English Language Blog

Capitalization Rules Posted by on Sep 12, 2012 in English Grammar

Here is a little review of the rules of capitalization in English.  The following is a list of when you should use capitalization.

Always capitalize:

  • The first word of a sentence,  Example: When is it time to go?
  • The pronoun “I”, Example: James and I will be visiting Germany next month.
  • Proper nouns (the names of specific people, places, organizations, and sometimes things), Examples: James, Mr. Smith, Missouri, WWF, the Atlantic Ocean,
  • Family relationships (but only when used as proper names), Example: I sent a thank you note to my Aunt Erin for the present she sent me.  She is my favorite aunt.  She is my mom’s sister.
  • The names of God, specific deities, religious figures, and holy books, Examples: God, the Virgin Mary, the Koran, Shiva, Zeus  (Exception – do not capitalize the nonspecific use of the word “god.”) Example: The word “polytheistic” means the worship of more than one god.
  • Titles preceding names, but not titles that follow names, Examples: My cousin works as the assistant to Mayor Bloomberg.  Because of this connection I was able to interview Mr. Bloomberg, mayor of New York.
  • Directions that are names North, South, East, and West (when used as sections of the country, but not when used as compass directions), Example: My family has recently moved to the Southwest.  Our house is two miles north of the highway.
  • The days of the week, the months of the year, and holidays, but not the seasons, Examples: Friday, April, Halloween, winter (Exception – seasons are capitalized when used in a title.) Example: The Fall 2012 semester begins in September.
  • The names of countries, nationalities, and specific languages, Examples: Costa Rica, Zambian, Tagalog
  • The first word of a direct quote in a sentence, Example: My grandfather always said, “Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.”
  • The major words in the titles of books, articles, or songs (don’t capitalize short prepositions or the articles “the,” “a,” or “an,” if they are not the first word of the title), Example: The Catcher in the Rye.
  • Members of national, political, racial, social, civic, and athletic groups, Examples: Chinese, Democrats, African-Americans, Young Women’s Christian Association, Rotary Club, Lakers
  • Periods and events in history but not century numbers, Examples: the Great Depression, Victorian England, sixteenth century
  • Books, magazines, movies, Examples: The Betty Corker Cookbook, National Geographic, Star Wars

I hope these rules are helpful.  Are there any questions you have about capitalization?  You can post a question in the comments below.  Tomorrow I will have some capitalization practice for you so you can work on remembering these many rules.

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


  1. Rose Lee:

    Good information. have More stuff about Use of Capitalization in English quickly to share.