Ask a Capitalization Question

dearreaders

questionsquareNot too long ago, we published a post regarding the ins and outs of capitalization. It seems we’ve attracted a great deal of traffic from people looking for answers that aren’t readily available in the post.

If you have a capitalization question on your mind – let loose and ask it in the comment section below. We will promptly answer your inquiries as soon as we receive notice. And don’t be shy, you never know when you can help a fellow writer facing the same dilemma.

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81 Comments

  1. Jennifer, October 19, 2009:

    When referring to the great depression in a sentence but not a the beginning should it be capitalized? I am thinking yes but not for sure.

  2. The Priceless Team, October 19, 2009:

    Hi Jennifer,

    Yes, historical periods and eras, such as the Great Depression, are capitalized.

  3. Peter, November 1, 2009:

    Should the names of seasons be capitalized?

  4. The Priceless Team, November 1, 2009:

    Hi Peter,

    Do not capitalize the names or derivatives of seasons – spring (springtime), summer, winter, fall, and autumn UNLESS:

    1) Used as part of a formal name like “Summer Olympics.”

    2) Paired with another noun and serving as a proper noun, like:
    “Fall 2010 semester”
    “Fall television line-up”
    “Winter holiday shopping sale”

    3) You are personifying a season in prose, poetry, or creative writing, like: “In December, Winter lifts his icy hand.”

  5. The Priceless Team, November 2, 2009:

    Someone has asked us if ‘breast cancer’ and other cancers are capitalized. The answer is no, unless it is being used in a title, such as Breast Cancer Walk-a-Thon.

    Example: Did you know that breast cancer can strike both men and women?

  6. Valerie, November 2, 2009:

    In a sentence like:

    Look at the atlas and point to an island in the southern hemisphere.

    is both the s and the h in southern hemisphere capitalized or is none capitalized.

  7. The Priceless Team, November 2, 2009:

    Hi Valerie,

    Capitalize the entire thing: Southern Hemisphere

    Capitalize when referring to a specific hemisphere (Western Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere, and Eastern Hemisphere) BUT lowercase ‘hemisphere’ when speaking about more than one (Eastern and Western hemispheres) and the hemisphere.

  8. Teresa Burrell, November 23, 2009:

    Do you capitalize Your Honor when referring to a judge? If so, are both words capitalized or just “honor”?

  9. The Priceless Team, November 23, 2009:

    Hi Teresa,

    Oooo – good one. When referring to a judge, use ‘Your Honor’ – both words capitalized. All honorific titles are capitalized, including Your Royal Highness, Her Royal Highness, Your Majesty, Your Grace, My Lord, and His Lordship.

  10. juan, January 6, 2010:

    Do you capitalize ailments? Such as breast cancer and autism?

  11. The Priceless Team, January 6, 2010:

    Hello Juan,

    Do not capitalize ailments, such as breast cancer or autism…unless they appear in the name of an organization or event, such as the Breast Cancer Society, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Week, or the Autism Fun Run.

  12. TLR, January 10, 2010:

    Suppose I am addressing (for example) Lord Bob, who is nobility. In writing, would he be My Lord, my Lord, or my lord? I feel it falls under the “capitalizing honorifics” rule, but repeatedly I’m told that I could only write My Lord if Bob is God, so it’d be “my lord” unless the word my began the sentence.

  13. The Priceless Team, January 13, 2010:

    TLR,

    You’re absolutely right – this question does fall under honorifics. If Bob is nobility and you’re referring to him as ‘My Lord,’ it is capitalized. To quote question 9, “All honorific titles are capitalized, including Your Royal Highness, Her Royal Highness, Your Majesty, Your Grace, My Lord, and His Lordship.”

  14. Ben Shakespeare, February 9, 2010:

    Hi!
    I’m editing an early modern play-text and the titles appear ‘Barbarian Moor’, ‘invading ‘Moors’, ‘thrice noble lord’ and ‘they my lord’. As Moor refers to a religious group, examples like ‘invading Moors’ should be capitalized I think.

