Capitalization

Capital letters, also sometimes called uppercased letters, are the taller letters you see when you read. But a letter isn't a capital letter just because it's tall! Every letter of the alphabet has a capital version and a lowercased version. The two versions don't always look the same, as you can see here with the letter A:

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When you capitalize a letter, you're turning it from a lowercased letter into a capital letter. People also talk about capitalizing words, which means to capitalize the first letter of the word. In this lesson, we'll go over the rules that tell you when a word should be capitalized and when it should be lowercased. In general, you should capitalize:

The first letter of a sentenceThe letter IPeople and place namesDates and holidaysProfessional and family titlesGroups and organizationsTitles of books, songs, and other creative works

Let's go over these one at a time.

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The first letter of a sentence

The first letter of a sentence is always capitalized, no matter what letter it is. For example, let's look at this sentence:

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The letter W in when is capitalized because W is the first letter in the sentence. If the sentence said He never shows up for our dates, the letter H would be capitalized. The first letter of sentences that are included in other sentences are also capitalized, like in this example:

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Here, we've capitalized the M in my because it's the first letter of the entire sentence. We've also capitalized the D in don't because it's the first letter of the sentence the woman's father says.

The letter I

An I by itself refers to a person, so it should be capitalized. For example:

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Notice that only the I that appears by itself is capitalized—you don't need to capitalize every I in the sentence.

The I should also be capitalized when I is in a contraction with other words. For instance, the I in I'm is capitalized because I'm is a contraction of I am. I've is a contraction of I have, so I is capitalized there too. What about a contraction like it's? Because the I in it's stands for it, it should be lowercased.

People and place names

The first letters of names are always capitalized. This is true for people's names like Joe and place names like Georgia.

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On this envelope, Dracula Smith's name, street, city, and state are all capitalized. Notice that the words Big, Tooth, and Lane are all capitalized because they are all part of Dracula's street address.

Dates and holidays

Months, days, and holidays should all be capitalized. Let's take a look at this example:

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In this sentence, Thanksgiving and Day are both capitalized because they are part of a holiday name. (Thanksgiving is also the first word of the sentence). Thursday is the name of a day, and November is the name of a month. If you're not sure whether to capitalize a holiday name, ask yourself if the name would be printed on a calendar. Holiday names that would be printed on calendars should be capitalized.

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Unlike dates and holidays, the seasons of the year aren't usually capitalized. You should only capitalize a season if it's part of a specific name, like the Fall semester or the Winter book sale.

Four out of five of the capital letters in this image are correct. Use what you just learned to decide which ones are correct, then click the dots to see if you're right!