English Language Blog

When to use capital letters in English. Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 in English Grammar

Take a look at these rules for capitalizing words in English from Grammer.net.

From: http://www.grammar.net/

Image from http://www.grammar.net/hi-res.

You’ll see here that for most of the rules that are presented, there are also exceptions or additions to the rules. It is good to know not only these general rules, but also how to use them in context, i.e. the exceptions and additions.

Below I have listed some more rules for when to properly use capital letters in English.  I know that learning all these rules may seem like a lot at first, but over time, following most of them will become second nature to you and you’ll only need reminders about a few of these rules. See if today you can memorize one new rule for when to use capital letters in English that you didn’t know before.

Review of the rules from the graphic above:
•    Capitalize proper nouns.
•    Capitalize acronyms or abbreviations of proper nouns.
•    Capitalize the first word of a quoted sentence.
•    Capitalize a person’s title when it precedes the name.
•    Capitalize names of geographic areas when they refer to specific regions.
•    Capitalizes days, months and holiday names, but don’t capitalize season names.

Additional capitalization rules:

Capitalize the first word of a sentence.
Example: The dog lives outside.

Capitalize words derived from proper nouns.
Example: Next semester I have to take English, math, and science.
 (The word ‘English’ is capitalized because it comes from the proper noun ‘England,’ but math and science are not capitalized because they don’t come from proper nouns).

Capitalize the names of specific courses in school.
Example: Next semester I have to take Advanced English, Algebra I, and a biology class.

Capitalize a person’s title when it follows their name on an address or a signature line.
John Baker, President & CEO

 Ms. Gabriele, Blogger

Capitalize the first word of a salutation or greeting that is made in writing and the first word of the closing or signature line.
ear Ms. Mohamed:
y dearest mother:
ery truly yours,

Capitalize title words when they are used to directly address a person.
 Will you tell me what is wrong with me, Doctor?
(But don’t capitalize doctor in: The doctor told me what is wrong.)

Capitalize at least the first and last words of a book title and most other words within a title. Do not capitalize little words in book titles such as: a, an, the, but, as, if, and, or, nor, but always capitalize forms of the verb ‘to be’: Is, Are, and Be in book titles.
What Color Is Your Parachute?
A Tale of Two Cities

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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.