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The Writer’s Reference Book


Module 22 – Capitalization – Hint Sheet

  • Capitalize nationality, race, language, religion when used as nouns or adjectives: Protestant, Jewish, American, Negro, Catholic, French, English, etc.
  • Capitalize names of states, cities, bodies of water, places, streets, etc.: Pacific Ocean, New Zealand, Harlem, California, Central Park, Jones Street, etc.
    But don’t capitalize general terms for these: the lake, a town, a large state, etc.
  • Capitalize the specific name of buildings, organizations, and institutions: Empire State Building, Paradise Theater, National Organization of Women, Johnson City Library, etc.
    But don’t capitalize general terms for these: a tall building, an expensive theater, a feminist group, etc.
  • Capitalize the specific names of historical events, historical periods, and documents: Spanish-American War, the Renaissance, the Constitution, etc.
    But don’t capitalize the general terms for these: a terrible war, a new charter, etc.
  • Capitalize the names of months, days, and holidays: June, Monday, Fourth of July, etc.
    But don’t capitalize seasons: summer, fall, winter, spring.
  • Capitalize professional titles when they are part of names: Dr. Smith, Professor Greenstein, Judge Alvarez, etc.
    But don’t capitalize general professions: the doctor, the professor, the judge, etc.
  • Capitalize family relationships when they are part of names: Uncle Joe, Grandmother Stein, Cousin Beverly, Mother, etc.
    But don’t capitalize family relationships that are not names: an uncle, her grandfather, her aunt, my cousin, etc.
  • Capitalize brand names: Greaso hair oil, Quick drafting ink.
    But don’t capitalize the type of product: dog food, soup.
  • Capitalize names for sections of the country: the East, the Northwest, the South, etc.
    But don’t capitalize directions: east on the boulevard.
  • Capitalize the specific names of academic courses: Mathematics 151, Sociology 111, World Literature 110.
    But don’t capitalize subjects (unless they are also languages): tough mathematics course, an A in sociology, etc.
  • Capitalize titles of books, poems, plays, films (capitalize the first word and everything else except articles, conjunctions, and prepositions): A Farewell to Arms, “Ode to a Bat,” etc.
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