When to Use Capital Letters - dummies

By Geraldine Woods

Part of Basic English Grammar For Dummies Cheat Sheet

In English grammar, you need to know when to capitalise words. Sometimes the capital letter signifies the part of a sentence or simply indicates someone’s name (proper nouns). Use capital letters for the following:

  • Specific names: Capital letters are used for the names of people, places, and brands. (Bill, Mrs. Jones, River Dee, Burberry). Lowercase letters are for general names (girls, mountains, clothing).

  • First word: The first word in a sentence, a title, or a subtitle is always capitalised.

  • Personal pronoun: The pronoun I, referring to the speaker or writer, should be capitalised.

  • Titles of full-length literary works: The first word in the title of a book, play, newspaper, or magazine, plus all the important words, should be capitalised. (God Save the Queen, The Times, A Tale of Two Cities). If you have a subtitle, capitalise only the first word, specific names, and the personal pronoun I.

  • Titles of songs, poems, and articles: Capitalise the first word, proper names, and the personal pronoun I.

  • Titles for people: When a title comes before a name, capitalise it (Reverend Ames). After the name, capitalise titles only when they refer to very important positions (Prime Minister, Secretary General of the United Nations).