5.10.1.1: Rules of Capitalization

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Rules of Capitalization

1.  Always capitalize the first word in every sentence.

When will I ever learn to speak English?
My sister lives in Rhode Island.

2.  Always capitalize the word “I” wherever it appears in a sentence.

My sister, my brother, and I liked to laugh a lot when we were kids.
My dog and I often go to the park together.

3.  Capitalize the first word of a direct quotation.

John said to his friend, “You had better get down to the store right away.”
“I’ll see you later,” was the last thing the boy said to his parents.
“Wherever you go,” John said, “will cause me to follow.”

4.  Capitalize the names of people.

John, Mary, Bob, Robert, Inna, Mohammed, Jose, Tommy, Ivone, Xuan Mai, Atsuko

Bob and Mary will come to Seattle next year.
I always enjoy seeing my friends Roger and Doug.

5.  Capitalize the actual names of places.

Seattle, Safeco Field, South Seattle Community College, America, Vietnam, New York

We went to Boston to a baseball game at Fenway Park last year.
I was at Harvard University with a friend of mine from Le Puy, France.

6.  Capitalize the actual names of bodies of water and mountains.

the Pacific Ocean, Lake Washington, Green Lake, Mount Rainier, the Cascade Mountains

The Columbia River flows through southern Washington and empties into the Pacific Ocean.
A lot of people like to climb mountains during the summer.  Last year a friend of mine climbed Mount Rainier and Mount Baker.

7.  Capitalize the actual names of schools, buildings, and businesses.

Washington State University, Nathan Hale High School, the Selig Building, Cascade Court, Microsoft, Boeing Aircraft Company

Both of my sons will either go to the University of Washington or to some other university in 2006.

We attend class in Cascade Court, which is the building where my office is also located.

Many people in Seattle work for Microsoft or various other software companies.

8.  Capitalize the names of the days of the week, months of the year, and holidays.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday, January, August, December, Labor Day, Christmas, Tet, Ramadan

On Tuesday and Wednesday, April 16 and 17, I will be absent from school.

My birthday was August 24, 1945.  This year my birthday will fall on a Thursday.

On New Year’s Eve a lot of people drink too much alcohol.  Our only holidays this quarter are Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President’s Day.  My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.

Do not capitalize the seasons of the year: summer, fall, autumn, winter, and spring.

9.  Capitalize the first word in a letter salutation and in a complementary closing.

Dear John, Dear Mr. Jones, Dearest Darling, Sincerely yours, Yours truly, Love, Love always

10.  Capitalize the actual names of streets, avenues, boulevards, lanes, etc.

Phinney Avenue North, First Avenue, Ambaum Boulevard, East Marginal Way South, Cedar Lane, 16th Avenue Southwest

I walked along First Avenue when I went to Safeco Field last Friday with my friend Doug.
My address is 9548 Phinney Avenue North, which is located in the north end of Seattle.

11.  Capitalize the names of regions of the country and world.

South America, the Middle East, the Pacific Northwest, East Africa, the Orient, Southeast Asia

I lived for two years in North Africa.  I grew up in New England.  The Lake Region of England is very famous.  The North Pole is very cold.  We live on the West Coast of America.

12.  Capitalize nationalities, languages, and religions.

Brazilian, Vietnamese, American, Mexican, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Ukrainian, French, Italian, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Buddhism, Jewish, Islam, Bahai, Shinto, Hindu, Jehovah Witness

I am an American, but my ancestry is French and Italian.  I was raised a Roman Catholic.
Many Norwegian Protestants live in Seattle.
Some Chinese people are Moslems.  Mexican people speak Spanish and Indian languages.
We ate in a Russian restaurant on Easter Sunday with some Catholic friends of ours.
Jews and Moslems have not fought with each other throughout history as many people think.

13.  Capitalize school subjects if they are the actual names of the courses along with a number or if the subject is the name of a language.

History 101, Chemistry 222, French, Italian, Western Civilization 111, Philosophy 212

I want to take a history course.  I want to take History 244.  Some students want to take a psychology course next quarter.  Many want to take Psychology 141.  Some people love studying foreign languages like French or Spanish.

