Capitalising Words: A Short Guide on Capitalisation in English


20th February 2024

Speak right now to our live team of English staff

Capitalisation is a fundamental aspect of English writing that helps convey meaning, clarity, and emphasis. Understanding when to use capital letters and what should be capitalised in a sentence is crucial for effective communication. In this guide, we’ll explore capitalisation rules and provide clarity on capital words.

When to Capitalise: General Rules

At the Beginning of a Sentence: The first word of every sentence should always be capitalised, regardless of its grammatical function.
Example: “The sun sets in the west.”

Proper Nouns: Names of specific people, places, organisations, and titles are always capitalised.

  • John Smith
  • London
  • Harvard University

Titles: Titles preceding a person’s name, such as Mr, Mrs, Dr, and titles of books, movies, and songs, are capitalised.

  • Dr Emily Brown
  • “To Kill a Mockingbird”
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Days of the Week and Months: Names of days of the week and months are always capitalised.

  • Monday
  • July

Historical Events and Periods: Names of historical events, eras, and significant periods are capitalised.

  • The Industrial Revolution

Nationalities and Languages: Names of nationalities and languages are capitalised.

  • French
  • Spanish

What Should Be Capitalised in a Sentence

    • Proper Nouns: Names of specific people, places, organisations, and titles.
    • Titles and Headings: Titles of books, articles, movies, songs, and headings in documents or presentations.
    • Initials and Acronyms: The first letter of each word in an acronym or abbreviation is capitalised.
      Example: NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
    • First Word in a Quote: When quoting someone, the first word of the quote is capitalised.
    • Important Words in Titles: Major words in titles of books, movies, and articles are capitalised.
      Example: “The Catcher in the Rye”

Rules for Capitalising Titles

Capitalising titles correctly is essential for maintaining consistency and professionalism in writing. Here are some rules to follow when capitalising titles, along with examples:

  • Capitalise the First Word, Last Word, and Principal Words
    Example: “The Great Gatsby”
  • Do Not Capitalise Articles, Prepositions, and Conjunctions (unless they are the first or last word): 
    Example: “Gone with the Wind”
  • Capitalise Titles of Events, Meetings, and Conferences
    Example: “The Annual Conference on Environmental Sustainability”

The rules for capitalising titles of books, articles, movies, art, and other works may vary slightly between different style guides. However, generally speaking, the above rules apply across major style guides, including APA, MLA, and Chicago.

Capital Words

While the judicious use of capital words can effectively highlight key points and add emphasis to important information, it’s crucial to exercise restraint. Excessive use of capital words is generally discouraged as it may come across as shouting in written communication, particularly in email communication, diminishing the impact and readability of the text. Consider using capitalisation sparingly and strategically to ensure that your message is conveyed with clarity and professionalism.

For instance, in corporate communications, an announcement like “IMPORTANT NOTICE: ALL EMPLOYEES MUST ATTEND THE MANDATORY TRAINING SESSION TOMORROW” might be appropriate for urgent matters requiring immediate attention. 

However, consistently employing capital words for routine messages may dilute their effectiveness and detract from their significance over time. Therefore, it’s advisable to reserve the use of capitalisation for instances where emphasis is truly warranted while maintaining a balanced and respectful tone in written communication.

The Importance of Capitalisation

Mastering the rules of capitalisation in English is fundamental for effective communication. By adhering to these guidelines, you can ensure your writing is grammatically correct, coherent, and conveys the intended meaning accurately. Maintain consistency in capitalisation to enhance readability and professionalism in all your written documents. 

Looking to polish your writing further? Consider leveraging our professional academic proofreading and editing services. Our team of experienced editors will meticulously review your content, ensuring it adheres to the highest standards of English writing conventions. Reach out today to elevate your writing to new heights of excellence.