Capitalization

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First rule of capitalization:

If you have a question about whether a specific word should be capitalized that doesn’t fit under one of the rules below, try checking a dictionary to see if the word is capitalized there.

Use capital letters in the following ways:

The first words of a sentence

  • When he tells a joke, sometimes he forgets the punch line.
  • The pronoun “I”
  • The last time I visited Moose Jaw was several years ago.

Proper nouns (the names of specific people, places, organizations, and sometimes things)

  • Slapdash Fabrication Company
  • Lion’s Gate Bridge
  • Supreme Court
  • Langley, British Columbia
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Family relationships (when used as proper names)

  • I sent a thank-you note to Aunt Abigail, but not to my other aunts.
  • Here is a present I bought for Mother.
  • Did you buy a present for your mother?

The names of God, specific deities, religious figures, and holy books

  • God the Father
  • the Virgin Mary
  • the Bible
  • the Greek gods
  • Moses
  • Shiva
  • Buddha

Exception: Do not capitalize the non-specific use of the word “god.”

  • The word “polytheistic” means the worship of more than one god.

Titles preceding names, but not titles that follow names

  • She worked as the assistant to Mayor Hanolovi.
  • I was able to interview Miriam Moss, mayor of Delta

Directions that are names (North, South, East, and West when used as sections of the country, but not as compass directions)

  • The Patels have moved to South Surrey.
  • Jim’s apartment is two blocks north of Nicola and Alberni.

The days of the week, the months of the year, and holidays (but not the seasons used generally)

  • Hallowe’en
  • October
  • Friday
  • winter
  • spring
  • fall

Exception: Seasons are capitalized when used in a title.

  • The Fall 2009 Semester

The names of countries, nationalities, and specific languages

  • Costa Rica
  • Spanish
  • French
  • English

The first word in a sentence that is a direct quote

  • Nietzche said, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

The major words in the titles of books, articles, and songs (but not short prepositions or the articles “the,” “a,” or “an,” if they are not the first word of the title)

  • One of Jerry’s favorite movies is Lord of the Rings.

Members of national, political, racial, social, civic, and athletic groups

  • B.C. Lions
  • Conservatives
  • Indo-Canadians
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • Chinese

Periods and events (but not century numbers)

  • Victorian Era
  • Great Depression
  • sixteenth century

Trademarks

  • Pepsi
  • Honda
  • IBM
  • Microsoft Word

Words and abbreviations of specific names (but not names of things that came from specific things but are now general types)

  • Freudian
  • CBC
  • UN
  • coke (when you mean any kind of cola, not when you mean Coca- Cola brand cola in particular)
  • french fries
  • kleenex (when you mean any kind of tissues, not Kleenex brand in particular)

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