    Thanks – Ben.

  15. The Priceless Team, February 13, 2010:

    Hi Ben!

    You are correct – Moor or Moors is capitalized within the text. In your examples, the correct usage would be ‘barbarian Moor’ or ‘invading Moors’.

  16. Kay, April 1, 2010:

    Hi,

    if I am starting a sentence with a removed letter do I then capitalize the next letter? I’m thinking yes, but am not sure!
    eg,
    ‘Twas

    Thanks

  17. Samantha, April 1, 2010:

    Hi Kay – your instincts are right on! Even though you’re starting the sentence with an apostrophe to note the removed letter, you’d capitalize the first letter of the sentence.

  18. moe, April 28, 2010:

    Do you capitalize summer olympics?

  19. The Priceless Team, April 29, 2010:

    Hi Moe,

    Yes, Summer Olympics is capitalized. Comment #4 (above) also addresses other times a season is capitalized.

  20. Robert O., June 8, 2010:

    I beg to differ about your Honor. The court reporters in New York City have never capitalized the “y” in “your” while capitalizing the “H” in “Honor.” this has been consistent for decades (I started practicing here in 1973.)

  21. Samantha, June 10, 2010:

    Hello Robert,

    Thank you for your comment – it certainly had us stumped for a bit, because not capitalizing the ‘y’ in ‘your Honor’ seems to go against the grain. After doing a great deal of research, we found that most sources recommend capitalizing both the ‘y’ and the ‘h’, as in ‘Your Honor’ – as this title is taking the place of the judge’s name, and is meant to honor him or her.

    I contacted Robert Hickey, Deputy Director, The Protocol School of Washington, and author of Honor and Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address to get his input on this question. His reply was:

    ” I like your logic … but the closest I can suggest — is that I have consistently found that when the courtesy title is at the beginning of a line … the article is capitalized … but when it is in the middle of a sentence, then the article is not: For example.
    On an envelope:
    The Honorable Michael Bloomberg
    Mayor of New York
    City Hall
    New York, NY 10007

    But in a sentence, the “the” is not capitalized:
    Today at 2:00 p.m. there will be an address by the Honorable Michael Bloomberg …

    Of course it is not exactly comparable since ‘Your Honor’ is an oral form in the US … not a written form … so would not be on an invitation or letter. Salutations are based on oral forms of address …. but to a judge the name in the salutation would be Judge Smith not Your Honor.”

    So, perhaps the ‘y’ isn’t capitalized when it falls into the middle of a sentence because the writers are following the similar rule for courtesy titles such as ‘the Honorable.’ Or, perhaps it’s a preference thing. In any case, we would still recommend that writers capitalize both words.

  22. Brenda, June 27, 2011:

    Michigan enrolled 146 Hmong participants between fall 2009 and fall 2010.
    Is “fall” capitalized in this instance or not?

  23. The Priceless Team, June 27, 2011:

    Hi Brenda,

    Thank you for your question!

    In this example, Fall 2009 and Fall 2010 ARE capitalized because it is the title of a time period and therefore a proper noun.

  24. Barbara Cash, July 21, 2011:

    Should I capitalize “constitutional rights”? What about the “armed forces” of the United States?
    e.g., “That would be a violation of his constitutional rights.”
    “Are you a member of the armed forces of the United States?”

  25. The Priceless Team, July 21, 2011:

    Hi Barbara,

    While the Constitution would be capitalized in a sentence, constitutional rights is not.

    In your second example, Armed Forces of the United States is a proper noun and would be capitalized.

    According to the US Navy style guide, “Capitalize only as a proper name (Armed Forces Day), not as a noun (the armed forces) or adjective (an armed-forces member). Lower case unless part of a title or when preceded by U.S., as in U.S. Armed Forces.”

