As I mainly proofread educational resources which contain a lot of terminology and vocabulary that is important for students to learn, I find myself using the ‘change capital letters to lower case letters’ symbol a lot! This has prompted me to look at the rules regarding capitalisation.
When to Capitalise
- The pronoun ‘I’
- The beginning of a new sentence
- The first letters of the names of people, places, days, months, special days (e.g. New Year’s Day), historical eras (e.g. the Renaissance) and their derivatives (e.g. Scandinavian), but not seasons (e.g. spring)
- The first letters of the main words of titles of books, newspapers, etc. (e.g. The Times, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
- The first letters of the main words of the titles of institutions (e.g. the Houses of Parliament) and people when they precede the name (e.g. President Obama), or when they are directly addressed (e.g. ‘Can you help me, Doctor?’)
- In abbreviations (e.g. UK)
- Points of the compass when they refer to a specific region (e.g. ‘My cousin is visiting from the South’, but not, e.g. ‘When you get to the end of the road, head south’)
With words like act, president and government it can be confusing when trying to remember when to capitalise and when not to. The important thing to recognise is whether you are talking in general or specific terms. See below.
- My ambition is to become the president of a big company.
- One of the functions of government is to keep order.
- Which, in your opinion, is the pivotal act of the play?
- President Bush won over 50% of the popular vote.
- The Government has ploughed billions into the banks.
- Prospero’s speech comes at the close of Act IV.
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