Spelling: Capitals

To capitalize or not to capitalize? The answer isn’t as philosophical as to be or not to be. In other languages, capitalization rules can vary drastically, but the rules for English are, I’ve found, fairly straightforward.

Beginning of a Sentence

Capitalize the first word of every sentence.

  • e.g. A sentence like this one should be capitalized at the beginning. Sentences following exclamations should also be capitalized! And sentences following a question? Yes.

*Note: dialogue tags do not count as their own sentence and should not be capitalized.

  • e.g. “Where are we going?” he asked. NOT “Where are we going?” He asked.

Proper Nouns and Names

Serving as a name to a specific person, place, or thing, proper nouns should be capitalized.

  • e.g. The sixteenth president of the United States of America was Abraham Lincoln.
  • e.g. “We’re going to the Royal Tyrell Museum, not just any old museum!”
  • e.g. The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
  • e.g. Martha and Kelly went to the mall, then went to the beach.


Always capitalize ‘I’ when it’s on its own. It is the only pronoun which is capitalized.

  • e.g. “Quinn and I are going for a walk later.”

Quotations and Dialogue

Capitalize the beginning of a sentence within dialogue even if it’s not the start of the sentence overall.

  • e.g. Jake said, “Let’s go build a tree fort.”

Titles and Family Relationships

Titles like doctor, general, or professor shouldn’t be capitalized within sentences. Only capitalize them when they are used in place of someone’s name or as part of their title. Family relationships like ‘mom,’ ‘dad,’ and ‘uncle’ also follow these rules.

  • e.g. The general led the way into the meeting room. [generic general; not capitalized]
  • e.g. “What can I do to increase my grade, Professor?” Felix asked. [used as a title in place of the professor’s name; capitalized]
  • e.g. Teddy bears are named after President Theodore Roosevelt. [used as a title together with the president’s name; capitalized]
  • e.g. “My mom made us snacks,” Trevor told his friends. [my mom instead of just Mom; not capitalized]
  • e.g. The three kids spent the weekend with Uncle Joe, who took them to the water slides, then the movies.
  • e.g. “Look, look! It’s Grandpa!” Maria told her son, who squealed in delight.

Months, Days, Holidays

In English, these are always capitalized.

  • e.g. Darla worked Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. She had Wednesdays and weekends off.
  • e.g. Georgina’s favourite month was December because that was when they celebrated St. Nicholas Day, and after that, they celebrated Christmas.

Trademarked Names

Like proper nouns, company names, logos, and trademarks should also be capitalized.

  • e.g. Matthew searched Google for directions to the closest Starbucks. He drove there and ordered a caramel Frappuccino.

After a Colon

This is an instance where you DO NOT capitalize. Unless the following word is a proper noun (or anything else discussed above) it should not be capitalized, as it’s not the start of a new sentence (like with semi-colons).

  • e.g. Michelle has a range of favourite genres: mystery, drama, horror, fantasy, romance.
  • e.g. There are four States beginning with the letter A: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas.

*Note: The first word following a colon in a title should be capitalized, even if it’s a common word.

  • e.g. Daniel was very interested in reading the book Demons of the Day: A History of Vampires.

Related Article(s):
Spelling: Commonly Misspelled Words

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