Capitalization in English

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The capital letter "A" in the Latin alphabet followed by its lower case equivalent.

Capitalization or capitalisation in English grammar is the use of a capital letter at the head of a word. English usage varies from capitalization in other languages.

When to capitalize[edit]

Capital letters are used:

  1. at the beginning of a sentence. This in printing is known as sentence case, where the first letter of the sentence is capitalized, and all others are lower case with the exception of proper nouns. In printing normal sentence case may be substituted by UPPER CASE (all letters are capitalized), and Title Case (where the first letter of each word is capitalized). Capitals are usually not used after a colon.[1]
  2. with some nouns and adjectives, usually if a noun indicates a proper noun.[2][3]
    • pronoun "I".
    • personal and place names: "John", "Mr. Smith", "Amsterdam", "Europe", "Mount Everest", "the Ganges".
    • compass directions when referring to geographical regions: "Western Canada", "I was raised in the South", but not for points on a compass: "London is west of Berlin"[4]
    • national and regional adjectives: "an American" (noun), "an American man" (adjective).
    • religions: "a Catholic church" (adjective).
    • deities and personifications: "God", "Fame".[5]
    • days, months: "Monday", "January", but not seasons such as "autumn"
    • brand names: "Toyota", "Nike", "Coca-Cola", unless the brand itself is purposely not capitalized: "iPhone", eBay".
    • royal titles: "King George III" but "kings and queens of England",[6][7] but only sometimes 'sir' or 'madam'[8]
    • planets and other celestial bodies: "Jupiter", "the Crab Nebula", but not "the earth", "the sun", or "the moon"[9]
    • Words which change their meaning between capitalized and uncapitalized usage, such as "liberal" and "Liberal", are called capitonyms: compare "A man of liberal tastes" and "The leader of the Liberal Party".
    • In legal documents, where the full name of an individual or body is later referred to in short form, in order to avoid ambiguity: "John C. Smith (Plaintiff)", "Exxon-Mobil Corporation (the Company)".

Capitalization of multi-word place names, institutions and titles of works[edit]

English usage is not consistent, but generally prepositions and articles are not capitalized: "the Forest of Dean", "Gone with the Wind", "University of Southampton". With some publications "The" forms part of the title: "reading The Times".[10] For a more detailed explanation see Capitalization § Titles.

Capitalization of acronyms and initialisms[edit]

Generally acronyms and initialisms are capitalized, e.g., "NASA" or "SOS." In British English, only the initial letter of an acronym is capitalized if the acronym is read as a word, e.g., "Unesco."[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The primary English encyclopedia: the heart of the curriculum p40 Margaret Mallett - 2007 "But are the rules for capitalisation in English clearcut? In his detailed account, Tom McArthur (1992) comments that while some people prefer to capitalise the first letter of the first word of a phrase following a colon others keep to"[clarification needed]
  2. ^ English Grammar Simple Capitalisation Guide
  3. ^ L. Sue Baugh Essentials of English Grammar: A Practical Guide to the Mastery of English (9780844258218) Second Edition 1994 p59 "Religious Names and Terms: The names of all religions, denominations, and local groups are capitalized."
  4. ^ Government Printing Office Style Manual, sect 3.21, 3.22
  5. ^ English Grammar For Dummies® Lesley J. Ward, Geraldine Woods - 2010 Capitalizing the deity - Words referring to God require a special capitalization rule.
  6. ^ Franklincovey, Stephen R. Covey Style Guide: For Business and Technical Communication - Page 317 2012 "Capitalize the first letter of titles when they immediately precede personal names, but do not capitalize the first letter when ... 3: Titles used in a general sense are not capitalized: a U.S. representative a king a prime minister an ambassador"
  7. ^ Homer L. Hall, Logan H. Aimone -High School Journalism 2008" 11. Capitalize King and Queen when used before a name. Otherwise, do not capitalize."
  8. ^
  9. ^ The Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing, section 9.1
  10. ^ The New Law Journal: 142 1992 "Mr. Justice Rose has never got out of the habit of reading The Times since he was at Oxford and obtained it at a special ... "I finish the day by reading The Times, usually in bed."
  11. ^ Plush, Hazel. Revealed: The 21 new Unesco World Heritage sites for 2016, The Telegraph. 19 July 2016; retrieved 27 August 2016.