JS Tip 441: Capitalization, Part I

From the Writing Workshops: cAPItaliZING, Part I

Our recent tips have been weighty. Leadership. Accountability. Honesty.

We’ll change the subject. We’ll talk about capitalization (letters, not money). This sounds like fun, and it’s been a while since we’ve talked about it.

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 specificpeople, places, or things:

Specific people: Angela Merkel

Specific places: Pumpkin Center, California

Specific things: The Magna Carta

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 common: spring, summer, fall, winter.


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


    • Drive three miles south of the old mill.


      In the antebellum South, the economy was agricultural.


We’ll continue the discussion next week. 

We love this stuff.

And we appreciate you. Thank you for being there.

Mark Brooks