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The 'Rules of Capitalization' With Examples

Smita Pandit May 10, 2019
We all know that the first word of every sentence needs to be capitalized, but there's a lot more to capitalization than just this basic rule. This Penlighten post provides examples to help you understand capitalization rules for titles.

Capitalization Rule for Seasons

Don't capitalize the names of seasons if they are used generally. However, capitalization will be required when the season comes in the beginning of the sentence, or is a part of a proper noun.
Capitalization implies writing the first letter of a word in uppercase, and the rest in lowercase. The rules of capitalization vary, depending on the style guide, which is why it's advisable to select one method and follow it consistently.
The MLA Style Manual is a style guide that is commonly used to write papers and cite sources within literature, languages, and humanities, whereas, the APA (American Psychological Association) Publication Manual is used for writing papers and citing sources within the social and behavioral sciences.

Rules of Capitalization for Titles in MLA and EPA Format

According to the MLA (Modern Language Association) style, you should capitalize:

✔ Nouns
✔ Adjectives
✔ Verbs
✔ Adverbs
✔ Pronouns
✔ Subordinating conjunctions (after, before, although, though, unless, until, when, while, why, because, than, that, wherever, etc.)
You should not capitalize:

✕ Articles (a, an, the)
✕ Coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)
✕ Prepositions (of, on, for, in, to, with, etc.)


✦ Young and Angry: The Rise of Punk Culture
✦ Neither Fish nor Fowl: The Taxonomy of Australian Marsupials
✦ To Sleep Until the Day Breaks: The Life of the Single Parent
✦ The Future Fair: A Fair for Everybody
✦ The Importance of Being Earnest
In the APA Style, the title (for books, articles, and web pages) is written in the sentence case. Basically, it means that the title is written like a sentence. Thus, only the first word is capitalized. It must be noted that proper nouns need to be capitalized even in sentence case.
In the APA style, capitalize:

✔ The first word
✔ Proper nouns
✔ First word after the colon in a title

Examples of Sentence Case:

✦ Standardized or simple effect size: What should be reported?
✦ The essential guide to effect sizes: Statistical power, meta-analysis, and the interpretation of research results
Title case is used for journal articles, and the title is in italics. All the important words in the title are capitalized.

Examples of Title Case:

Short-Term Musical Intervention: A Tale of Ludwig von Beethoven
Boys Who Fight at Home and School: The Conditions of Cross-Setting Consistency

Important Rules of Capitalization

The beginning, or the first word of every sentence should be capitalized. Proper nouns are basically names of specific people, places, or things. On the other hand, common nouns, which denote any or all members of a class, should not be capitalized. While Mt. Vesuvius is a proper noun, the word 'mountain', when used in a generic way is a common noun.
You should capitalize the following:

✦ First word of every sentence
✦ Proper nouns and adjectives derived from proper nouns
✦ Days of the week, and months of the year
✦ First-person singular pronoun, I
✦ Words signifying relationships when used as proper nouns (titles or a substitute for that person's name)
✦ Titles (academic titles, religious titles, and titles of rank, name, or honor)
✦ Directions (when used as proper nouns or a part of names)
✦ Groups and languages
✦ Holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Easter)
✦ Races, nationalities, and tribes
✦ Names of governmental organizations or institutions
✦ Titles of books, magazines, articles, songs, etc.
✦ Religions
✦ Names of Gods, specific deities, holy books, and religious figures
✦ Names of volcanoes, mountains, mountain ranges, and hills
✦ Names of water bodies (oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, streams, etc.)
✦ Names of countries, continents, regions, states, counties, cities, and towns
✦ Names of man-made structures such as monuments, schools, colleges, universities, bridges, tunnels, streets, etc.
✦ Historical events
✦ Names of celestial bodies
✦ Initials and acronyms
✦ Salutations and closings in letters
✦ Trademarks/Brand names


✔ The first-person singular pronoun, I, is always capitalized, irrespective of its placement in the sentence.
✔ Words that signify relationships are capitalized when they are used as proper nouns (titles or a substitute for that person's name). When a possessive pronoun or a modifier is used in front of such a word, it is not capitalized.
✔ Titles must be capitalized when they are used for personally addressing that individual. Also, titles of rank, name, and honor need to be capitalized when they precede a name.
✔ Directions are capitalized only when they are used as proper nouns.


Here are a few examples to help you understand the aforementioned rules:

¤ She is very fond of children.

¤ Derek asked, ''What should I do?''

¤ Heidi is going to study at the Oxford University.

¤ This certainly seems to be a Herculean task.
¤ They speak Parisian French.

¤ I will never forget her.

¤ Sarah and I would be going to that restaurant tonight.

¤ I can't wait to meet Aunt Martha?

¤ Mom, why don't you let us go?

¤ My mom will not lets us go
¤ My mom and dad will be here shortly.

¤ Sir Lambewell was a knight in King Arthur's court.

¤ Father Michael is very kind.

¤ What
do you think of the President's trip to China?

¤ According to the Constitution, the age of a president should be at least 35 years.
¤ Western Europe comprises countries such as France, Germany, etc.

¤ Towards
the right, you will find a small shop.

¤ She
asked him to meet her on Wednesday.

¤ December
is my favorite month.

¤ She
loves German cuisine.

¤ She
always gets good grades in French.
¤ Have you purchased costumes for Halloween yet?

¤ With Christmas
just around the corner, all the children are extremely happy.

¤ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
came up with certain guidelines
to control the disease.

¤ We
studied about World War I today.
¤ We are planning to go to the Eiffel Tower.

¤ The
best time to plant this flowering tree is late spring.

¤ The 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games
will be held in Los Angeles.

¤ Winter Semester
2014 schedule has been put up on the board.

¤ No one missed Jack in the meeting: He was literally sleeping.
¤ Children were asked to bring the following supplies: coloring pages, crayons, pencils, and eraser.

¤ I
bought a Toyota Camry.

¤ Isn't October
the best time to visit that country?

¤ They
believe in many gods.

¤ You
should read the Bible.

¤ She
spoke to Mother about her concerns, but not to her sister.
Keep the aforementioned rules of capitalization in mind while writing. When it comes to titles, the rules vary depending on the format.
For instance, the Associated Press Stylebook, which is also referred to as the 'Journalist's Bible', requires the articles (a, an, or the) to be capitalized in the title if it is the first or the last word of the title, and even the prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters need to be capitalized.
So, make sure that you follow the rules of only one format, be it the MLA, APA, or AP format.