#EdenLit - Lessons: Capitalization

Airen Wolf Airen Wolf
Capitalization Rules

First of all, you capitalize some words on the plaque of the Capitol Building! So, capital refers to a city that is a seat of government, wealth in the form of money, an upper case letter, and a form of punishment....and there are actually many more definitions of this spelling of the word.
Capitol is almost always the building where government happens. So remember that if you aren't talking about a building you are probably going to need the word CAPITAL.

Now let's talk about what actually needs to be capitalized! In English we capitalize proper nouns. These are people, places, and things that have specific names.
For example: You live in a regular old house but the President lives in the White House.
Not all white houses are the White House. You get the idea! Generally if you are using generalizations then you don't need to capitalize. If you are talking about a certain specific noun then you will need to capitalize.

There are as many as 11 rules of capitalization or as few as 3 rules depending on how you group the rules.
*First letter of a sentence- it should go without saying that you ALWAYS capitalize the first word of a sentence...except when writing poetry or taking literary license. When writing formally, however, all first letters of sentences must be capitalized. If the sentence is a quotation inside of a larger sentence, you should capitalize the first letter but only if it is a complete sentence. If it's a phrase or paraphrase and it fits neatly if is not necessary to capitalize the first letter.

For example: The horse trainer said, "Take your horses in that direction," and gestured vaguely.
The horse trainer suggested we "take them that way," and gestured vaguely.

* The pronoun "I" - In formal writing, such as reviews of products, the pronoun "I" is ALWAYS capitalized, without exception. Other pronouns are only capitalized when they begin a sentence. Notable exceptions are the pronouns "He" and "She" when used to refer to deity.

*Names (people) - You capitalize the first, middle and last names of people. You will also capitalize the suffixes and titles as well.

For example: Martin Luther King Jr., Alexander the Great, Airen Wolf, Mr. John Smith, Dr. Joseph White

Titles can be Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc but they also apply to times when you use a title to refer to a person as though it were their full name: President Obama. When we refer to him in this manner we are saying the title and his last name as though it were his full name. If we were to mention that Barack Obama is president of the United States we would not capitalize "president".

*Names (bodies of water) - Again if you are talking about a specific river, ocean, lake, stream you capitalize the name. If you simply mean any generic body of water then you do not capitalize the word.

For example: Missouri River, Indian Ocean, Cripple Creek

*Names (buildings, monuments, tunnels, bridges)- Even man made objects can have specific names used to describe them. These are capitalized!

For example: the Sears Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Notice that the word "the" is not capitalized as it is not part of the proper name.

*Names (streets)- You will need to capitalize the actual name of the street (Oak) and the type of road (Street, Boulevard, etc.). Both parts of the name are needed to form the entire name of the road: Oak Street.

*Names (types of schools)- If you are talking about a specific school by it's proper name then the entire name must be capitalized.If you abbreviate the name of the school, such as the monstrosity of a name of the high school I attended, you will need to capitalize each of the first letters of the words: NBCRHS. If you are referring to elementary school, grade school, high school, college etc. in general terms, you do not need to capitalize the word.

For example: Harvard University, Northern Burlington Country Regional High School, State Fair Community College, and Happy Valley Elementary School

*Names (political divisions: continents, regions, countries, states, cities, and towns)- When you refer to a specific region (such as the Midwest) you capitalize. Again, it is only when you are referring to the proper name of a specific area use capitalization.

*Titles of books, movies, magazines, newspapers, articles, songs, plays and works of art- If you refer to the proper name of the specific book, movie, newspaper etc. you use capitalization. Now, if the proper title of the work begins with "the" you should capitalize.

For example: The Washington Post, The Ethical Slut, and The Crucible.

If the first word of the proper title or name begins with "a" or "an" then it is capitalized. Likewise if a preposition is the first word you must capitalize the word.

For example: An Exposition on Inflationary Cosmology, Of Mice and Men
Notice that I do not capitalize prepositions in the middle of a title: of, on, the, etc.

For a quick and easy cheat sheet:
*Is it the first letter of a sentence? Capitalize!
*Is it the pronoun I? Capitalize!
*Is it the proper name of a person, place or thing? Capitalize!
10/01/2012
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Adriana Ravenlust Adriana Ravenlust
Useful!
11/26/2012
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