Capitalization tips every writer should remember

Many people uppercase the first letter of a word to provide emphasis—or because they don’t know any better. Here are some guidelines on when to hit the shift key.

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In kindergarten we learned to capitalize our first names. It’s a proper noun, our teachers said, so it gets a big letter. The same went for our last names, street addresses, holidays, or the beginning of a sentence, no matter how short.

At some point in the next several decades of our life, we forgot the rules. (Or, at least, a majority of the population forgot.) People began capitalizing words at random. Verbs, insignificant nouns, even pronouns got the big-letter treatment.

For whatever reason, these words have been crowned, throwing all caution to the proper linguistic wind.

No one thinks to hire a copy editor.

The rules

Titles’ main words are capitalized.

I’m going to read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” one of my favorite books.

Only proper nouns get the big-guy treatment. This means names, holidays, and the first word of a complete sentence.

Jan Brady lives on Groovy Lane in Hippyville, Fla. She has a brother named Peter, with whom she likes to celebrate Arbor Day. They also enjoy eating applesauce on Tuesdays.

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