How to Improve Your Writing: Capitalization

Published: 15th March 2010
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Editing, whether it is for an academic journal, a short story submission, or a non-fiction manuscript for publishing, always follows basic rules of grammar and punctuation. This article will be the first in a series to help you enhance your writing skills.

Basic editing skills are a must for any writer or editor. Good writing is a hallmark of professionalism; unfortunately, it is also a chance to make a first impression upon a client, supervisor, or potential publisher. While not all of us are born excellent writers, basic grammar and punctuation rules can be learned. Please allow this article to be of assistance.

Capitalization is a necessary grammar skill that can tangle even the best writers.

Please allow this professional editor a few moments to provide you with a few basic rules of capitalization:

* Capitalize the first word in each sentence.

* Capitalize the first word in a quoted sentence.

* Always capitalize I, no matter where in the sentence it appears.

* Capitalize proper nouns.

Some easy ones to remember (and some examples):

* States and countries - Florida, United States of America

* Brand names - Pepsi, Minute Maid, Harrah's Resort

* Religions - Christian, Muslim

* Days of the week, months, holidays - Tuesday, December, Thanksgiving

* Magazines, newspapers - Newsweek, The Washington Post,

* Movies, TV shows - Saving Private Ryan, Gunsmoke

When you have a question about when or when not to capitalize something, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "Is this specific?"

For example, while you would not capitalize school (noun), you would capitalize "Parkside Elementary School."

Directions are tricky- Do not capitalize north, south, east, or west, when referring to direction, such as "Go east along Route 66."

Capitalize them when a part of the name of a specific location, such as "Southeast Asia."

Names and titles can be difficult as well, but the following should help clarify when and when not to capitalize:

Titles are always capitalized when they precede a name or an organization. For example, "Inspector Jones," or "President of the United States of America." A title should not be capitalized when it is referred to in text with no name, no organization, and it is not part of dialogue.

For example, you would not capitalize mayor in the following sentence: "Are you really the mayor?"

Capitalize any title when used in a direct address, e.g. "Are you ready, Inspector?"

I hope that this has been helpful. Please remember that having a professional editor, such as the editors at, will ensure your document is perfected and ready for publication.


Heather Todd is full-time professional editor, published writer & marketing consultant whose passion is to help others create a letter-perfect presentation in their writing. Ms. Todd provides advisory & consulting services worldwide to numerous corporations, a small sampling of such businesses include:

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