Upper or Lower?
Capitalization is the practice of making certain words begin with uppercase or capitalized letters when needed.
This hardly seems something that might be confusing. Beginnings of sentences; names of places and people; are to be capitalized. That’s simple enough. But there are other places too where capitalization is to be used—and many where they shouldn’t be.
Capitalization is NOT to be used randomly anywhere in the sentence, on a whim. Part of learning the correct use of capital letters is to know where not to use them.
Like other grammar rules, knowing the right way to use capitalization is important. It reflects poorly on your credibility as a writer if you don’t follow the rules. Claiming English is my second or third language so I don’t know doesn’t really wash. It is perfectly alright if you don’t know but it isn’t if you make no effort to learn. If you’re going to use a tool, you might as well learn to use it appropriately. After all, you don’t want the impact of your writing diluted, do you?
Ill-fitting grammar are like ill-fitting shoes. You can get used to it for a bit, but then one day your toes fall off and you can't walk to the bathroom. ~ Jasper Fforde Click To Tweet
If there is excessive usage of capitalization in inappropriate places, a discerning reader would chalk you down as an inexperienced writer. If brand names or proper names aren’t capitalized, your reader would see it as a lack of attention to detail. Either assessment is the last thing you want, right?
Standard Capitalization Rules
Always capitalize the first letter of a word in the beginning of a sentence.
Always capitalize the pronoun “I” and its variations: I’ll, I’m, I’ve, I’d.
Proper Noun Rules
Names of People
Public figures, specific people and special nicknames are all to be capitalize. Anything which is a name, or is used as a name, is to be capitalized.
- Uppercase: Joan of Arc, Jeffery Archer, my dog Toby, my motorcycle Rampyari
- Lowercase: charity worker, writer, sister or friend (when used generically)
Names of Places
Landmarks, buildings, cities, states, geographical regions, countries, and continents are all to be capitalized.
- Uppercase: Lodhi Garden, Parijat Building, North East, Mumbai, Gujarat, India, Asia
- Lowercase: the garden, the building, left, city, state, country, continent
Names of Organizations
Capitalize political, government, national, racial, social, civil, religious, and athletic groups.
- Uppercase: Red Cross, Peace Corps, Mumbai Indians, Africans, Conservatives
- Lowercase: community, charity, the hockey team, politician
Capitalize specific product names, names of companies, names of websites, and trademarked words.
- Uppercase: Maggi, Limca, iPad, Google, Domino’s
- Lowercase: noodles, cola, tablet, search engine, pizza
I don't know the rules of grammar. If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language. ~ David Ogilvy Click To Tweet
Capitalize days of the week, months of the year, and holidays.
- Uppercase: Monday, December, Diwali, Krishna Janmashtami
- Lowercase: today, next month, the party
Capitalize the names of family members when you’re using the family title in place of their real name and capitalize their family title when it’s part of their name.
- Uppercase: I respect Father. / My Aunt Meena is coming over for lunch today.
- Lowercase: I love my mother. / My aunt is really sweet.
Capitalize professional titles when they precede a name, but not following the name.
- Uppercase: You should call Mayor Dubey.
- Lowercase: I called Vivek Dubey, mayor of my city.
Acronyms are abbreviations of longer phrases represented by a series of letters. All acronyms should be capitalized.
- Uppercase: SEO, MLM, JPEG, MLB, ATM
- Lowercase: Very few exceptions because acronyms often abbreviate proper nouns.
When you’re writing—whether a novel, a short story or an article—it is true that your content is most important. But your content is the letter inside the envelope. If the envelope is crumpled and bedraggled, not many will be able to imagine the excellence of the letter which reposes safely within. Your presentation and grammar are envelopes. Don’t let the envelope turn people away from the letter that you have poured your soul into.
These are the most common situations where capitalization is needed—or to be avoided. What are your biggest capitalization goofs, do tell us in the comments below!