Capitalization » Style Guide » Capitalization

Capitalize the first word of the following:

  • a sentence, e.g. I am confused.
  • a complete sentence after a colon, e.g. The crowd all realized the same fact: The band was not sober.
  • a quotation, if it is a complete sentence, e.g. The teacher said, “Today we will review Chapter 11.”
  • an independent question within a sentence, e.g. The question is, Am I doing the right thing?
  • each line of a poem, e.g. Walking the shore that day, each reaches down
  • the salutation/greeting of a letter, e.g. Dear Barbara
  • the complimentary close of a letter, e.g. Yours truly
  • each item in an outline or list, e.g. Buy groceries, Go to the post office, Pick up dry cleaning


  • abbreviations after a person’s name, e.g. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • abbreviations for time appear as either lower case letters with periods, or small capitals, with no periods necessary, e.g., 6:00 a.m., 6:00 AM

Arts and Entertainment

  • names of motion pictures, television and radio programs, e.g. Chicago, Gilmore Girls, Sesame Street, All Things Considered
  • names of musical compositions, e.g. “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  • names of works of art, e.g. American Gothic, Mona Lisa
  • play titles, e.g. The Producers


  • awards and medals, e.g., Nobel Prize, Purple Heart
  • mottoes, e.g. “Out of Many, One”
  • names of languages, e.g. Latin, Russian
  • names of specific educational courses, e.g. English Literature 101
  • names of specific historical events and ages/eras, e.g. World War II, Pleistocene Era, Magna Carta; also the imaginative names given to historical periods, e.g. the Great Depression
  • nouns followed by a number or letter indicating sequence, e.g. Channel 30, Appendix A
  • proper nouns, proper adjectives, and other derivatives of proper nouns, e.g. Shakespearean, Greek, French-speaking Canadians; however, lowercase words that no longer depend on the proper noun for meaning (e.g. french fries, pasteurize, venetian blind)
  • satirical or humorous observations called “laws”, e.g. Murphy’s Law, Parkinson’s Law
  • scientific laws – but only proper nouns and adjectives, e.g. Mendel’s law, Newton’s first law of motion
  • sign wording and advertising copy, e.g. Jazz Festival Today
  • sporting events, e.g. the Super Bowl, the World Series (or the Series)
  • “the” when it is part of the legal name of an organization or place, particularly in legal or formal contexts, e.g. The Hague, The New York Times
  • trademarks, proprietary names, names of commercial products, market grades, and brand names, e.g. Band-Aid, Coca-Cola, Jell-O, Kleenex, Xerox, Krazy Glue. Some have become clearly established as common nouns – so check an up-to-date dictionary or check with the International Trademark Association
  • use of intercaps: The names of many organizations and products are written with a style called intercaps (or BiCaps). Follow the organization or product’s style in each case, e.g. AltaVista, AstroTurf, NutraSweet, PlaySkool toys.


  • Internet search engines, service providers, commercial online services, Web sites, online communities, online databases – though some my have a special style called intercaps or may be acronyms, e.g. Google, Earthlink
  • names of organizations and institutions, e.g. General Electric, American Medical Association
  • names of religions, their members, their buildings, sacred works, and references to a supreme being, including pronouns referring to a supreme being, e.g. Judaism, God, Him, Heaven, Temple Beth Shalom, Methodists, Kaddish, the Old Testament
  • short forms of names of national and international bodies and their major divisions, e.g. the House (House of Representatives), the Bureau (Federal Bureau of Investigation), the Court (United States Supreme Court)


  • each part of a person’s name, e.g. William Jefferson Clinton
  • names of races and racial adjectives, e.g. Caucasian, African-American
  • nicknames and imaginative names of people, organizations, and places, e.g. the First Lady, Mother Nature, Big Blue, Ma Bell, the Big Apple, the Constitution State, Silicon Valley
  • the pronoun “I”
  • title before a person’s name, e.g. Dr. Kuchela, Mayor Andrew Young, Ms. Darvill
  • title or degree after a person’s name, e.g. Frank Hole, Ph.D.
  • title of a parent or relative not preceded by a possessive word, e.g. We saw Mother kissing Santa Claus.
  • words referring to people from a region, e.g. Northerner, Western civilization


  • geographical places and regions, e.g. Europe, Mars, the South, Lake Michigan, Wisconsin, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Middle East
  • names of buildings, e.g. Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building vnames of countries and nationalities, e.g. United States of America, American
  • short forms of geographic places which are clearly associated with the specific place, e.g. the Continent (Europe), the Channel (English Channel), the Hill (Capitol Hill), the Street (Wall Street)


  • book series and editions, e.g. Modern Library
  • book titles and parts of a book, e.g. A Thesaurus of British Archaeology, the chapter on “How to Look Things Up”
  • computer software titles, programming languages, and operating systems, unless an acronym (which is full capitals), e.g. Microsoft Word, COBOL, Yahoo!
  • literary and artistic works – capitalize all words with four or more letters, all those with fewer than four letters except articles (a, an, the), short conjunctions (and, as, but, if, nor, or), or short prepositions (at, by, for, in, of, off, on, out, to, up). Articles, short conjunctions, and short prepositions are capitalized if they are first or last word of a title, first word after a dash or colon, when words like in, off, out, up are adverbs rather than prepositions, and when words like in, up are used together with prepositions with four or more letters. Also capitalize short verb forms like Is and Be, unless part of an infinitive.
  • names of historical and legal documents, e.g. Magna Carta, the First Amendment
  • periodical titles, e.g. The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, National Geographic


  • days of the week, months, holidays and religious days, e.g. Good Friday, Tuesday, February
  • names of seasons if personified, e.g. it was the Autumn of his life