14.  Capitalize titles before a person’s name or titles which are used in place of names.

Mr. Bissonnette, Mrs. Dang, Dr. Griffin, Governor Gregoire, President Bush, Father O’Brien, Aunt Grace, Uncle Charlie, Dad, Mom, Granny, Senator Cantwell

I spoke to the parish priest, Father Gagnon, last year.  The mayor of Seattle is Mayor Maguin.
One of my uncles, Uncle Carl, used to take me to baseball games when I was a boy.

15.  Capitalize the first, last, and other important words in a title.  Do not capitalize prepositions, conjunctions, or articles unless they are the first or last word in the title.

A Farewell to Arms, The Call of the Wild, War and Peace, Great Chinese Travelers, The Old Man and the Sea, Elements of Style, Like a Rolling Stone, With God on Our Side, Blowing in the Wind

16.  Usually (but not always) capitalize the first word in every line of poetry.

Half a league, half a league
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

17.  Capitalize sacred names (names of God) and books.

God, Allah, Jehovah, Ghoda, Vishnu, the Bible, the Koran, the Vedas, the Talmud, the Gita

People believe that there is only one God, but they call Him by different names.  For example, some people call God Jesus; others call Him Allah; still others call Him Yahweh.  In religious books, such as the Bible, the Koran, and the Talmud, these are the names they use for the same God.  Basically, only the name is different.

18.  Capitalize historical periods, events, and documents.

the Middle Ages, the American Civil War, the Declaration of Independence, the U. S. Constitution

In 1215, King John of England signed the Magna Carta, which established habeas corpus as a basic principal of English common law.  1215 was during the Middle Ages, according to the Christian calendar.
The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.  The United States Constitution became the law of the land in 1789.
Many people consider World War One and World War Two to be part of the same war.

19.  Capitalize acronyms and many abbreviations.

NASA, Ken Griffey Jr., U. S. A., B. A. degree, A. F. T., AAA, HUD, Mr. Smith

NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Jr. after a man’s name means that that man has exactly the same name as his father.  For example, Ken Griffey Jr. is named after Ken Griffey Sr.  Jr. means junior and Sr. means senior.
I have both a B. A. and an M. A.  B. A. stands for Bachelor of Arts and M. A. stands for Master of Arts.  Ph. D stands for doctor of philosophy.

20.  Basically, when trying to decide whether to capitalize or not, you must think and decide if you are using the actual names of people, places, and things.  If you are using the actual names of persons, places, and things, then use capital letters.

Exercise 42: Please capitalize the following sentences. Be careful.

1. while i was walking down the road, i saw a little boy on the corner of pine street and fifth avenue near the benson building.

2. dr. jones wanted to do three things before he went home: make a phone call, study a report, and lock his medicine cabinet.

3. the boy’s father wanted him to pass the exam; therefore, he made him study three afternoons a week: monday, tuesday, and thursday.

4. although john f. kennedy was a rich man, many poor people loved him.

5. it’s 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, and billy still isn’t home from his school.

6. they’ll bring the knife and its diamond studded sheath to the store to try to sell it to the store’s owner, mr. j. j. johnson.

7. wow!  did you see the 1947 cadillac which the andersons just bought?

8. the woman i saw was mrs. simpson, bart’s mother.

9. i know they’ve tried to fix the problem many times, but it still hasn’t improved at all.

10. my brother carl likes to drive big cars; on the other hand, i like to drive small ones like the ones our parents used to have.

11. by the time we got there, the house’s occupants had put out the fire; however, they hadn’t shut off the electricity.

12. we live in seattle, washington, which is one of the most beautiful cities in america, but it is also one of its wettest.

13. the women’s basketball team lost to the kent state university team on wednesday evening at the joseph p. billings auditorium; however, they’re still eligible to play one more game on friday.

14.  i love robert frost’s poem “stopping by woods on a snowy evening.”  its first four lines are

whose wood these are i think i know.
his house is in the village though;
he will not see me stopping here
to watch his woods fill up with snow.

Exercise 43:  Please capitalize and punctuate the following sentences. Be careful.

