
- lower-middle class
- Capitalize names of religions
Capitalize the names of religions and words referring to a deity, sacred items, and personification of personal qualities.
- The Lord
- with Honor as our guide
- Capitalize specific names of departments
Capitalize the specific names of departments within companies or educational institutions and the names of all government agencies. Do not capitalize degrees issued by educational institutions.
- She works in the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice.
- I spoke with Karen from the Finance Department.
- I earned my bachelor of arts degree from the University of Portland.
- Capitalize a person’s title
Capitalize a person's title when the title precedes the name. Do not capitalize the title when it follows the name. Do not capitalize the names of jobs or professions.
- Professor Cole
- Dr. Cole, professor of mathematics
- Jodi is an accountant with the firm.
- Capitalize historical events and eras
Capitalize historical events and eras. If the word day, era, or period appears in the name of the event or era, capitalize it only if confusion might result without capitalization. Do not capitalize century numbers.
- Neolithic era
- Civil War
- nineteenth century
- Capitalize days of the week
Capitalize days of the week, months of the year, holidays, and festival or feast days. Capitalize seasons only when they are used with the year.
- Tuesday, the 3rd of March
- Fourth of July
- I plan to register for Spring 2018 classes.
- I plan to register for spring classes.
- Capitalize geographic terms
Capitalize specific regions, geographic terms, and nicknames used in place of proper nouns. Do not capitalize descriptive geographic terms.
- the Pacific Northwest
- the Southwest
- the Sierra Nevada Mountains
- the delta of the Mississippi River
- the city of New York
- New York City
- west of the Rockies
- Capitalize in the salutation and close of a letter
Capitalize the first word and all nouns in the salutation and complimentary close of a letter. Capitalize all words in a salutation when the receiver is unknown.
- Dear Jerry:
- To Whom It May Concern:
- Capitalize in titles and headlines
Capitalize the first and last words, main words, and hyphenated words in titles and headlines. Do not capitalize a, an, and the; the word to; conjunctions; or prepositions of fewer than four letters. Capitalize both words in a hyphenated word, unless it is considered one word or a compound numeral.
- New Mall to Open
- Twenty-third Annual Event
- Capitalize book chapters and buildings
Capitalize book chapters, rooms in buildings, and buildings when they are identified by a number. Do not capitalize smaller divisions within a book or within a room or a building.
- Chapter 7
- Room 5 South Building