Uppercases in Spanish: A practical guide (Part 2) Posted by Anais on Sep 22, 2021 in Spanish Grammar
Following our last entry about uppercases usage in Spanish, we will be focusing on the instances regarding capital letters in whole sentences and at the beginning of certain nouns regardless of the punctuation before them.
You will find many examples of whole phrases written in uppercase, like the names of literary works printed on covers, main headlines on newspapers, and titles, sections or chapters in a book.
In the same vein, abbreviations formed with less than four letters—like “ISBN”— are typically shown in capital letters. Any acronym made up of more than four letter just need its first letter to be capitalized (like “Unesco”), and all those having become proper nouns in themselves are treated as regular common nous (like “láser” from “laser” or “ovni” from “UFO”.)
Generally, uppercase letters are also applied for a whole sentence whenever you need to convey an important message on a board or using either a sign or a poster.
Now regarding nouns starting with capital letters, there are many different examples where Spanish and English shows different rules:
- The names of zodiacal signs (Taurus, Gemini), though they are never capitalized when referring to a person with that star sign (“mi hermano es sagitario” for “my brother is a Sagittarius”).
- The compass points when referring directly to them (“vamos hacia el Norte” for “we are headed north”), but in lowercase when talking about a relative position or direction (“ya estamos en el sur de Venezuela” for “we are now in the south of Venezuela”).
- Only the first letter of the names of written works—any proper names contained as part of that title will be capitalized as usual; for example, “El corazón delator” for “The Tell-Tale Heart”.
- Nouns and adjectives being part of the official name of any code or law, like “Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos” for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Any noun or adjective being part of the official denomination of awards, decorations or events (“anoche vi los Premios Oscar” for “last night I watched the Oscars”; “no quiero perderme los partidos del Mundial de 2022” for “I don’t want to miss any match of the 2022 World Cup”).
As you may have noticed, there are some cases where Spanish distinguishes itself from English with respect to uppercase usage. With that in mind, we will go deeper into those differences in my next blog entry. Until then!
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