Capitalize It!

I am always miffed when I collect a paper, and a student has forgotten to capitalize his or her name. (I also get ticked when students misspell their name, but you can refer to the cursive post for help with that problem.) I recognize that there may be some things that are difficult to know whether or not to capitalize in the 4th grade, but other things are not.

capitalization rules

The students just finished up their research papers about American businesses, and I had to have a capitalization rant with them. There are some capitalization rules that I think we should all live by and use without being reminded. Capitalizing the name of the company and the company founder a person researched for 2 weeks should happen automatically without any outside assistance. And, as I had to remind my students, auto-correct and spell check won’t catch everything!

Capitalize “I” by itself— no questions asked, always and forever.

  • I should capitalize proper nouns.
  • I often forget to capitalize proper nouns.
  • My teacher reviewed capitalization, and I listened carefully.

Words that are related to a country name are capitalized.

  • I am an American.
  • I speak English.
  • I love junky Mexican food (and margaritas) on Friday nights.
  • We used to refer to Native American people as Indians, but now it really means the people who live in India.

ladybug girl poster

In titles, the first word, the last word, and the “important” words in between are capitalized. Deciding if the middle words in a title should be capitalized can be tricky. When in doubt, count the letters in a word. Words in titles that have 4 or more letters will probably be capitalized (this is a guideline only– the trick won’t work for every short word).

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • The New York Times
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters

research paper outline

The first word in a sentence is always capitalized. No other words in the middle of the sentence should be capitalized unless they meet the “proper noun” criteria. Proper nouns are the words that name a particular person, place, or organization. Proper nouns name a specific, one-of-a-kind item.

The words “mom” and “dad” may be capitalized in some situations. Students write these words a lot, so they should be familiar with the capitalization policy for their parents. When a person is using “mom” and “dad” like a first name, and the words could be replaced with a first name like Jennifer or Scott, capitalize. If the words are being used to describe a person that is like many other people, do not capitalize.

  • I did my homework, and Mom checked my assignment book.
  • I did my homework, and my mom checked my assignment book.
  • After dinner, Dad played basketball with me.
  • After dinner, my friend’s dad played basketball with us.

Up next… whether or not to underline titles or put them in quotation marks. Is that a problem for anyone else? We had to have a class discussion about that too.

5 thoughts on “Capitalize It!

  1. I would normally let this one slide right off my grammarphile’s back, but this is a post about words, punctuation, and pet peeves, right? One of my pet peeves is use of “refer back.” “Refer” means to look back, so isn’t it redundant to refer back?

    • I had to do a little research because I thought it was (is?) acceptable. Here is what I learned… Some people feel it is redundant. Others feel “refer back” lets the reader know that you are directing them (the refer part) to something that has been mentioned before (the back part)– not just directing them to other information. I have to admit, I was in a little bit of a panic that I had a major grammar misstep in the post. According to my Google sources, it is acceptable both ways. That could have been embarrassing. 🙂

      • Phew! (And though I know it’s wrong, I always want to spell that, “Pfew!”) I do feel better knowing it’s acceptable. Now for a BIG one that came up on Facebook today: how do you feel about the Oxford comma?

      • I am almost afraid to answer… I do use it, and I tell students to put a comma before the and in a series (red, blue, and green balloons). I also tell them that it is possible to see lists without a comma before the and. Whichever comma choice they make, they have to be consistent every time they use commas in a series of words. What did Facebook say?

  2. Pingback: Tricky Titles | TheRoomMom

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