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Capitalizing words allows them to be set apart from the other words in a sentence.

A capital letter is like a highlight; it draws the reader’s attention to it. Read the following lesson to learn the rules of capitalization.

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What is Capitalization?

Capitalization means to make the first letter of a word a capital letter, as in the ‘A’ in the word, ‘Alabama.’ Capitalization is used when you want to show the reader that a word is of special importance. You can’t just start capitalizing any words; however, you have to follow the rules!

Rule #1: Proper Nouns

Capitalize the first letter of the word that belongs to a proper noun. A proper noun is a specific name of a noun, like February.

Proper nouns that you want to capitalize are: names, initials, abbreviations, nationalities, languages, religions, holidays, days of the week, months, planets, cities, states, countries, landmarks, organizations, companies, and the pronoun, I.

Examples

1. Last Tuesday, Penelope and Danny brought their boat to Meredith Boat Docks.

  • Tuesday needs to be capitalized because it’s a day of the week, Penelope and Danny need to be capitalized because they are someone’s name, and the company, Meredith Boat Docks, needs to be capitalized.

2. My dentist, Dr.

Robinson, always distributes Scrubby toothbrushes instead of candy on Halloween.

  • Dr. Robinson needs to be capitalized because that is her name, Scrubby needs to be capitalized because it’s a name of a company (although fictional!) and Halloween needs to be capitalized because it’s a holiday.

Test Your Knowledge on Rule #1!

Can you find the words in the following sentence that need a capital letter?

  • breanna and jake attend surfside school in nantucket, massachusetts.

Breanna and Jake need a capital letter because those are names, Surfside School needs to be capitalized because it’s the name of an organization, and both Nantucket and Massachusetts need to be capitalized because they are specific places.

Rule #2: Capitalization in Formatting

When you are creating sentences, certain aspects of a sentence must be capitalized. You need to capitalize:

  • the first words in sentences
  • the first word in direct quotations
  • the first word and the important words in a title
  • the first word in each line in poetry.

Examples

1. My favorite classic novel is Great Expectations, and I don’t care for The Old Man and the Sea.

  • ‘My’ needs to be capitalized because it’s the first word in the sentence, and ‘Great Expectations’ needs to be capitalized because each word is important in this name of the novel. ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is also a name of a novel, but the words ‘and’ and the second ‘the’ don’t need to be capitalized because they aren’t considered important words. Always capitalize the first word of a title whether or not it’s considered important.

2. His mother hollered, ”Don’t forget your homework,” as he ran out to catch the bus.

  • ‘His’ needs to be capitalized because it’s the first word in the sentence, and ‘Don’t’ needs to be capitalized because it’s the first word in a quote.

Rule #2: Can You Spot the Errors?

When my brother read where the red fern grows he cried, ‘this is the saddest story ever.’What words need to be capitalized? All words except ‘the’ in Where the Red Fern Grows need to be capitalized because they are considered important words in a title.

Also, the word ‘this’ starts the quotation and needs a capital letter.

Lesson Summary

Capitalizing words in a sentence is important to do because it draws the reader’s attention to those words. As a rule, you need to capitalize all proper nouns, the first words in sentences, the first words in quotations, the first words in each line of poetry, and the important words in a title.

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