Capitalization rules

The first letter of the first word in a sentence is always capitalized. This also applies to full-sentence quotations within a sentence.

The wind blew a tree over in my yard last night.
My cat doesn’t like dogs.
What kind of cake do you like?
She said, “Why are you looking at me?” and “Please go away.”.

If a parentheses interrupts the middle of a sentence, do not capitalize the first letter. An independent parenthetical sentence requires you to capitalize the first letter. If there are multiple sentences within a pair of parenthesis, each one needs to be capitalized like a regular sentence. The same goes for parenthetical sentences with an exclamation or question mark.

I want a dog (Do you want one?) because they are so cute.
I want a dog (They are so cute!), but my sister is allergic to them.
I want a dog (a really big dog to be precise), but my sister is allergic.
I want a dog. (I love Dalmatians more than other kinds of dogs.) Sadly my sister is allergic to dogs.

The first-person pronoun "I" is always capitalized in English, with no exceptions. It is also capitalized within quotations. While there isn’t a clear answer as to why this pronoun is always capitalized, take comfort in the simplicity of this rule.

I am not ready to leave yet.
She said, “I don’t know.”
I think, therefore I am.

- Proper nouns are capitalized, no matter where they are within a phrase. Remember, proper nouns name specific, one-of-a-kind items.

Common noun vs proper noun
a palace Buckingham Palace
a planet the Earth
an ocean the Pacific Ocean
a city Paris
The Earth is the third planet from the sun.
I visited the Taj Mahal last year.
My cousin is Brad Pitt.

- When a family relation is used as a proper noun, it must be capitalized. In this case, it will sound like a first name in the sentence. Generally there will be a possessive pronoun (such as "his" or "hers") or an article (such as "the" or "an") in front of a common noun.

Mother, when will Grandpa arrive?
Hi Aunt Ruth! How are you?

However, in the sentences below the family relations are common nouns, therefore not capitalized.

My dad is so funny.
The two brothers played tag.

- The rules concerning the capitalization of someone’s title are not as set in stone as other grammar rules; however, there are some basic guidelines we can follow.

- Firstly, we generally capitalize a title when it is written in a letter. This applies to the top of the letterhead and the signature line.

Barack Obama, President

- Secondly, it is best to capitalize the title of a high-ranking official when it precedes their name. It is not necessary to capitalize the title if it is used instead of their name.

The president is in Colombia this week. (The title is not followed by the name.)
When President Obama took office, he was only 47 years old. (The title is followed by the name.)

- Lastly, a title should be capitalized during a direct address to the person.

Madam Chancellor, how are you today?
Is that everything , Mr. President?

- Days of the week and months of the year are capitalized in English, no matter where they are placed within a sentence, because they are proper nouns.

December is my favorite month of the year.
Is your birthday in May?
I work late on Tuesdays and Fridays.

- Seasons are usually lowercase, with a few exceptions: when it is a part of a proper noun, or is being used as a proper noun. The latter is mostly seen in literature when a season is personified.

My mom loves the band The Four Seasons.
I don’t like winter very much.
The Spring gave new life to the Earth with each passing day.

There are a wide range of words that should be capitalized in English.

1. Nations, nationalities, and languages

I went to England last year.
She speaks fluent Spanish.
He has a Greek car.
The French coffee shop.

2. Specific events and time periods (However, centuries should remain lower case.)

The plague swept through Europe during the Middle Ages.
World War II ended over 70 years ago.

3. Gods, deities, religions, and holy books

The Quran often mentions Allah.
The Pope sometimes visits the United States.

4. Trademarks

Eddie ate at McDonalds for lunch.
Millions of people drink Coca-Cola.

5. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs of book titles, songs, and articles

Romeo and Juliet
All Quiet on the Western Front

- Most of what is capitalized in English are proper nouns (names of specific or unique things). This includes things like street names, mountains, volcanoes, people, bodies of water, buildings, titles, monuments, bridges, universities, and geographical locations (cities, towns, regions, etc.).

- The entire title must be capitalized, including names composed of a proper noun and a common noun (like most buildings, bridges, companies, and airports).

CORRECT: John F. Kennedy International Airport
INCORRECT: John F. Kennedy international airport
Locations (street names, cities, towns, countries, etc.) Amazon Drive, Humboldt Avenue, France, Oregon, Silicon Valley
Mountains, volcanoes, and bodies of water Cascade Mountain Range, Lake Michigan, Mount Saint Helens
Buildings, monuments, and bridges (including those named after people) Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, Rockefeller Center
Universities, schools, and organizations New York University, South Eugene High School, The Clinton Foundation