To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize

Uma Shankari By Uma Shankari, 27th Jan 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Tips

It is an eye-sore when too many words are capitalized without being warranted.

Rules for Capitalization

The rules of capitalization are taught in elementary school itself. We need to use capital letters to indicate the start of a new sentence and to indicate a proper noun — which means we use it to begin a sentence inside the double quotes; we use it for names of people, titles, places, countries, languages, nationalities and historical events (Second World War). The pronoun ‘I’ is always capitalized.

Some guidelines on when to use a comma

A few points to remember:
1. When in doubt, do not capitalize.

2. When department names are used unofficially, there is no need to use a capital letter.
Common nouns and various shortened forms of official names are not capitalized. Use lower case for the words “committee” or “council” when they stand alone. Only when these words occur as the formal names of groups and committees should you capitalize them.
Examples would be National Council for Hotel Management and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.

3. Capitalize the months, not the seasons.
This winter was very cold.
When personified, season names function as proper nouns and should be capitalized: In March, Spring shows her joyous moods.

4. Historical periods and events, names of religions and gods, and holy books are capitalized.
The Vedic Period, Great Depression, First War of Indian Independence are some examples.
Capitalize Bible when referring to it specifically, but do not capitalize Bible when using it in a generic way; for example, Thompson’s recent book is the bible on nanotechnology.

5. Capitalize the salutation and the closing address: Dear Ms.Lucy; Sincerely yours.

6. Capitalize North, South, East, and West when used as sections of the country, but not as compass directions:
We lived in North India for twenty years.

My office is in the south of Bangalore. It is in South Bangalore.

7. When used generically, words such as president, king, and emperor are in lower case. Unless the name of the president follows the designation, ‘president’ can be in lower case. It is right to say ‘president of the United States’, but you must capitalize the president in ‘President Obama’. When a person has a very long title, put the title after the name to avoid too much capitalization.
De Gaulle was a French president and Hitler was a German military commander. Three prime ministers attended the conference.
All senators are expected to attend.
We expect that Senator So-and-So would attend the meeting positively.

She worked as an assistant to Chief Minister Karunanidhi.
He interviewed Karunanidhi, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
Of course, your organization may insist on capitalizing the designation even when it succeeds the names. Whatever the style requirement, be consistent in the usage throughout the document.

8. When a title appears in an address format as opposed to running text, the title can be capitalized even if it appears after the name. Example: Aroon Purie, Editor-in-Chief
It is correct to write, “Dr. Simon went to Washington.” or “Will we go to London, Doctor?”
However, if ‘doctor’ is not used as a title, it should not be capitalized. “George is a doctor from Australia.

9. Observe the difference in capitalizing ‘city’ in the following sentences:
I live in the city of New York. My sister lives in New York City.

10. Similarly, “Mom” and “Dad” should be capitalized when using them as proper names or addressing them directly by these names. Otherwise, use lowercase as in “My mom and dad went on vacation. Here is the present I bought for Mother“.

11. Do not capitalize ‘god’ when using non-specifically.
She prayed to Lord Vishnu. The gods were not pleased with him.

12. Words associated with the Internet: It was once common to capitalize Internet, Web (or World Wide Web), and associated words such as Web page, Web site, etc., but many organizations have moved away from such capitalizations. The words e-mail and online are not capitalized.

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Effective Writing, English Grammar, Error-Free Writing, Punctuation Rules

Meet the author

author avatar Uma Shankari
I write on society, relationships, travel, health, nutrition and fitness.
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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
27th Jan 2011 (#)

please read the notes I sent for publication - you missed some good tags!

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author avatar Artur Victoria
30th Jan 2011 (#)

Great article – Thanks for sharing

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author avatar Blunt Head
31st Jan 2011 (#)

Guess I need to tone down on my capitalizing...I JUST LOVE BIG LETTERS.

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