Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Capital letters

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"MOS:CAPS" redirects here. For the style guideline on capitalization in article titles, see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (capitalization). For the guideline on caption construction, see Wikipedia:Captions.

Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization. Most capitalization is for proper names or for acronyms. Wikipedia relies on sources to determine what is a proper name; words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are treated as proper names and capitalized in Wikipedia.

There are exceptions for specific cases discussed hereafter.

Do not use for emphasis[edit]

Initial capitals or all capitals should not be used for emphasis. If wording alone cannot provide the required emphasis, italics should be used:

Not recommended: it is not only a LITTLE learning that is dangerous
Not recommended: it is not only a Little learning that is dangerous
Recommended: it is not only a little learning that is dangerous.

Section headings[edit]

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Use sentence-style capitalization, not title-style capitalization, in section and table headings. Capitalize the first letter of the first word, but leave the rest lower case (except for proper names and other items that would ordinarily be capitalized in running text). Thus Section headings, not Section Headings; Previous club, not Previous Club.

The same applies to the titles of articles; see WP:Article titles § Article title format.

Linking is easier if titles are in sentence case; it is easier for articles to be merged or split if headers resemble titles.

Initial letters in sentences and list items[edit]

The initial letter in a sentence is capitalized. This does not apply if it begins with a letter which is always left uncapitalized (as in "eBay"; see § Items that require initial lower case below), although it is usually preferable to recast the sentence.

When a sentence contains non-final punctuation such as a dash or semicolon, there is no reason to capitalize the following letter, even if it begins a grammatically separate sentence: Cheese is a dairy product; bacon is not. The same usually applies after colons, although sometimes the word following a colon is capitalized, if that word effectively begins a new grammatical sentence, and especially if the colon serves to introduce more than one sentence. See WP:Manual of Style § Colons.

In a list, if each item of the list is a complete sentence, then it should be capitalized like any other sentence. If the list items are sentence fragments, then capitalization should be consistent – sentence case should be applied to either all or none of the items. See WP:Manual of Style § Bulleted and numbered lists.

Proper names[edit]

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Proper names of specific places, persons, terms, etc. are capitalized in accordance with standard usage: Winston Churchill, John de Balliol, Wales, Tel Aviv, Three Great Gardens of Japan, etc.

Most adjectives derived from proper names should be capitalized, e.g. the English people, the London commuter belt, the Kantian imperative, with occasional established exceptions such as teddy bear.

Some terms contain personal names used in a way that does not refer to any specific individual; these are not proper names, and are lower-cased: jack in the pulpit, round-robin.

Capitalization of "The"[edit]

Do not ordinarily capitalize the definite article after the first word of a sentence; however, official names (for example, names of corporations and other entities) and some idiomatic expressions, including the titles of artistic works, should be quoted exactly according to common usage.

Incorrect (generic): an article about The United Kingdom
Correct (generic): an article about the United Kingdom
Incorrect (title): J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings.
Correct (title): J. R. R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings.
Incorrect (title): Homer wrote The Odyssey.
Correct (title): Homer wrote the Odyssey.
Incorrect (exception): public transport in the Hague
Correct (exception): public transport in The Hague

For capitalization of "The" in band and album names, see WP:Manual of Style/Music § Names (definite article).

Titles of people[edit]

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Offices, titles, and positions such as president, king, emperor, pope, bishop, abbot, executive director are common nouns and therefore should be in lower case when used generically: Mitterrand was the French president or There were many presidents at the meeting. They are capitalized only in the following cases:

  • When followed by a person's name to form a title, i.e. when they can be considered to have become part of the name: President Nixon, not president Nixon
  • When a title is used to refer to a specific and obvious person as a substitute for their name, e.g. the Queen, not the queen, referring to Elizabeth II
  • When the correct formal title is treated as a proper name (e.g. King of France; it is correct to write Louis XVI was King of France but Louis XVI was the French king)

When an unhyphenated compound title such as vice president or chief executive officer is capitalized (unless this is simply because it begins a sentence), each word begins with a capital letter: In 1974 Vice President Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States by Chief Justice Warren Burger This does not apply to unimportant words such as the "of" in White House Chief of Staff. When hyphenated, as Vice-president is in some contexts other than U.S. politics, the second (and any subsequent) elements are not capitalized.

Honorifics and styles of nobility should normally be capitalized, e.g. Her Majesty, His Holiness.