    Without the inclusion of the United States, it would be safe to not capitalize.

  26. enviro, August 25, 2011:

    So glad I found this thread! I love capitalization questions. I have a question about season capitalization that, believe it or not, is not answered above. A friend wrote something about a bad state of affairs. He then concluded (rather forcefully, I thought): “That will end this fall.” I felt “fall” should be capitalized. On reviewing your first several answers here I concluded I was wrong. But following answer #23 above perhaps my instinct was right because it is a specific time period? Thanks for your help!

  27. enviro, August 25, 2011:

    One more quick one: no capital on “congressional” unless it’s a proper noun like the Congressional Country Club, correct?

  28. The Priceless Team, August 28, 2011:

    Hello there,

    You are correct. “congressional” is lowercase unless it is part of a proper name, such as Congressional Country Club.

  29. Wyndham, August 30, 2011:

    I am editing a story and would appreciate your help in correctly capitalising the following:

    - His Majesty’s ship Hood or His Majesty’s Ship Hood
    - His Majesty’s frigate Intrepid or …..
    - His Majesty’s bomb vessel Dreadnought
    etc

    Many thanks

  30. The Priceless Team, August 30, 2011:

    Hi Wyndham,

    Because His Majesty’s Ship (HMS) is a proper title in several countries, it is capitilalized – Your example, His Majesty’s Ship Hood, would be correct.

    His Majesty’s frigate or his Majesty’s bomb vessel are not official titles, however, and do not have to be capitalized.

  31. Cindy, September 19, 2011:

    I’m editing a book I wrote. It’s set in 1530 France and riddled with references to the royal Court, French Court, the Court, etc. When should “court” be capitalized in this context? Thanks!

  32. The Priceless Team, September 19, 2011:

    Hi Cindy,

    Court is capitalized when it is used as a part of a definitive name of a country’s higher justice systems, like French Court, Supreme Court, or the Royal Court. Local level courts (ie magistrate’s court) or just the court is not.

    I hope that answers your question! And good luck with your book!

  33. enviro, October 31, 2011:

    Hi — Thanks for your answer on #27! But could you help me out with #26? Thank you!

  34. The Priceless Team, October 31, 2011:

    Sorry for overlooking that question enviro!

    The names of seasons are only capitalized if they are part of a title, or when personified in poetry.

    Salem Fall Festival, for instance, is a title/proper noun so it is capitalized.

    We will plant flowers next spring, on the other hand, is general usage so it is lowercase.

    I hope that helps!

  35. Ava, November 22, 2011:

    Unforutnately, our state is going bankrupt. My question is state capitalized. Thank you.

  36. The Priceless Team, November 22, 2011:

    Hi Ava,

    State is not capitalized in your example.

    Thank you for your question!

  37. Marcia Harp, December 11, 2011:

    For the signature at the bottom of a card, should it be “the Harp family” or “The Harp Family”?

  38. Erin, December 12, 2011:

    Do you capitalize team in reference to a group working together, like in your name?

    Ex: The Absher team will work cooperatively.

  39. The Priceless Team, December 12, 2011:

    Hi Erin and Marcia!

    In both of your questions, it would be correct to capitalize the words in both titles.

    The Harp Family as a signature would be correct.

    And ‘The Absher Team works cooperatively’ is correct.

    Thanks for your comments!

  40. Barbie, January 10, 2012:

    When using a term such as “…thanks to Our Lord”, is it proper to capitalize both Our and Lord, or should it just be “…thanks to our Lord”?

  41. jessica, January 16, 2012:

    When writing american novel would you capitalize either word?

  42. The Priceless Team, January 16, 2012:

    Hi Barbie, you would only capitalize “Our Lord” if you’re using the entire phrase as a title. In a typical sentence, such as your example “….thanks to our Lord,” most people would capitalize only the word “Lord” as a sign of respect.

    Jessica – when writing this phrase in a typical sentence, you would capitalize the word “American” only.

