Capitalization Rules

Knowing how to use capital letters correctly is important to providing accurate understanding to the reader of the meaning and function of the word. Here are the rules for capitalizing and some examples of correct usage.

Begin with a capital letter in the following situations.

1. The first word of a sentence.
2. The first word of a quoted sentence.
3. The first line of a poem.
4. The first word and the important words in titles of books, articles, films, plays, and musical works.
5. Proper nouns.
6. The pronoun I.
7. The first word of a salutation and closing of a letter or e-mail.

The definition of proper noun sometimes creates confusion. Here are examples to clarify what constitutes a proper noun.

Capitalize the following.

Proper names:

Cassadaga Valley High School
New York City
United Nations

Definite Place Names:

Madison Avenue
Winchester Street

Family Relationships:

Aunt Ann (however, if preceded by a possessive then my aunt Ann)
Uncle Michael

Substitute for a person’s name particularly in direct address:

“Hello, Aunt.”
Dear Sir
“No, Dad, I didn’t take the car keys.”

Definite events:

World War II
President’s Day

Races, Languages, Religions:



Dr. Wheatley
Mrs. Ascot
Reverend Jeremiah Lott

Organization Names:

Rotary Club
Democratic Party

Deity (and other words associated with deities like sacred writings):

St. Luke
Bible (when referring to a holy work as opposed to referring to a thorough work about a particular subject area – “Her book is the bible of cooking.”)

Trade names: (only capitalize the part of a trade name which distinguishes it from other brands)

McDonald’s Big Mac
Arrow shirts
Motorola cell phones

Do not capitalize in the following situations.

Words that are not a specific name:

my elementary school
our writing club

The names of the seasons:


Studies other than languages:

social studies

A title after a modifier:

my aunt
a pastor
three sisters

Remember this rule for capitalizing a title.

Do not cap the “CAP” unless it is the first word. The last “CAP” stands for

C- conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor)
A- articles (the, a, an)
P- prepositions (of, to, for, from)


Gone with the Wind
Of Mice and Men
The Sound of Music
America the Beautiful

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