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Welcome to this week's FREE writing lesson

Topic: Capitalizing Letters

Should you write “The king is here” or “The King is here”?

This is a very tough question for lots of people.  The real question is "When should you capitalize letters?"  Although this may seem like a difficult question for lots of writers, the answer is quite simple when you know the rules.  Below, you will find a list of capitalization rules that will help you in most writing situations.

1.  The first letter of every new sentence is capitalized.

Example: My mother is from Seoul.  My father grew up in Taegu.

2.  The pronoun I is always capitalized.

Example: Robert and I are going to discuss the political situation.

3.  Titles of people are only capitalized when they are followed by someone’s name.

Example: That is the president of the United States.

                 That is President Bush.

4.  Proper names of places, specific buildings, rivers, mountains, and other geographic locations are capitalized.

Example:  A:  That is a long river.  

                  B:  Yes, it is.  That is the Nile River, which runs through Africa.

I go to church every week.  I go to the First Baptist Church of New York.

5.  Proper names of people.

Example:  This is my friend.  Her name is Jennifer.

6.  All proper names of: things, companies, religions, deities, and languages.

Intel wants to hire people who speak Spanish and French.

7.  Capitalize the days of the week, months, and holidays.

Valentine’s Day is on Monday, February 14th.

8.  Capitalize names of documents, organizations, clubs, and historical events.

Example:  The Declaration of Independence made the king of England very angry.  This eventually started the United States Revolutionary War. 

9.  Direction words (north, south, east, and west) should only be capitalized when they refer to a region or section of a country. 

Example:  The West offers lots of job opportunities.  

                 A: How do I get to the Moonlight Restaurant?  

                 B: Go west 3 blocks.  It is on the right.

Quiz

Directions:  Below is a paragraph that contains no capital letters.  Correct the paragraph by putting capital letters where they belong.

the blind queen

            once upon a time, there was a queen.  queen cynthia lived in her castle in a faraway land called shangutopia.  shangutopia was located in lufecaep valley near a large river which was called the hula hula river.  this river provided the people with fresh water, lots of fish, and large amounts of vegetables. 

            one day, as the people celebrated an annual festival of hope, a rainstorm came and flooded the river.  hula hula overflowed and many homes were destroyed.  as a result, many of the citizens of shangutopia died from the cold weather and lack of food.  when the water receded, the queen called for her royal horses so she could take a look at the damage.  she began in the north and inspected her entire country.  she asked, “why are the people hungry?”  her royal advisor answered, “they don’t have any food.”  the queen was upset and confused because she had always lived in her secure castle.  she responded, “then just give them food.” 

            queen cynthia asked, “why are the people so thirsty?”  her royal advisor again responded, “because there is no clean water to drink.”  the queen ignorantly snapped back, “well! then give them water!”

            while she was traveling, another great storm developed, and a tornado destroyed her castle.   when the queen returned to her home, she queried the crying servants, “what happened?”    they explained that nothing remained; everything was in complete ruins. 

            queen cynthia looked perplexed.  she commanded, “well! then make me some dinner.  i'm so hungry."  the servants said, "your highness, there is no food."  the queen yelled, "then get some food.  i have been traveling for days.  it takes a lot of energy to go around and understand how the citizens are doing.  they are so lucky to have such an understanding queen." 

The Blind Queen

            Once upon a time, there was a queen.  Queen Cynthia lived in her castle in a faraway land called Shangutopia.  Shangutopia was located in Lufecaep Valley near a large river which was called the Hula Hula River.  This river provided the people with fresh water, lots of fish, and large amounts of vegetables. 

            One day, as the people celebrated an annual festival of hope, a rainstorm came and flooded the river.  Hula Hula overflowed and many homes were destroyed.  As a result, many of the citizens of Shangutopia died from the cold weather and lack of food.  When the water receded, the queen called for her royal horses so she could take a look at the damage.  She began in the North and inspected her entire country.  She asked, “Why are the people hungry?”  Her royal advisor answered, “They don’t have any food.”  The queen was upset and confused because she had always lived in her secure castle.  She responded, “Then just give them food.” 

            Queen Cynthia asked, “Why are the people so thirsty?”  Her royal advisor again responded, “Because there is no clean water to drink.”  The queen ignorantly snapped back, "Well! Then give them water!”

            While she was traveling, another great storm developed, and a tornado destroyed her castle.   When the queen returned to her home, she queried the crying servants, “What happened?”  They explained that nothing remained; everything was in complete ruins. 

            Queen Cynthia looked perplexed.  She commanded, “Well! Then make me some dinner.  I'm so hungry."  The servants said, "Your Highness, there is no food."  The queen yelled, "Then get some food.  I have been traveling for days.  It takes a lot of energy to go around and understand how the citizens are doing.  They are so lucky to have such an understanding queen." 

Rules to Remember!

1 Don't capitalize letters anytime you want.  There are very specific rules that answer most capitalization questions.
2 Don't capitalize "mom" and "dad" unless you are referring to them as names.  

Example:  This is my mom.

              John!  Do you know where Mom is?

3 Don't capitalize winter, spring, summer, and fall
4 Only the first letters of words in titles of books and essays should be capitalized. It is common to NOT capitalize small words in titles such as: of, a, an, and the.  However, these words should be capitalized if they are the first word in the title.

Example: My favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz.

5 For an explanation of capitalization rules in quotations, click here

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