  43. Linda, February 1, 2012:

    Do you capitalize the subject “Writing” in this sentence.

    In essay writing this quarter, we will…..

  44. The Priceless Team, February 3, 2012:

    Hi Linda,

    For the situation you described, you should only capitalize “essay writing” if it is the actual title of a class.

    Example: This quarter, in Essay Writing 101, you will learn…

  45. Jon Farrar, February 15, 2012:

    When writing fiction, if there is a character who is a judge, and is usually called “the judge” by other characters, should “the” and “judge” both be upper-case as “The Judge” as in: “I have no more to say on the matter,” The Judge said.
    Same question for a character most call “The Widow” or “The Widow Beasley.”

  46. The Priceless Team, February 15, 2012:

    Hi Jon,

    In fiction, you would not capitalize “the judge” unless the other characters are addressing him using judge as his title. For instance, in the sentence “Judge, may we approach,” the judge is being called by his title and therefore it’s a proper noun and should be capitalized. In your example sentence, ‘the judge’ would not be capitalized.

    The same goes for the widow Beasley; if characters are addressing her as ‘Widow Beasley,’ then you’d capitalize it but if one character says to another, “Hey look! There’s the widow,” then it’s not a proper noun and wouldn’t be capitalized. Another example of this rule includes:

    Mom and Dad – only when using these words as titles should they be capitalized. Example: “Mom, can you meet me at the store?” IS capitalized while “My mom is going to meet me at the store.” IS NOT capitalized.

  47. Jon Farrar, February 15, 2012:

    Thank you for your reply. But I’m still troubled. In the examples I gave, “The Judge” is used by other characters in place of his proper name, Willam. And “The Widow” is used as a proper name in place of Ebba Beasley. In neither case are the words used to describe the person, their position, or marital status. Would that usage not be the same as someone’s nickname, say Kingfish or Snuffy? And, would there be a difference in dialogue or in the narration?

  48. The Priceless Team, February 15, 2012:

    Hi Jon,

    Yes, if the phrase is being used in place of the person’s name, they would then be capitalized. Also, they would be capitalized whether they were present in the narration or dialogue.

  49. Jon Farrar, February 17, 2012:

    So long as I’m having good fortune with responses to my questions, here’s another. Again in fiction, dialogue, in reference to “Prairie Creek” a character calls it a “crick.” Would it be written as “Prairie Crick” or “Prairie crick?” I’m guessing since “crick” is not part of the proper name it’s lower case, but would appreciate other opinions.

  50. The Priceless Team, February 22, 2012:

    Hi Jon,

    I apologize for the delay. In this instance, if the character is replacing the creek’s proper name with Prarie Crick, it would be capitalized. For example, “The family is meeting at Prarie Crick for a picnic tomorrow.”

    However, if he’s simply referring to the creek as “crick” without using the proper name, it wouldn’t be capitalized. For example, “The crick runs through the middle of the forest.”

    Hope that helps! Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any more questions. :)

  51. Jamie, March 19, 2012:

    Would I capitalize the word “reporter” in the following sentence. I hope to obtain a job with the Seattle Times Newspaper as a reporter.

  52. Henry, March 20, 2012:

    Do you capitalize the word television in this sentence?

    I don’t have a Television.

  53. The Priceless Team, March 20, 2012:

    Jamie – in your sentence, the word “reporter” would not be capitalized because it is a general job title.

    Henry – the word “television” should not be capitalized in your example.

  54. Henry, March 20, 2012:

    Could someone answer my question, please?

  55. The Priceless Team, March 20, 2012:

    Henry,

    Please see comment #53 for an answer to your question. Thank you!

    Samantha

  56. Christiana, March 27, 2012:

    I’m explaing my opinion about a theory called “The Great Perhaps”. Should I be capitolizing it in every sentance?
    For example: The great perhaps is our main purpose and goals in life

  57. The Priceless Team, March 27, 2012:

    Hi Christiana,

    The general rule is to not capitalize theories, philosophies, or laws unless you’re writing about a specific law, such as the No Child Left Behind law. Hope that helps!