Religions, deities, philosophies, doctrines and their adherents[edit]

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Names of organized religions (as well as officially recognized sects), whether as a noun or an adjective, and their adherents start with a capital letter. Unofficial movements, ideologies or philosophies within religions are generally not capitalized unless derived from a proper name. For example, Islam, Christianity, Catholic, Pentecostal and Calvinist are capitalized, while evangelicalism and fundamentalism are not.

Proper names and titles referencing deities are capitalized: God, Allah, Freyja, the Lord, the Supreme Being, the Messiah. The same is true when referring to important religious figures, such as Muhammad, by terms such as the Prophet. Common nouns not used as titles should not be capitalized: the Norse gods, personal god. In a biblical context, God is capitalized only when it refers to the Judeo-Christian deity, and prophet is generally not capitalized.

Transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense also begin with a capital letter: Good and Truth. Nouns (other than names) referring to any material or abstract representation of any deity, human or otherwise, are not capitalized.

Pronouns for deities and figures of veneration are not capitalized, even if capitalized in a religion's scriptures: Jesus addressed his followers, not Jesus addressed His followers (except in a direct quotation).

The names of major revered works of scripture like the Bible, the Qur'an, the Talmud, and the Vedas should be capitalized (but are often not italicized). The adjective biblical should not be capitalized. Koranic is normally capitalized, but usage varies for talmudic, vedic, etc. Be consistent within an article.

Do not capitalize terms denoting types of religious or mythical beings such as angel, fairy or deva. The personal names of individual beings are capitalized as normal (the angel Gabriel). An exception is made when such terms are used to denote ethnicities in fantasy fiction, in which case they are capitalized if the source capitalizes them.

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Philosophies, theories, movements, doctrines, and systems of thought do not begin with a capital letter, unless the name derives from a proper name: lowercase republican refers to a system of political thought; uppercase Republican refers to a specific Republican Party (each party name being a proper name). Even so, watch for idiom: Platonic ideas, or even Platonic Ideas, as a combination of proper nouns, but platonic love. Doctrinal topics or canonical religious ideas that may be traditionally capitalized within a faith are given in lower case in Wikipedia, such as virgin birth (as a common noun), original sin, transubstantiation.

Spiritual or religious events are capitalized only when referring to specific incidents or periods (the Great Flood and the Exodus; but annual flooding and an exodus of refugees).

Science and mathematics[edit]

In the names of scientific and mathematical concepts, only proper names (or words derived from them) should be capitalized: Hermitian matrix, Lorentz transformation. However some established exceptions exist, such as abelian group and Big Bang theory.

Calendar items[edit]

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Capitalize the names of months, days, and holidays: June, Monday, Fourth of July, Michelmas, the Ides of March. Seasons are uncapitalized (a hot summer) except when personified: Soon Spring will show her colors; Old Man Winter.

Animals, plants, and other organisms[edit]

Scientific names[edit]

Scientific names including genus and species (sometimes also subspecies, or other infraspecific names) have an initial capital letter for the genus, but not for the [sub]species (and are always italicized): the tulip tree is Liriodendron tulipifera; all modern humans are Homo sapiens. More specifically:

  • The names of genera are always capitalized (and italicized), even when not paired with a species name: Allosaurus, Falco, Anas.
  • The second part of a binomial species name is never capitalized, even when derived from a proper name (but always italicized), and is always preceded by either the genus name, or a capitalized abbreviation of it if the full version has occurred previously in the same text: Thomson's gazelle is Eudorcas thomsonii or E. thomsonii.
  • In zoology, the same applies to the third part of a trinomial name: the arctic wolf is Canis lupus arctos or C. l. arctos.
  • In botany, the third part of a trinomial is preceded by an indication of rank which is not italicized: Poa secunda subsp. juncifolia, Acanthocalycium klimpelianum var. macranthum.

Cultivar and cultivar group names of plants are not italicized, and are capitalized. Cultivar names appear within single quotes: Malus domestica 'Red Delicious'. Cultivar groups do not use quotation marks, but do include and capitalize the word "Group" in the name: Cynara cardunculus Scolymus Group. While the ICNCP has recently preferred the term "Group" (used by itself and capitalized) to refer to the cultivar group concept, please use the lower-case phrase "cultivar group" (aside from "Group" within an actual scientific name), as it is both less ambiguous and less typographically confusing to the average reader.