1. while i was walking down the road i saw a little boy on the corner of pine street and fifth avenue near the benson building

2. dr jones wanted to do three things before he went home make a phone call study a report and lock his medicine cabinet

3. the boys father wanted him to pass the exam therefore he made him study three afternoons a week monday tuesday and thursday

4. although john f kennedy was a rich man many poor people loved him

5. its 5 00 o'clock in the afternoon and billy still isnt home from his school

6. theyll bring the knife and its diamond studded sheath to the store to try to sell it to the stores owner mr j j johnson

7. wow did you see the 1947 cadillac which the andersons just bought

8. the woman i saw was mrs simpson barts mother

9. i know theyve tried to fix the problem many times but it still hasnt improved at all

10. my brother carl likes to drive big cars on the other hand i like to drive small ones like our parents car

11. by the time we got there the houses occupant had put out the fire however he hadnt shut off the electricity

12. we live in seattle washington which is one of the most beautiful cities in america but also one of its wettest

13. the womens basketball team lost to the kent state university team on wednesday evening at the joseph p billings auditorium however theyre still eligible to play one more game on friday

14.  i saw a beautiful girl named ellen at my high school basketball game

15.  sometimes people do stupid things such as making fun of other people

16.  have you ever seen a baseball game in seattle

17.  my grandparents came from canada and italy but my parents were born in america

18.  my father whom i loved very much spoke french before he spoke english

Exercise 44: Capitalize and punctuate the following sentences, please.

1.  we went into the building next to cascade court last friday

2.  my sister and i often played in the snow in winter in massachusetts

3.  the ocean i swam in when i was a boy was the atlantic ocean

4.  my students come to school from monday through friday during winter

5.  on veterans day on november 11th many veterans march in parades

6.  in the cascade mountains to the east of seattle there are some very beautiful mountains and lakes

7.  i first went to mount rainier in 1980 with my friends lisa and lance

8.  i swam in the mediterranean sea this past summer with my wife and friends

9.  the seattle mariners the home baseball team in seattle will begin playing baseball in safeco field in seattle in april and will continue until october

10.  my friend a mechanic works for matt’s auto center in the greenwood area of the city which is located near green lake

11.  independence day in america is celebrated on the fourth of july

12.  john asked do i have to go lake washington this afternoon

13.  seattle central college is located to the east of the center of the city and is the only college on capitol hill

14.  teachers often ask students in school to do a lot of homework during the week

15.  my sister rosanne who lives in the state of rhode island loves to swim in the ocean during the summer

16.  we need to fix our car a 1999 ford taurus at tonys auto body on greenwood avenue

17.  i saw president obama on television on monday evening

18.  george bush was the 43rd president of the united states

19.  all of you are taking esl 095 this quarter

20.  south seattle college is located in west seattle

Exercise 45:  Correct the capitalization errors in the following sentences, please.

1.  mary and bob went up the space needle at seattle center two weeks ago.

2.  on top of mount baker near the city of bellingham, washington, there is always snow, even in summer.

3.  i drive a ford taurus to school every monday through friday.

4.  both of my sons, alex and andré, were born in group health hospital on capitol hill.

5. the university of washington is the most famous university in the state of washington.

6.  my sister’s birthday is december 18, and on her next birthday she will be 65 years old.

7.  i used to swim in green lake and lake washington when i first came to seattle from the state of idaho.

8.  the twin towers of the world trade center were struck by terrorists on september 11, 2001, when i was with my uncle in alaska.

9.  the faces of four united states’ presidents are carved on mount rushmore in north dakota, which is directly north of south dakota.

10.  martin luther king junior was a very brave man and a wonderful speaker.

11.  my favorite season is spring because the days get longer, the weather warms up a lot, and the seattle mariners begin to play baseball at safeco field.

12.  elliot bay is the name of the water near the center of seattle across from the pike place market.

13.  my family and i went to australia, indonesia, and singapore during the summer of 1999 for a long vacation.

14.  chinese new year (tet in vietnam) will be celebrated later on in the month of january.

15.  the pacific ocean is bigger than the atlantic ocean, and both oceans are on either side of the united states, separating america from asia and Europe.

5.10.1.1: Rules of Capitalization is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Don Bissonnette.