  58. Joyce Van Vleet, April 11, 2012:

    I am wondering how much to capitalize in these examples of people being spoken to in dialogue: “I don’t know about that, my dear niece.” or “Use caution, my friend.” or “Revered one, I don’t know what to do.”

  59. Joyce Van Vleet, April 12, 2012:

    Here’s a few more. “Of course, my lord.” “Greetings to you, my good friend.” “I do, sir.” “Forgive me, honorable priestess.” “I assure you, lord Grey.” I keep thinking that every letter of these direct addresses should be capitalized. Am I correct?

  60. Erika, April 13, 2012:

    Going back to the discussion of Your Honor, I am also a court reporter, and both ways are acceptable. I was always a stickler for the “y” not being capitalized until it was explained in a very simple way — when using a word or title instead of an individual’s name, it is always capitalized. Counsel, Counselor, Mom, Auntie, etc. and “your honor” is being used as the judge’s name. You are not calling them “honor” they are being called “Your Honor” so both words would be capped.

  61. The Priceless Team, April 22, 2012:

    Hi Joyce – Sorry for the delay in answering your questions. For your specific examples, most would not be capitalized, since you’re not using them in place of the person’s name. For instance, “my good friend” is not an actual title, although you are speaking to your friend. The same goes with niece, etc.

    However, for Lord Grey, because it’s his title (and used in place of his proper name), you would capitalize it.

    Erika – thanks for that information! You summed this up very nicely – “when using a word or title instead of an individual’s name, it is always capitalized.”

  62. DP, May 7, 2012:

    Do you capitalize the word nation when referencing to the United States?

  63. Kath habel, May 9, 2012:

    When referring to school in the following example is school capitalized?

    In appreciation for all you have done for our school.

  64. Kathy, May 15, 2012:

    Do you capitalize the name of a business form when referring to it using the exact name of the form? (Example: Applicants are encouraged to submit the Teacher Evaluation.) “Teacher Evaluation” is the name of the form.

  65. The Priceless Team, May 16, 2012:

    Hi DP, the word ‘nation’ would not be capitalized. The same rule applies to words like state, city, etc.

    Hi Kath,

    In your example, school would not be capitalized. However, if you were to refer to the title of the school, it would be capitalized.

    Ex: “In appreciation for all you have done for West Bank High School…”

    Hi Kathy,

    Do not capitalize the names of forms, even though it seems like they should be capitalized. So, in your example, the sentence should read:

    Applicants are encouraged to submit the teacher evaluation form…etc.

  66. brian, May 27, 2012:

    writing a fiction story,
    when I am talking about the king is it the king ot the King or The King?
    i.e. I sent message to the king

  67. Shannon, May 31, 2012:

    Is sun capitalized in this sentence? For example,

    During the summer the sun never sets.

  68. The Priceless Team, June 11, 2012:

    Hi there Shannon,

    Heavenly bodies, such as the sun and moon, are lowercase.

    Planets, constellations, and stars (like Mars, the Big Dipper, and Orion) are capitalized.

  69. The Priceless Team, June 11, 2012:

    Hi there Brian,

    When writing about the king in your story, use lowercase when ‘king’ stands only.

    Only capitalize when used before the name of royalty, such as King Henry VIII.

  70. Anam, June 14, 2012:

    My question is regarding honorifics, I’m writing something with kings and queens. How should we go about ‘I beg of you, my Queen, to listen to me.’ Should it be as I wrote in the sentence: my Queen? Or should it be ‘my queen’ or ‘My Queen’?

