Introduction to Capitalization


Capitalization refers to the use of an uppercase letter for the first letter in some words. In addition to capitalizing the first letter of the first word of a sentence, specific nouns and adjectives are also capitalized.


The video illustrates the most common capitalization rules. The triple underline is the traditional proofreader’s mark for indicating that an uppercase letter is required.

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Capitalization rules can be confusing because the context matters.

In titles, the first letters of all first words, major words, and final words are capitalized. That means prepositions, articles, and conjunctions are only capitalized when they are the first or last words of the title. (Need a review of the parts of speech?)

In sentences, capitalization is required for the first letter of the first word of the sentence as well as for proper nouns and proper adjectives. Proper nouns and proper adjectives are the official names of specific, individual persons, places, or institutions. Other special capitalization rules govern, for example, names of ethnic groups, languages, and certain academic courses.

Consider this sentence:


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The chart below examines each noun and adjective to determine which are proper and thus must be capitalized; to aid with reading across the row, every other line is shaded in the chart.

Word in the Sentence General or Proper? Capitalize?
Gustavo proper (name) image
barra proper (name) image
my general (pronoun) image
Professor general (noun) image
english proper (derived from a country) image
french proper (derived from a country) image
brazil proper (a country) image
bolivia proper (a country) image
los proper (a city) image
Angeles proper (a city) image

Here is the correctly capitalized sentence:


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The study pages focus on proper nouns and proper adjectives. As you read through the study pages and practice with LearningCurve before taking the post-test (if assigned), ask whether each word is general or proper; if proper, make sure it is capitalized.

Don’t forget to work smartly!