5 Main Rules When to Use Capital Letters
It might be a tricky task to identify nouns which start with an uppercase letter. You can not pay attention to their proper usage in casual texting to friends, but formal letters require correct grammar and use of capital letters. Here we are going to share with you rules and examples of formal letter writing in the English language.
Rule #1 First word of a sentence starts with a capital letter
No exceptions to this rule, you should always use a capital letter after a full stop. Same applies to a question and exclamation marks. Although if you have brackets or sequence separated by dashes in the sentence, you should continue writing with lower case.
Mike thought: where to go? What to do? With whom?
Mike thought: where to go? – what to do? – with whom?
Capitalization after a colon “:” depends on the type of English you are using – US English or British English. Use the uppercase letter after a colon if you are writing in US English, but don’t use it with UK spelling.
Rule #2 Words in title might be capitalized
Here is a short list of correct usage of capital letters in Titles:
- Always use Uppercase for the first and the last word in title;
- Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, verbs, and such conjunctions like “although”, “if”, “as”, “because”, and others;
- Lowercase minor words such as “and”, “or”, “nor”;
- Do not start word “to” in infinitive with a capital;
- Do not capitalize articles “the”, “a”, “an”.
Though there are no concrete rules on uppercase letters in titles, just keep up to the style guide for your target audience. The majority of academic journals publish titles with a single initial capital.
But here is a sample of a heading where all the important words are capitalized:
In this case “Should” although small, is an important word in the title and is capitalized. However, “in an” isn’t vital and as a result is not in uppercase.
Rule #3 Capital Letters with Proper Nouns
The first letter of a name, proper names and adjectives derived from proper names always start with a capital letter. The article before the proper name is always written with a lowercase letter unless it is part of the name: Tom, Ford, Michael Kors, Anna, the Atlantic Ocean, Asia.
Use capital letter in:
- Days of week, months, holidays;
- Names of organizations, political parties, establishments;
- Name of nationality, race, tribes, and languages.
- Geographical names of sky objects;
- Trading marks – Fanta, Adidas, Target,;
- Titles and academic degrees, if they are placed before the proper name. If they go after, they are usually written in
Doctor Charles lives nearby.
Jim Bishop, medical doctor, is living here.
- Academic degrees when after proper name (Jim Bishop, M.D.)
- Architecture objects: bridges, ships, hotels, streets, buildings, monuments, parks.
Pronoun “I” and poetic exclamation “O” are always capitalized in English. This word starts with a lowercase letter in many other languages:
O Father, O Satan, O Sun!
Rule #4 Capitals in Abbreviations
Abbreviations denoting the time can be written both with a small or capital letter.
Uppercase for the first letter of the word is used in acronyms for the names of companies, as well as governmental, international and non-governmental organizations: NATO, YMCA, IBM.
Keep in mind, that abbreviations are rarely used in formal writing, unless for certain standart titles when they are used with someone’s name: Mr. Brown, Mrs. Caprine.
Rule #5 Do not overuse capital letters
Unless your case falls under one of the previous rules, keep your finger off the Shift or Caps Lock key. The days of uppercase glory and prosperity are gone with the first dawn of 21st century. Nowadays it is neither polite nor cool to use capitals in emails, online chats or blog posts. You will only make an effect of SHOUTING AT YOUR READER. Even if you do want to scream, think twice because the pen is mightier than the sword.
Only because a phrase sounds like it should stand out of the context of a sentence, it should not be capitalized. Though if you want to highlight some words out of your whole article to give them emphasis it’s not such a bad idea. My whole family is a HUGE basketball fan. Just remember such manner of writing is tolerated only in informal speech.
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