JS Tip 172: From the Writing Workshops: cAPItaliZING

Donna Millet of IMFlash Technology asks, “When are you going to talk about capitalizing letters? I’m always putting a capital on a letter and being told I don’t need one.”

We can talk about capitalizing letters. This may take a couple of tips.

The principle is—

Capitalize the first letter of a word only when you have a reason to.

Here are some reasons to capitalize—or not—the first letter of a word:

Capitalize the first letter of proper nouns. “Proper” nouns name specific people, places, or things:

     Specific people              Barack Obama
     Specific places               Alpine, Utah
     Specific things              The Declaration of Independence

Don’t capitalize the first letter of common nouns. “Common” nouns identify generic people, places, or things:

     Generic people             leader
     Generic places              town
     Generic things              document

A couple of tricky areas:

Seasons are generic: spring, summer, fall, winter.

Directions are generic: east, south, west, north, unless you’re talking about a specific area:

Drive three miles south of the old mill.

In the old South, the economy was primarily agricultural.

We’ll continue this discussion next week. We recognize that sometimes this can be frustrating.

If you have questions, suggestions, or arguments, let us know. We love this stuff.