Orders, families and other taxonomic ranks above genus level have an initial capital letter (and are not italicized): bats belong to the order Chiroptera; rats and mice are members of the family Muridae and the order Rodentia. However, there is generally an English form derived from the Latin name, and this should not be capitalised (nor italicized): members of the order Chiroptera are chiropters; members of the family Muridae are murids and members of the order Rodentia are rodents.

For more details on article titles with taxonomic terms, including how to italicize their display, see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (fauna).

Common names[edit]

Lower-case initial letters are used for each part of the common (vernacular) names of species, genera, families and all other taxonomic levels (bacteria, zebra, bottlenose dolphin, mountain maple, bald eagle), except where they contain a proper name (Przewalski's horse, Amur tiger, Roosevelt elk), or when such a name starts a sentence (Black bears eat white suckers and blueberries).

As of May 2014, wikiprojects for some groups of organisms are in the process of converting to sentence case where title case was previously used. Some articles may not have been changed yet (this may still be true of bird articles, a few groups of insect articles and some plant ones, as well as a few on amphibians and reptiles).

Names of groups or types[edit]

The common name of a group of species or type of organism is always written in lower case (except where a proper name occurs):

  • New World monkeys, slime molds, rove beetles, great apes, mountain dogs, Van cats

This also applies to an individual creature of indeterminate species.

Celestial bodies[edit]

The words sun, earth, moon and solar system are capitalized (as proper names) when used in an astronomical context to refer to a specific celestial body (our Sun, Earth, Moon and Solar System): The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System; The Moon orbits the Earth. They are not capitalized when used outside an astronomical context (The sky was clear and the sun felt warm), or when used in a general sense (Io is a moon of Jupiter). However, they are capitalized in personifications, as in Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun") was the Roman sun god.

Names of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, stars, constellations, and galaxies are proper names and begin with a capital letter (The planet Mars can be seen tonight in the constellation Gemini, near the star Pollux). The first letter of every word in such a name is capitalized (Alpha Centauri and not Alpha centauri; Milky Way, not Milky way). In the case of compounds with generic terms such as comet and galaxy (but not star or planet), follow the International Astronomical Union's recommended style and include the generic as part of the name and capitalize it (Halley's Comet is the most famous of the periodic comets; Astronomers describe the Andromeda Galaxy as a spiral galaxy).

Compass points[edit]

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Points of the compass (north, southwest, etc.), and their derived forms (northern etc.) are not generally capitalized: nine miles south of Oxford, a northern road. They are capitalized only when they form part of a proper name, such as Great North Road.

Doubts frequently arise when referring to regions, such as eastern Spain, Southern California. If these have attained the status of proper names (as with North Korea, Southern California, Western Europe), then the direction word is capitalized. Otherwise it is not, as with eastern Spain or southwest Poland. If you are not sure whether a region has attained proper-name status, assume it has not.

Follow the same convention for related forms: a person from the Southern United States is a Southerner.

(Notice that compound compass points are usually concatenated in American English, for example northwest, while in British English they are sometimes written as separate words or hyphenated, as in north-west. This also affects names of regions such as Southeastern United States and South East England.)

Institutions[edit]

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  • Names of institutions (George Brown College) are proper names and require capitals. The word the at the start of a title is usually uncapitalized, but follow the institution's own usage (a degree from the University of Sydney; but researchers at The Ohio State University).
  • Generic words for institutions (university, college, hospital, high school) do not take capitals:
Incorrect (generic): The University offers programs in arts and sciences.
Correct (generic): The university offers programs in arts and sciences.
Correct (title): The University of Delhi offers programs in arts and sciences.
  • Political or geographical units such as cities, towns, and countries follow the same rules: as proper names they require capitals; but as generic words (sometimes best omitted for simplicity) they do not.
Incorrect (generic): The City has a population of 55,000.
Correct (generic): The city has a population of 55,000.
Correct (title): The City of Smithville has a population of 55,000.
Correct ("city" omitted): Smithville has a population of 55,000.
Correct ("City" used as proper name): In the medieval period, the City was the full extent of London.

Military terms[edit]

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The general rule is that wherever a military term is an accepted proper name, as indicated by consistent capitalization in sources, it should be capitalized. Where there is uncertainty as to whether a term is generally accepted, consensus should be reached on the talk page.

