A helpful way to remember when to capitalize (in most cases) is to use this phrase: Proper nouns and words derived from them are capitalized. Common nouns are not.
Here are some examples:
Weekdays, holidays, and months need capitalization:
- Labor Day
- An exception is the Fourth of July. You would use the fourth of March.
Seasons, directions, and events do not require capitalization:
- my birthday
- my anniversary
Titles need capitalization when used with a name:
- Example – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But it is not capitalized in this example:
- The hearings for the secretary of state appointment begin today.
Capitalize the first, last, and all the main words of a title:
- The Long Hot Summer
- Frannie and Zooey
- The Red and the Black
Capitalize the first word after a colon if it begins an independent clause: This may depend on whether you are using MLA Style or APA Style.
- I found myself in an unusual position: My husband was not the man I thought he was. (APA)
- I found myself in an unusual position: my husband was not the man I thought he was. (MLA)
When Do You Capitalize a Word?
Here are some other examples:
- God (when used as a name)
- god (when used as a description)
- Aunt Judie
- my aunt
- English, French
- history, mathematics, physical education
- The World Wide Web, Web, but website
- a home page
- World War II
- the war, a war
- a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent
- I went to the game with Father.
- His father was often at work on Saturdays.
- The South (as an area)
- the southern point
- a southern state
If you have a question about capitalizing a word, look in the style books in the index for “capitalization.” Most style books provide exceptions.
You can also use a search engine on the Web to help you reference these types of questions. I have one site I like to use as well:
But you can also go to the APA and MLA Websites for useful information.
Originally posted 5/12/2009 and happily updated 11/14/2017. Thanks for reading!
We have loads of happy clients from all over the world…here are some of them! (Refresh the page to view more.)