Capitalization Blues

Capitalization Blues

What to capitalize and what not to capitalize. Here is an attempt to apply some simple rules to a complex issue.

You capitalize the specific names of specific people, places, and things. 

  1. Capitalize the “I” when specifically referring to yourself. 
  2. Capitalize the first letter of sentences including sentences inside quotation marks. 
  3. Capitalize proper names, such as Harriet Tubman, Susan Anthony, Rosalind Franklin, including nicknames, such as The Duke, Magic,  and the personified names of things (Mother Nature, Father Time). 
  4. Capitalize mom, dad, aunt, uncle and so one when it is referring specifically to your mom and dad or other relatives.  However, you don’t capitalize them when you are referring to some mom, dad, aunt, uncle in general.  For example, you don’t capitalize mom in the sentence, “I saw a mom walking with her toddler.”
  5. Capitalize relative designations when they come before someone’s name: Aunt Bea, Uncle Bill, etc. 
  6. Do not capitalize mom, dad, aunt, uncle, and so on when preceded by a possessive pronoun — my, your, our, their — and when referring to some mom, dad, aunt, uncle in general and not yours specifically. 
  7. Capitalize professional designations when they precede someone’s name — Doctor Spock, Police Officer Joe Friday, President Donald Trump, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Professor John Norland. 
  8. Capitalize the names of the months, days of the week, and holidays. For holidays you also capitalize the time designation like Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. We no longer capitalize the seasons for some reason. 
  9. Capitalize the names of specific geographic locations, such as the Midwest, Great Lakes, Great Plains, Northeast (when referring to the US), Rocky Mountains, Lake Michigan, Rock River. Notice that you also capitalize mountains, lake, and river. 
  10. Capitalize the specific names of buildings or places, such as Willis Tower, Yankee Stadium, Stoughton Opera House, Miller Park, Milwaukee County Zoo, Six Flags Great America, Disneyland, Tenney Park, Point Beach, Parker High School, Santa Monica Community College. Notice that you not only capitalize the name but also the type of place — park, college, high school, opera house, stadium. 
  11. Capitalize brand names but not the product, including non-profits. So, in the phrase “Green Giant vegetables,” Green Giant is capitalized because it’s the brand name, but not vegetables because it isn’t part of the brand name. If you don’t know what is a brand name, you can Google it. If you want to denote a brand name, in MS Word, you simply put a lower case “r” in parenthesis after the name and Word will convert it: Green Giant(r) turns into Green Giant® 
  12. Capitalize on the specific names of government agencies — Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ). 
  13. Capitalize religions, races, nationalities, and languages — Christian, Lutheran, Mormon, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, African American, Asian, Caucasian, Irish, German, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese.
  14. Capitalize the scientific names of animals, plants, and diseases, but not the common names. 


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