Home » Intermediate English Grammar » Capitalization


You are already aware that nouns fall into two general categories: proper nouns and common nouns. All nouns refer to persons, places, things, or ideas, but only certain nouns—proper nouns—are capitalized. All other nouns do not require capitalization (unless they occur at the beginning of a sentence). Let’s look at the specifics that govern English capitalization.

A. The first word in a sentence is always capitalized. It does not matter if the sentence begins with a common noun or some other grammatical element.

  • Terrell is my brother.
  • The children are fast asleep.
  • Are you going home now?
  • When is that program on?

B. The first word in the title of any work of art (e.g., short story, article, book, TV program, film, painting, song, CD) is always capitalized. All the other words in the title are also capitalized, except for the articles, conjunctions, and prepositions. (However, if an article, conjunction, or preposition is the last word in a title, it must be capitalized.)

  • “How to Buy a House”
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Finding Nemo
  • “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”

C. The same rule applies to official names of businesses and institutions.

  • The University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Sears Roebuck and Company

D. First names, last names, initials, and personal titles of all kinds are always capitalized.

  • Jason Kensington
  • Ms. Alicia Jones
  • Professor Rosa Morena
  • Senator William Hayes
  • General Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • J. D. Powers

E. Titles that are not part of directly addressing the person who bears the title should not be capitalized. Compare the following:

I met a senator at the meeting.Hello, Senator. How are you?
Is she the governor now?It’s good to see you, Governor Bejcek.
A captain entered the room.Please sit down, Captain Bligh.

F. All days of the week, months of the year, and holidays are capitalized. Seasons and other categories of time are not.

Is it Monday already?The weather is cooler in the fall.
My favorite month is June.Where do you spend the winter?
She was born March 3, 2001.How many years are in a decade?
Today is the Fourth of July.The twentieth century was important.
I like Halloween.It’s a new millennium.

G. There are special rules for abbreviations for time. B.C. and A.D. are always capitalized. B.C. is used for eras or years that occurred before ChristA.D. is used for eras or years that occurred anno Domini (“in the year of our Lord”), that is, beginning with the first year after Christ’s birth. (B.C. follows the date; A.D. precedes the date.) A.M. and P.M. may or may not be capitalized. A.M. refers to the hours between midnight and noon, and P.M. refers to the hours between noon and midnight.

  • That happened in the fifth century B.C.
  • Columbus first landed in the New World in A.D. 1492.
  • They arrived exactly at 9:00 P.M.
  • I set my alarm for 7:35 A.M.

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