    Also, as to your answer regarding the capitalization of King/king (also judge/Judge, mayor/Mayor) – I’ve searched this before, and the answer I came upon was that it isn’t capitalized if we’re talking in general, but if we’re referring to a specific person (even without the name), it should be capitalized. For example: ‘the crownless again shall be king’ and ‘the King sat in his court and listened’ or ‘the Queen felt it was a necessary action’. But your answer has me confused. Please make this clear, because if what you say is correct, I’ll have to go back and edit a tonload of pages!

    Thank you. And sorry for the re-post, I posted in the wrong thread by mistake.

  71. The Priceless Team, June 14, 2012:

    Hi Anam,

    Sorry for any confusion. For your first question, the words ‘my queen’ would not be capitalized.

    When using titles of nobility, they are only capitalized when directly preceding a name. For instance, King Henry, Queen Elizabeth, etc. If they are not preceding a name, they are not capitalized, much like the first sentence you asked about.

    This is taken from the Chicago Manual of Style:

    “Whether inherited or conferred, they [titles of nobility] form an integral and, with rare exceptions, permanent part of a person’s name and are therefore usually capitalized. The generic element in a title, however (duke, earl, etc.), is lowercased when used alone as a short form of the name.”

    It should be noted that in British usage, this generic form is often capitalized when used as a stand alone address to a person, but in America, it is not. Hope that helps and good luck with the project you’re working on. :)

  72. Lynn Leonard, June 29, 2012:

    Should it read, two Southern families or two southern families?

  73. The Priceless Team, July 3, 2012:

    Hi there,

    It should read “two Southern families” – the reference to the region is capitalized.

    Other examples include:

    I’m a Northerner.
    He had a Southern accent.
    The Northern liberal disagreed with my politics.

    However, please note that directional references when paired with the name of a nation is lowercase, such as “I live in the eastern United States”. Exceptions include a proper name (like South Korea) or politically divided nations, such as Northern Ireland.

  74. Becky, July 9, 2012:

    Do you capitalize the word “States” when referring to the United States in a sentence? For example, “He is having a difficult time finding a job since returning to the States.”

  75. Nancy, July 9, 2012:

    Do you capitalize team names within an organization? So if you are talking about the software development team do you capitalize it? What if you are talking about the VP of the software development group? I know you do not capitalize titles unless they come before the person’s name, but I was unsure about team names and titles with team names. Any help would be appreciated. My boyfriend is updating his resume and I want it to be accurate.

  76. The Priceless Team, July 10, 2012:

    Hi Becky

    You’re correct – States is capitalized in this reference.

  77. The Priceless Team, July 10, 2012:

    Nancy

    Team names within an organization are capitalized as long as it is the official name of the department or team.

    In a resume, the Software Development Group would be capitalized.

    In other writing, the team or group name is capitalized as well, but only when the full name is used. For instance, ” John is part of the Financial Budgeting Team at Company Xyz. The team handles all of the company’s purchases.”

  78. jay bernstein, September 22, 2012:

    Should I capitalize the name of a child’s soccer team or camp team in an essay i.e. referring to a specific team called the red team: “I enjoyed being captain of the red team at my camp.” Should red and team be capitalized

  79. The Priceless Team, September 29, 2012:

    Hi Jay,

    ‘Red Team’ should be capitalized because it is the name of a specific team.

    If you were only describing the color of a team jersey, then you would use ‘the red team.’

    Thanks for your question.

  80. Jen, October 30, 2012:

    Do you capital either/or great-niece when referring to the relationship of a person?

  81. The Priceless Team, October 30, 2012:

    Hi Jen,

    You wouldn’t capitalize either word when referring to the relationship of a person. Only proper nouns are capitalized, except in instances when you’re using a noun in lieu of the person’s name.

    Ex. “I told Mom we needed to start packing.”

    “Grandma is cooking dinner for everyone.”

    Note: If you use a possessive adjective in front of a word that describes a relationship, you do not capitalize it.

    Ex. “My great-niece and I are going to the fair together.”

    “His sister is coming to visit.”

    Thanks for your question!

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