Capitalization & Punctuation
Want to know more about when to capitalize and which punctuation marks to use? Read on to find out the different rules for capitalization and punctuation.
Capitalize the first word in a sentence.
- Another dog ran by the boy.
Capitalize proper nouns.
- Tommy, New York City, Chicago Bears
Capitalize geographic names.
- Indian Ocean, Hawaii, Empire State Building
Capitalize the pronoun I.
- He asked if I wanted to read next.
Capitalize the names of days and months.
- Tuesday, October
Capitalize the names of national, religious, and local holidays.
- Memorial Day, Easter, Founder's Day
Capitalize proper adjectives.
- French, Chinese
Capitalize words used as names.
- Do you need help, Mother?
Capitalize titles used with names.
- General Bradshaw, Mrs. Key, Chief Dan
Capitalize the first word in the greeting or closing of a letter.
- Dear friends, Yours truly
Capitalize the first, last, and all the main words in the title of a book, movie, song, magazine, play, newspaper, or television show.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
- The National Anthem
Capitalize the names of organizations, associations, or teams and their members.
- American Red Cross, Parent-Teacher Association, Miami Heat
Capitalize the names of businesses and the official names of their products.
- McDonald's hamburgers, Colgate toothpaste
Capitalize historical events, documents, and periods of time.
- Boston Tea Party, Declaration of Independence, Stone Age
Capitalize initials or abbreviations that stand for names and also abbreviations of titles and organizations.
- Richard T. Smith, M.D. (Doctor of Medicine), PTA (Parent-Teacher Association)
Use it to show possession, to take the place of missing letters in contractions and to form the plurals of letters and numerals.
- Sam's best friend never got straight A's, but Sam didn't care.
Use it after the greeting in a business letter; to introduce a list; between numbers in
time; and to introduce an important quotation in a report, essay, or news story.
- Dear Sir: Here are the rules: no gum, no baseball caps, no talking.
- The police office stated: "We found the suspect's fingerprints at the scene of the crime."
Used for many things. Look at the following rules, then look at their coordinating examples.
To separate three or more items in a list.
- Marge loves spinach, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.
To separate adjectives that modify the same noun.
- The loud, beeping buzzer woke me up.
Between a city and a state.
- Wheaton, IL
Between the day and year in a date.
- May 27, 2018
After the greeting and closing of a friendly letter.
- Dear Penelope,
Before a conjunction that joins the independent clauses in a compound sentence.
- Yours truly,
After the dependent clause at the beginning of a complex sentence.
- I tried to call you on Saturday afternoon, but your line was busy.
After introductory words or mild interjections at the beginning of a sentence.
- When it began to rain, I knew our picnic would be canceled.
- Oh, I didn't know that the test was today.
- Yes, you can borrow my new iPhone.
To set off the name of the person you're speaking to.
- Jennie, can you have dinner at my house tonight?
To set off an appositive (a noun or phrase that renames or further identifies the noun it follows).
- Mrs. Tyra, my math teacher, won the teaching award.
With words that interrupt a sentence's basic idea.
- Dad, of course, had to brag about our soccer team to everyone.
- Eddie, therefore, will have to leave the game early.
In front of a short, direct quotation in the middle of a sentence.
- Callie asked, "Is that your uncle sitting over here?"
At the end of a direct quotation that is a statement when it comes at the beginning of a sentence.
- "Mrs. Howard is giving a luncheon today," explained Mom.
Use it to separate and stress elements in a sentence.
- The cafeteria - and no other room - may be used for school lunches.
Use after an interrupted or unfinished statement of thought or to introduce a list of items.
- You'll need three things - a pencil, an eraser, and a ruler.
Use after an introductory list.
- Toys, hairbrushes, chewing gum - these items must be left at home.
Also, use before and after comments inserted into a sentence to give information or add emphasis.
Three dots in a row. It is used to replace words that have been left out. Use an ellipsis to indicate that something has been left out of the middle of a sentence. If something is left out at the end of a sentence, use a period and then an ellipsis.
- Four score and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth this nation....
Use it after strong interjections, exclamatory sentences, and strong imperative sentences.
- Sarah! Get off that desk immediately!
Use it to break a word between syllables at the end of a line, in two-part numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine, in spelled-out fractions, and in some compound nouns and adjectives.
- Four-fifths of the twenty-two drive-in movies in town have closed.
Use it to give the reader added information. Also use before and after an abbreviation or an acronym of a company or organization once its full name has been written.
- Read the first story (pages 4-7) tonight.
- A representative from American Airlines (AA) will visit our class.
Use it at the end of a declarative sentences, at the end of an imperative sentence that doesn't require an exclamation point, and after most initials and abbreviations. Also use as a decimal point.
- Dr. A.C. Ross will visit the clinic today.
Use it before and after a direct quotation or to set off words or phrases used in a special way. Also use before and after the names of book chapters, essays, short stories, songs, poems, and magazine, and newspaper articles.
- Sue said, “Pass the paper, please.”
- Cory hummed, “Row, row, row, your boat” as he washed the car.
The following is a list of rules for using semicolons. Please look at their corresponding examples.
- Use it to join independent clauses in a compound sentence without a comma and a conjunction. One cousin is driving here from Colorado; another will take a plan from Maine.
Before some conjunctions that join two simple sentences into one compound sentence. Use a comma after the conjunction.
- He cooked a huge dinner; therefore, he invited the neighbors over.
To separate a series of items when one or more of the items include commas.
- The art supplies we need for class are paintbrushes; red, yellow, and blue paint; a sketch pad; a charcoal pencil; a calligraphy pen; and an art smock.
Use it at the end of interrogative sentences, after a direct question, at the end of an incomplete question, and when a statement is intended as a question.
- What is your name?
- No kidding?
- Your name is Wendy?