Rules of Capitalisation
Published byat August 17th, 2021 , Revised On August 24, 2023
One of the most important rules of the English language is that the first word of a sentence as well as proper nouns including a specific thing, time, organization, place, or person should start with a capital letter. On the other hand, when we talk about common things of which there are many like cars, planes, you don’t need to capitalize the first letter.
In some cases, you will also need to use capitalisation for the first word after a colon and the first word in a quotation. The rules of capitalization are explained below;
Rules of Capitalisation;
The First Letter in a Sentence
No matter what the first letter of the sentence uses capitalisation. This is perhaps the most basic and easy-to-remember rule of capitalization in English. There are no exceptions. It’s that simple!
|People||Nationalities, names (and words derivative of them), and titles (when used in a name)
||Occupational titles when not used in a name
|Places||Names of landmarks, shrines, regions, states, cities, countries, and continents should start with a capital letter
||General places and directions
|Times||Specific periods, eras, and historical events that have proper names should be capitalised.
||A a 13th century fort
the summer of 69
the people born in the ninetiesgeneral reference to seasons, decades, centuries,
How to Recognise Proper Nouns
A proper noun can be referred to as a specific name, place, thing, or organization. In the English language, it is mandatory to capitalize all the proper nouns as well as the adjectives obtained from them.
On the other hand, a common noun does not refer to a specific object, entity, or individual, and so there is no need to capitalize common nouns unless they are used as a part of a title or the first word of a sentence.
I wish I could remember the name of the professor who recommended me this magazine to. When they refer to specificities, common nouns turn into proper nous.
Commons Nouns Vs Proper Nouns
Here are some examples of common nouns vs proper nouns.
|Common Noun||Proper Noun|
|A degree programme at an engineering university||Loughborough University’s Mechanical Engineering Department|
|The cricket playing nations||International Cricket Council|
|A local mosque||The Masjid-Al-Haram|
|The husband||Mr. Smith|
Times, Occasions, Events, and Holidays
Events of historical importance, as well as specific time periods, are proper nouns. Centuries, decades, and periods that are not named in history do not need to be capitalised. Use the lowercase when making a general reference to seasons, decades, and centuries.
- The Great Depression had a lasting effect on the economy of the world.
- The Medieval Ages are characterised by a specific mindset of the medieval people.
- Some of the great scientific advancements took place in the twentieth century.
Religious events, festivals, and holidays must be capitalised.
Months of the year and the days of the week are also proper nouns.
The four seasons, unless used before proper nouns, should be treated as common nouns.
- Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, introspection, and prayer for Muslims.
- I will start my new job in the first week of
- You should never visit Dubai in the
Capitalization of Regions and Directions
- My office is located kilometers north of Manchester
- The army attacked from the southern side of the city.
- There was a light easterly
However, when a distinctive area is being referred to or when they are used as part of a proper noun, it is compulsory to capitalize them.
- The Golden Age of Arab Civilisation.
- A spokesperson for NHS England’s NorthRegion gave a briefing on Covid-19 vaccine distribution.
- Western Civilisation was discussed in detail in the book.
Depending on the country, a geographical location may or may not need to be considered as a distinctive region.
- I want to drive from the Lake District up the West Coast of Scotland.
- The West Coast of the United States includes the States of California, Oregon, and Washington.
It is recommended to consult a dictionary if you are unsure about whether or not to capitalize on a region or area.
Academic Subjects, Models, and Theories
In some instances, you may notice certain academic terms, theories, and models incorrectly capitalized. Only the proper nouns should be capitalized.
- Schools of thought: constructivism, French
- Academic subjects: Chinese, German, sociology, engineering, business, mathematics,
- Models: Porter’s five forces model, Goleman’sEI performance model.
- Theories: Darwin’stheory of evolution, Newton’s laws of physics, big bang theory.
The First Word in Quotations
Capitalise the first word when a complete sentence is enclosed in a quote.
John asked, “Can you get me a glass of water.”
When the quote is used in your sentence, there is no need to capitalise the first word.
The receptionist told his manager that the guests would “be checking in shortly,” but they never arrived.
Capitalisation after Colons and Semicolons
She purchased various kitchen accessories and tools: a cutting board, knife, potato peeler, hand mixer and chopper, cups, and spoons.
When a colon or semicolon introduces a complete sentence, then the capitalisation rule varies based on the style guide in use.
On the other hand, the Chicago style suggests that the first word after the colon or the semicolon should be capitalised only if they introduce a further two or more explanatory sentences.
He was intelligent, committed, and hardworking: He was bound to succeed in his field of work. The resulting financial abundance made his long-cherished dreams come true.
But when the semicolon or the colon introduces just a single explanatory sentence, capitalisation is not needed.
He was intelligent, committed, and hardworking: he was bound to succeed in his field of work.
While there are some differences in the capitalisation rules for movies, books, magazines, articles, research papers, newspapers, and other similar works, some general rules apply across all style guides, including Harvard, MLA APA, and Chicago.
The following rules apply irrespective of the style guide in use:
- Lower case for coordinating conjunctions, prepositions, and articles(an, a, the)
- Capitalize all subordinating conjunctions, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, and nouns.
- Capitalize the last word
- Capitalize the first word of the title and the first word of the subtitle (where applicable)
The Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Extinction, Afterlife & Retribution is one of my favorite movies.
Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story has a very unique title.
Capitalization in Academic Papers
3.1 Proposed Research Design
2.6 Impact of Covid-19 on Bamboo Production in China
You can stick to the sentence case – capitalising proper nouns and the first word of the sentence.
3.1 Proposed research design
- 6 Impact of Covid-19 on bamboo production in China.
Regardless of the style guide you use, it is important to make sure that you remain consistent with your use of capitalisation throughout the document: the same capitalisation rules must apply to all headings and subheadings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Capitalization rules are vital for clear communication and proper writing. They distinguish proper nouns, sentence beginnings, and titles, aiding readability and conveying meaning accurately. Inconsistent capitalization can lead to confusion and undermine the professionalism of written content.