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How to Write Clear, Readable, Effective Sentences that Readers Love!
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An Introduction to English Capitalization

English Capitalization If you are an aspiring writer or you just want to pass your English 101 class, one thing you must know is capitalization. No one will take your writing seriously if you capitalize words incorrectly. Here are some tips on using proper English capitalization. Use the links above to learn how to capitalize words in particular cases.

Notice the words capitalized in the first paragraph above.

Notice that I capitalized If, No, Here and Use in the above paragraph because they are the first words in the sentence. This is the most basic and common rule of English capitalization.

English is capitalized because it is the name of a specific course. Such as History 101 or Algebra II. If you wrote, "I love literature," then you would not capitalize literature because it does NOT refer to a specific type of literature.

Next we have the word English. The reason it is capitalized is because it comes from the word England. It is considered a proper noun. Other languages such as Spanish and Italian are also capitalized—just the way you would capitalize someone's name, i.e. Bill, Joe, Jane.

Landmarks or store names are proper nouns so you also capitalize them as well—i.e. Golden Gate Bridge, Friday's, Outback Steakhouse, Empire State Building.

While we're on the subject of the Empire State Building, check out that middle word, State. States are also capitalized, as well cities and towns.

We talked about capitalizing names. But, what if you call someone doctor, doc, chief or boss? Something along those lines, but you are not referring to them as just a doctor, or a chief or a boss,—maybe they aren't any of those things—that's just how you address them. Well, then they need a capital, such as: "How are you today, Boss?"

Of course, you always capitalize titles of books, magazines, and newspapers. However, you do not capitalize words such as the, is, are, or, in, or of, unless they are the first word in the title: "The Tao of Poo," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "Prozac Nation," "New York Times," etc.

When writing a letter to someone, you capitalize "Dear," if it is the first word of the letter, i.e. Dear, Mrs. Smith. However, if you choose to say: "My dear, Mrs. Smith." You capitalize "My" because it is the first word; however, you do not capitalize the word dear. When you close your letter with "Sincerely,"you must capitalize that "s." You must also capitalize your name at the signature line.

Contrary to popular belief, seasons are not capitalized, i.e. winter, spring, summer and fall. However, you do capitalize the days of the week as well as the months of the year—e.g., Monday, Tuesday, April, May.

These are a few simple rules to follow when using English capitalization. If you can stick to these rules, you can write structurally-sound sentences that make sense to your readers.

Use the links below to learn how to capitalize words in particular cases.

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