Capital or No Capital?

Capital letters are important, but should they be used on all important words? Not necessarily.

Here are some general guidelines about where capitals should and should not be used.

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Of course we begin a sentence with a capital letter. That helps to alert us that a new thought is beginning.

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Important people get capital letters. We are all important, so our names begin with capital letters. If you happen to be the prime minister or president of a country, or even a king, queen, prince, or princess, you would have a capital letter on your title as well, but only when it is used as your name. Here are some examples:

Prime Minister Smith said to President Jones, “Are you expecting a visit from King John this year?”

Mr. Jones said, “Haven’t you heard? John is no longer a king. He abdicated to marry that woman who isn’t even a princess or a duchess, or any kind of royalty.”

“Aren’t we lucky? A prime minister or a president doesn’t have to worry about that.”

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One of the most common misuses of capitals is in naming family members. Mother, father, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandpa, and grandma do not get capital letters unless that word is used as their proper name.

When you say, “my mother,” “the mother of the family,” or, “a mother and father,” think of it as if you had a cat or a dog and were saying, “my dog” or “my cat.” You wouldn’t use a capital for dog or cat.

Here are some examples:

My dog can do tricks. See the tricks Rover can do.

My mom is amazing. See what Mom can do. (Here it is used as her name.)

I love my dad. Do you love me, Dad?

My cat is sweet and loving. I love Scruffy.

That is my aunt over by the table. I can see Aunt Mary by the table.

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Places like heaven and hell are very important, but even they are not capitalized.

You can wish you were in heaven or tell someone to go to hell perfectly well without the capitals.

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Important buildings do not get a capital letter unless they are specific ones. The White House is a specific building, so it is capitalized. But if I live in a house that is painted white, it is only a white house.

The same holds true for any university you may be talking about. It only warrants a capital letter if it is a specific university, such as Cambridge University or any other university with a proper name attached.

Do you go to church? If church is important to you, it still doesn’t get a capital letter unless you are speaking of a certain one. Do you go to St. John’s Church?

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Words like nature, spring, summer, autumn, and winter, are all lower case words.

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And lastly, I would like to mention a very common capitalization mistake and that involves the directions of the compass. When the words are written out, south, east, west, and north are not capitalized. Neither are southeast, southwest, northeast, and northwest. But if you use abbreviations (SE, SW, NE, NW), these are capitalized, of course.

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If you are in doubt, use the dictionary. Don’t you think that’s a capital idea?

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5 thoughts on “Capital or No Capital?

  1. Good reminders, Anneli.
    Plants, birds and animals are frequently given a capital letter too when they should be lower case. Lost count of times I’ve seen written for example:
    A Rose by any other name
    The Robin was perched in the Oak tree
    The Tiger crouched in the long Grass

    Wishing you a belated Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, YES! Shudders! This is what I find so frustrating – people don’t know what they don’t know. If only they would hire a good copy editor, they would be shocked to see the suggested changes (corrections) in their work. Thank you for that added reminder of the “plants and animals capitalization.”

      Like

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