  • Military ranks follow the same capitalization guidelines as given under titles of people above. For example, Brigadier General John Smith, but John Smith was a brigadier general.
  • Formal names of military units, including armies, navies, air forces, fleets, regiments, battalions, companies, corps, and so forth, are proper names and should be capitalized. However, the words for types of military unit (army, navy, fleet, company, etc.) do not require capitalization if they do not appear in a proper name. Thus, the American army, but the United States Army. Unofficial but well-known names should also be capitalized (the Green Berets, the Guard).
    Correct: the Fifth Company; the Young Guard; the company rallied.
    Incorrect: The Company took heavy losses. The 3rd battalion retreated.
  • Accepted full names of wars, battles, revolts, revolutions, rebellions, mutinies, skirmishes, risings, campaigns, fronts, raids, actions, operations and so forth are capitalized (Spanish Civil War, Battle of Leipzig, Boxer Rebellion, Action of July 8, 1716, Western Front, Operation Sea Lion). The generic terms (war, revolution, battle) take the lowercase form when standing alone (France went to war; The battle began; The raid succeeded). As a rule of thumb, if a battle, war, etc. has its own Wikipedia article with capitalized name, the name should be capitalized in articles linked to it as it is in the article name.
  • Proper names of specific military awards and decorations are capitalized (Medal of Honor, Victoria Cross).

Musical and literary genres[edit]

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Names of musical or literary genres do not require capitalization at all, unless the genre name contains a proper name such as the name of a place. For example:

Incorrect: They are a Psychedelic Rock band.
Correct: They are a psychedelic rock band.
Incorrect: Asimov is widely considered a master of the Science-Fiction genre.
Correct: Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre.

Radio formats such as adult contemporary or classic rock are also not capitalized.

Acronyms[edit]

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Many acronyms are written in all capitals, such as NATO, BBC, JPEG. However some acronyms have gained common usage as ordinary, lowercase words; for example, we write scuba and laser.

Expanded forms of abbreviations[edit]

Do not apply initial capitals in a full term that is a common noun just because capitals are used in its abbreviation.

Incorrect  (not a proper name):    We used Digital Scanning (DS) technology
Correct:   We used digital scanning (DS) technology
Correct: (proper name): produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Similarly, when showing the source of an acronym or syllabic abbreviation, emphasizing the letters that make up the acronym is undesirable:

Incorrect: FOREX (FOReign EXchange)
Incorrect: FOREX (foreign exchange)
Correct: FOREX (foreign exchange)

If it is necessary to do so, for example, to indicate the etymology, use italics: FOREX (from "foreign exchange").

All caps[edit]

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Avoid writing with all capitals, including small caps. Reduce them to one of the other title cases or normal case, as appropriate.

  • Reduce newspaper headlines and other titles from all caps to sentence case or title case. For example, replace the headline "WAR BEGINS TODAY" with "War begins today" or "War Begins Today".[1]
  • Reduce track titles on albums where all or most tracks are listed in all capitals. For which words should be capitalized, see Composition titles, below.
  • Reduce court decisions from all caps. Write Roe v. Wade, even though the decision when issued was "ROE v. WADE".[2]
  • Reduce proclamations, such as those for the Medal of Honor, from all capitals.
  • Reduce text written in all capitals in trademarks – see WP:Manual of Style/Trademarks.
  • Reduce Latin quotations and terms from all capitals.[3] See also WP:Manual of Style/Text formatting § Foreign terms.
  • Avoid writing with all capitals for emphasis; italics are preferred (see Do not use for emphasis above).

Renderings of the Tetragrammaton are written in all capitals; see Template:LORD.

Also see § Acronyms.

Trademarks[edit]

For trademarks, editors should choose among styles already in common use (not invent new ones) and among those use the style that most closely resembles standard English text formatting and capitalization rules. For trademarks that are given in mixed or non-capitalization by their owners (such as adidas), follow standard English text formatting and capitalization rules for proper names (in this case, Adidas). The mixed or non-capitalized formatting should be mentioned in the article lead, or illustrated with a graphical logo.

Trademarks beginning with a one-letter lowercase prefix pronounced as a separate letter, followed by a capitalized second letter, such as iPod and eBay, are written in that form if this has become normal English usage. For considerations relating to such items, see the following section.

