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English Grammar: Capitalization

Billy Goat, English Grammar, Grammar

In English grammar, it’s far more common to capitalize a word which should not be capitalized, than to fail to capitalize a word which should be capitalized.

Many writers capitalize the names of certain things which they consider important or crucial to their subject, but which are not in the title, such as “Life” and “Death.”

Occasionally there is an almost random pattern of capitalization, in which the writer arbitrarily capitalizes words which he wishes to emphasize. For example, one might write, “I went to the House to find Sally, and there was a Dog in the yard that Bit me.” In this sentence, only “I” and “Sally” are properly capitalized.

The basic rules of capitalization are very strict about what should and should not be capitalized.

The First Word of Every Sentence

In English grammar, the first word of every sentence should always be capitalized, regardless of whether the first word is in quotes or not. This is wrong:

“He said, “you People just don’t Know anything.'”

Corrected, the sentence would read:

“He said, ‘You people just don’t know anything.'”


In English grammar, the proper pronoun, “I” is always capitalized. Other than that, only pronouns which begin a sentence, or which refer to deities should be capitalized. The following is incorrect.

“I spoke to Jesus Gonzales in my dream, and He responded.”

Since Jesus Gonzales is clearly not a deity, “he” should be in lower case. This is an example of proper capitalization, in regards to a deity.

“I spoke to Jesus of Nazareth in my dream, and He responded.”

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Similarly, the names of holy people, places and objects are always capitalized in English grammar. However, holy experiences are not capitalized. This is wrong:

“In my Vision, the virgin Mary was holding the holy bible in her hand.”

Corrected, this would read:

“In my vision, the Virgin Mary was holding the Holy Bible in her hand.”

The names of religions and their followers should be capitalized. This is wrong:

“The christians and the muslims are always at odds with each other.”

The properly capitalized sentence would read:

“The Christians and the Muslims are always at odds with each other.

Proper Names

The names of people should always be capitalized in English grammar. The following is incorrect:

“There’s a Billy Goat in my yard who is making my Kitty very nervous.”

Since “billy goat” and “kitty” both refer to types of animals, rather than their proper names, these words should not be capitalized. For example:

“Billy Davis came to town, and met Kitty Arbuckle at the station.”

Personal Titles

In English grammar, many people wrongfully capitalize the names of people’s professions, such as “doctor” or “lawyer.” These words should only be capitalized when they are used as a title. This is wrong:

“I think that Doctors and Lawyers make too much money.”

In English grammar, it is correct to write, “Dr. Smith went to Washington.” “Will we go to Washington, Doctor?” is also correct. However, if “doctor” is not used as a title, it should not be capitalized. “Smith is a doctor from Washington.”

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Only the most important positions and organizational groups are capitalized, when not used as titles. “He was elected President of the United States.” “He is a member of Congress.”

When a person is referred to by a proper name which is not their given name, it is capitalized. For example, “Mom” and “Dad” should be capitalized if you are addressing them directly by these names. However, when not directly referring to them by these terms, the words should not be capitalized. This is incorrect:

“My Mom and my Dad went on vacation.”

Corrected, this would read:

“My mom and dad went on vacation.”

When in doubt, look it up.

English Grammar: Capitalization

Proper Names

English grammar requires that proper names of places or important structures be capitalized. “I saw the Washington Monument,” is properly capitalized, because the Washington Monument is the proper name of an important building. However, if using the term in a general sense, it is not capitalized. “I saw a monument on my trip to Washington.”

Knowing what is and is not a proper name is simply a matter of memorization.

Brand Names

In English grammar, brand names should be capitalized. However, the names of products should not be capitalized. This is wrong:

“The pain reliever Tylenol contains Acetaminophen.”

Corrected, this would read:

“The pain reliever Tylenol contains acetaminophen.”

Other Titles

In English grammar, the titles of books, articles, movies, and music should also be capitalized. You should also capitalize the titles of organizations, such as government organizations and businesses, and educational courses. In some cases, the rules vary, so find a good reference you feel you can trust.

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The basic rule for titles, is that all words in the title, except for prepositions, must be capitalized. “The War of the Worlds,” “How Much Is that Doggy in the Window?” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” are correctly capitalized. “Federal Bureau of Investigation,” “Bed Bath and Beyond,” and “Math 101,” are also correct.

When these words are not used in a title, do not capitalize them. “The world was at war.” “The bureau got federal funding.” “I’m taking a bath and then going to bed.” “I hate math.”

Holidays and Days of the Month and Week

In English grammar, holidays, such as Christmas and Halloween, as well as days of the month and week, such as June and Wednesday. However, do not capitalize dates. This is wrong:

“It was Sunday, July Seventh.”

This is right:

“It was Sunday, July seventh.”

English Grammar: Capitalization

Capitalization Exceptions

Certain words have unusual capitalization in English grammar, such as eBay and iPod. These words should always be capitalize the same way, regardless of where they occur in the sentence. For example, if eBay begins a sentence, it should still begin with a lower case “e.” “eBay sellers often have difficulty finding things to sell.”

“The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.” Grammarbook. URL: (http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/capital.asp)
Kathy McLain, M.A. “When Should I Capitalize?” Paradise Valley Community College. URL: (http://www.pvc.maricopa.edu/lsc/faq/eng/enggrawhen.htm)