Lesson 1


The first word in a sentence is always capitalized.

The pen is mightier than the sword.
As the children trudged along the road, they became quite tired.
Soon they could walk no more.

Pronoun I

The pronoun I is always capitalized.

Now that I have graduated from university, I have a bright future.


The first word in a quotation is capitalized. However, the second part of a broken quotation does not need a capital letter unless it begins a new sentence.

"Ask not what your country can do for you," said President Kennedy, "but what you can do for your country."

This is a broken quotation, since the second part of the quotation belongs to the first part to make a complete sentence.

"It's a great day for a picnic," said Lucy. "Let's all go the beach."

The second part of the quotation begins a new sentence, so the first word must be capitalized.

Lines of poetry

Capitalize the first word in each line of poetry.

by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow


Capitalize the first word and any nouns in the salutation of a business letter and a social letter.

Dear Mr. Smith:
Dear Joan,

Capitalize the first word in the closing of a business letter and a social letter.

Yours sincerely,
Yours truly,
With kindest regards


The first word in each section and sub-section of an outline must be capitalized.

Seal Fishery

  • Introduction
  • Reasons
  • Cod fishery
  • Products
  • Employment
  • Thesis

Proper nouns

A proper noun is the name of a particular person, place or thing, and it is always capitalized.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Otherwise, these same words are common nouns, and they are not capitalized.


Proper nouns for a place are always capitalized.

I live at 15 Commonwealth Avenue.

However, you do not capitalize the common noun for a place.

Yes, you need to turn left after that avenue down there on the right.

Proper nouns for things are also capitalized

Olympic Stadium

However, like places, you do not capitalize the word when it is used as a common noun.

Are you going to the stadium later to watch the game?

Initials and acronyms

Initials are always capitalized.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Acronyms, words formed from the initial letters of words, are always capitalized.

OPEC is an acronym for Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Proper adjectives

A proper adjective is formed from a proper noun; therefore, it is capitalized.

Proper noun:


Proper adjective:


Personal names and nicknames

Personal names and their abbreviations are capitalized.

Joseph Smith
Joe Smith
Uncle Tom
Aunt Ethel

Words such as cousin, uncle, aunt, grandmother and grandfather are not capitalized if they do not refer to a particular person. However, if they precede a proper noun, they are capitalized.

I gave my aunt and uncle a gift for Christmas.
I gave Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe a gift for Christmas.

An interesting point is that both Mom and Dad are capitalized, if the words are not preceded by personal pronouns.

We gave Mom and Dad a gift at Easter.

If mom and dad are preceded by a personal pronoun, they are not capitalized.

We gave our mom and dad a gift at Easter.

Nicknames are always capitalized. If the is part of the nickname, it is not capitalized, unless it is the first word in a sentence.

Florence Nightingale was known as the Lady with the Lamp.
King Richard I of England earned the nickname the Lionheart from his bravery in battle.

Titles of people

Titles of people are capitalized.

Miss Gloria Harvey
Mr. John Smith
Rev. Janet Brown
Henry Mercer, Sr.
William Dixon, Jr.
Dr. MacDonald
Sir Robert Borden

A title of a person holding an office is capitalized when the title is part of the name. Otherwise, it is not capitalized.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Prime Minster Harper
Stephen Harper, the prime minister
President Obama
President Barack Obama
Barack Obama, the president

The prime minister of Canada during World War II was William Lyon Mackenzie King.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the Middle East in January 2014.

Roman numerals

Roman numerals may be written in uppercase or lowercase, depending on their use in the sentence.

The uppercase of a roman numeral is used for monarchs, popes, emperors, etc. with the same name. It is also used for personal names and for sequels for plays or movies.

Queen Elizabeth II
Pope John Paul II
Hank Williams III
The Godfather, Part II

A roman numeral is written in lowercase for scenes of a play and for the section of a book that contains the table of contents.

Act II, scene ii
page xi

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