Items that require initial lower case[edit]

In contexts where the case of symbols is significant, like those related to programming languages or mathematical notation (for example, the mathematical constant e is not equivalent to E), the correct case should always be retained, even in situations where normal rules would require capitalization, such as at the beginning of a sentence. Try to avoid putting such lowercase symbols at the start of a sentence within running text. (See also Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Mathematics.)

Some individuals do not want their personal names capitalized. In such cases, Wikipedia articles may use lower case variants of personal names if they have regular and established use in reliable third-party sources (for example, k.d. lang). When such a name is the first word in a sentence, the rule for initial letters in sentences and list items should take precedence, and the first letter of the personal name should be capitalized regardless of personal preference.

For proprietary names such as eBay, see Trademarks above.

If an article title begins with such a letter that needs to be in lower case (as in the above examples), use the {{lowercase}} template or equivalent code. Note that it is not currently possible to make categories display with an initial lowercase letter in an article's category box. Hence the link to Category:eBay at the foot of the article eBay must display as "EBay". Similarly the article title eBay will be displayed as "EBay" in the category listing.

Anglo- and similar prefixes[edit]

Most words with prefixes such as Anglo-, Franco-, etc., are capitalized. For example, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-French and Anglo-Norman are all capitalized. However, there is some variation concerning a small number of words of French origin. In French, these words are not capitalized, and this sometimes carries over to English. There are variations by country, and since editors often refer to only one dictionary, they may unwittingly contravene WP:Manual of Style § Varieties of English| by changing usage to that of their own country. In general terms, Americans are most favourable to capitalization and Canadians least favourable, with other countries falling somewhere in between. The main exceptions to the capitalization rule are the following.[4]

  • anglicism, gallicism, etc. These words are often, but not always, capitalized. Anglicism is less likely to be capitalized in Canada.
  • anglicize, gallicize, etc. Anglicize is often capitalized in the U.S., and sometimes in other countries. Gallicize is often capitalized in the U.S., and usually capitalized in other countries.
  • anglophile, francophile, etc. Words in this category are usually capitalized both as nouns and adjectives, except in Canada where they sometimes are.
  • anglophobe, francophobe, etc. Words in this category are capitalized in all countries except Canada, where they sometimes are. The same applies to anglophobic.
  • anglophone, francophone, etc. These words are often capitalized in the U.S. as adjectives, and usually as nouns. They are usually not capitalized in other countries, whether as nouns or adjectives.

Composition titles[edit]

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For complete guidance on the handling of titles of works, see (until the material is better consolidated):

The words that are not capitalized (unless they are the first or last word of the title) are:

  • Articles (a, an, the)
  • Short coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor; also for, yet, so when used as conjunctions)
  • Prepositions containing four letters or fewer (of, to, in, on, for, with, etc.; but see below for instances where these words are not used as prepositions)
  • The word to in infinitives.

The following words should be capitalized:

  • The first and last word of the title
  • Every adjective, adverb, noun, pronoun and subordinating conjunction (Me, It, His, If, etc.)
  • Every verb, including forms of to be (Be, Am, Is, Are, Was, Were, Been)
  • Prepositions that contain five letters or more (During, Through, About, Until, etc.)
  • Words that have the same form as prepositions, but are not being used specifically as prepositions

In hyphenated terms, capitalize each part according to the applicable rule (e.g. The Out-of-Towners). For titles with subtitles or parenthetical phrases, capitalize as if they were separate titles (e.g. "(Don't Fear) The Reaper").

If a work is known by its first line of text and lacks a separate title, then the first line, rendered in sentence case, should be used as its title.

Incorrect:   Remember Not, Lord, Our Offences
Correct:   Remember not, Lord, our offences

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ E.g.: "Troops Use Machine Gun on Boston Mob; 5,000 Guarding City as Riots Continue; City Acclaims Parade of Fighting First". The New York Times. September 10, 1919. Retrieved January 8, 2009. 
  2. ^ Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
  3. ^ The alphabet in which Latin was originally written had no lower case.
  4. ^ Sources have been consulted for the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, but not for Ireland or South Africa. Sources: U.S.: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., The New Oxford American Dictionary. Canada: The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Gage Canadian Dictionary. U.K.: The Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd edition revised), The Concise Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary (English-French). Australia: The Australian Oxford Dictionary. New Zealand: The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary.

External links[edit]