When you are working on your writing assignments, it is crucial not only to be aware of the key requirements but also to be attentive to the spelling and grammar rules. The spelling of a word can change depending on a list of factors that include the context and meaning of the word you want to use. Therefore, it’s important to understand the logic behind even the most boring rules. In this article, we are going to explore the rules of capitalization in the English language. We will also explore the American capitalization specifics.
Capitalization: What Is It
The definition of capitalization is simple – it is the usage of capital letters in writing. You know that it is necessary to capitalize proper nouns and the first word of every sentence. However, if you think that the rest of the rules are as simple as that, you are wrong. Even in the case of proper nouns, you might not always be sure of whether something is or is not a proper noun. Students often struggle with the abundance of rules and exceptions. It is easy to get a disappointing grade when you do not pay close attention to capitalization. One of the possible traps you might get into is title capitalization. At the first sight, everything seems clear as a day. All you have to do is to follow the guidelines of a specific formatting style you use – MLA, Chicago, etc. Even though some of the rules are universal for all styles, there are exclusive ones that work only for particular formatting styles so you have to be attentive.
One of the basic and universal title capitalization rules claims that you have to capitalize the first and the last word in a title. This one is easy but the deeper you dig the more confusing it gets. For example, what about prepositions? What do title capitalization rules have to say about them? This is the point where you will have to stick to the specific style guidelines. However, there is one universal tip – if the preposition you want to include in a title is shorter than 3 letters you don’t have to capitalize it no matter which style you’re using. Wow, that can be a real puzzle especially when you are limited in time and don’t want to look into the brochure with guidelines every 5 minutes. Now that you have some information about title capitalization, let’s have a look at the rules that can make your life easier no matter what kind of assignment you need to cope with really fast.
Capitalization Rules to Simplify Your Life
This article would not have been as useful as it is if it was not for the list of helpful rules you are about to read. Some students say that once you’ve managed to learn some basic rules of capitalization, it becomes easier to make the right choice even when you don’t know the rule. Call it intuition or the sixth sense but it works. Therefore, here are some of the points for you to remember. We’ve tried to outline the most significant ones and those you come across most often when coping with writing assignments.
- Quotations are tricky. When you want to insert a quote in a form of a complete sentence, do not hesitate to capitalize the first letter of the first word:
My teacher asked me: “When are you planning to turn in your paper?”
However, when you use a partial quote, you don’t have to use capitalization:
My teacher said she was “too tired and frustrated” to answer all of my questions at once.
- What day is it today? When it comes to dates that require specifying day, month, and sometimes a holiday, you need to use not only title capitalization rules but the general ones: capitalize the first letter:
My favorite month is July because that’s when I can celebrate my birthday and Independence Day.
Note that there is no need for capitalization of names of the seasons, though. Also, let’s talk about historical data and events. Those events and periods that have proper names should always be capitalized: World War II, the Mesozoic, the Middle Ages, etc. Do not capitalize centuries, though.
- One more aspect of the title capitalization rules. To make it simpler for you to remember the great number of rules, here is some kind of generalization you may use when writing a title: capitalize every word except for articles, conjunctions, and prepositions that are no longer than a 3-letter word. For more detailed instructions, you should use the guidelines of a specific formatting style you are applying.
- Names and proper nouns can give you a headache. As we’ve mentioned before, names and proper nouns should be capitalized. This rule explains why there is a word American capitalization. Therefore, the names of the cities, mountains, countries, political parties, etc. are also proper nouns. Seems like there should be no questions here. But here’s a tricky part: you should use the American capitalization rule again when you use words like “mom” in a form of address. For instance:
Just wait until Mom finds out about what you’ve done.
It is worth mentioning that there is one pronoun that you should always capitalize as well – the pronoun “I”. We think you already know this rule but it won’t hurt to remind you about it.
- Finally, let’s talk about titles. People’s titles to be more specific. So, the general rule sounds like this: you should use capitalization of people’s titles in case they come before the person’s name or are used instead of the person’s real name. Here’s a short example for your better understanding:
When I was in college, I once talked to the Senior Sales Manager David Brooks.
Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of when to apply these rules and will spend less time on writing assignments.
Conclusion: why capitalization is important
If these rules are so confusing and there are many exceptions, why should students learn and follow them? It is a reasonable question that has a simple and somewhat convincing answer. Paradoxically enough, we use all these rules to make the communication process more effective. If everyone used some random grammar and spelling rules, it would have been extremely difficult to understand the meaning of every message, even the shortest one. People have invented the type of communication that lets us understand each other very fast. That is why, until our evolutionary process reaches the stage when we can communicate using only our thoughts, we will need to follow all the guidelines of writing and speaking. Take a deep breath in and prepare to follow the rules of capitalization.
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