This guide to capitalization rules is especially for ESL students. It contains clear explanations for each rule with simple examples of correct sentences. Once you understand these rules, try a capitalization rules quiz to test yourself.
First Word in a Sentence
Always capitalize the first word of a new sentence.
There is something wrong with this cheese. However, I'm hungry.
Strange things have happened recently. I think the police should investigate.
The Pronoun I
Only the pronoun "I' is capitalized. All other pronouns (she, they, him, me, us, etc.) are NOT capitalized.
He asked me where I had bought my jacket.
If I see her, I will give her your message.
There are many special rules concerning proper nouns. Generally, Proper nouns can be understood as the names of specific people, places, things, pets, organizations, etc. Here are some specific rules to follow:
I visited California on my vacation.
She gave Peter a present for his birthday.
Capitalize North, South, East, and West when contained in the name of a place (state, country, etc.) but not when used for giving directions.
My friend lives in South Carolina.
We are planning a vacation in South Africa.
She lives in Southern Europe. SHOULD BE She lives in southern Europe.
I'm going to visit my friends in Eastern Oregon. SHOULD BE I'm going to visit my friends in eastern Oregon.
Members of an Organization
The Neighborhood Players are presenting a musical next week.
Some Washington Democrats would like to see the company up.
Names of Companies
The name of a company is similar to the name of a person and needs to be capitalized.
My niece loves Converse shoes.
Do you prefer Siesta or Aloha products?
Periods of History
Capitalize periods of time in history that have specific names.
The Dot Com Era lasted far shorter than many people expected.
Names of specific events should be capitalized.
I went to the Tomato Growers Conference in Salinas last weekend.
Have you ever attended the Technoland Convergence Festival?
Each letter of an acronym (a letter for the first letter of every word: CIA -> Central Intelligence Agency)
I prefer to watch PBS tv whenever possible.
The ICAM commissioned a study on OBLOG.
Names of gods are capitalized, including Allah, Vishnu, and God. The word god is generally not capitalized if it is used to refer to the generic idea of a deity, nor is it capitalized when it refers to multiple gods.
Wotan is one of the gods in Wagner's Ring Cycle.
The pastor prayed that God should deliver us from our sins.
Days, Months But Not Seasons
Both days and months are capitalized but not NOT seasons.
She flew to Dallas in September.
Do you have any time on Monday?
I love skiing in Winter. SHOULD BE I love skiing in winter.
They visited Bob last Summer. SHOULD BE They visited Bob last summer.
Countries, Languages, and Nationality Adjectives
All words the indicate a specific country should be capitalized including adjectives describing food, customs, etc.
I lived in Italy for over 10 years.
Have you ever had any really expensive French wine?
Do you speak Russian?
Mom and Dad
Capitalize family relationships when used in place of a name
Have you given Mom her present yet?
I think Dad needs some time off work.
Titles Before Names
Titles are capitalized only when they are part of the name.
The soldier wrote to General Smith and asked for advice.
Have you spoken to Vice Principal Smithers yet?
George Washington was the first President of the United States. SHOULD BE George Washington was the first president of the United States.
Peter Smith was elected Mayor in 1995. SHOULD BE Peter Smith was elected mayor in 1995.
Beginning and Ending of Letters
Start and end your letters with capital letters.
Dear Mr. Smith,
First Word in a Quote
This is true even if the quote occurs in the middle of a sentence.
The last time I talked to Peter he said, "Study hard and get to bed early!"
Thomas Patterman was a simple man who said, "Give me life, liberty and a bottle of rum!"
Main or Content Words in Titles
Remember that content words include nouns, pronouns, principal verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
Rainy Days and Mondays
How to Win Friends and Influence your Neighbors
First Word in Each Line of Poetry
Each first word in a poem should be written with capital letters.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
I think I said He's in love with you!