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When to Capitalize ‘Mom’ and Other Nicknames and Terms of Endearment

Whether you capitalize "mom" depends on how you are using the word. Is it a nickname, a common noun, or a term of endearment?

By
Mignon Fogarty ,
May 10, 2018
Episode #620

When to Capitalize ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’

“Mom” and “dad” are similarly tricky. When they are descriptive, they are lowercase. When they are used in place of a name, like a nickname, they are capitalized.

In “I told my mom you are coming over after school,” “mom” is lowercase. But in, “Will you check on Mom next week?” “mom” is capitalized.

One quick way to determine whether you should capitalize “mom” or “mother” is to note whether you have a pronoun in front of the word because the pronoun is a clue that you’re dealing with a descriptive term, not a replacement for someone’s name. For example, “mom” is lowercase if you’re saying,

  • Have you seen my mom lately?
  • His mom always makes me feel welcome
  • Judy went to visit her mom.

We don’t usually put pronouns in front of proper nouns. For example, if your mom’s name is Shirley, you wouldn’t say, “Have you seen my Shirley lately?”

If you’re using “mom” the same way you’d use a name such as “Shirley,” then you capitalize “mom”:

  • Shirley is coming over for dinner tonight.
  • Mom is coming over for dinner tonight.

(Note: "Mom" would always be capitalized in the previous example because it is at the beginning of a sentence, but it would be capitalized if it weren't at the beginning too. For example, it would be capitalized if the sentence were "Tell your brother Mom is coming over for dinner tonight.")

Like pronouns, if there’s an article such as “the” in front of the words “mom” or “mother,” you don’t usually capitalize the word. For example, if you’re describing a scene in a play and write, “The mom enters the stage from the left,” “mom” is lowercase because it’s just a common noun. It would be the same as saying, "The boy enters the stage from the left."

Mother’s Day

Finally, the official name of the holiday this Sunday is "Mother's Day”—Mother-apostrophe-s. The founder, Anna Jarvis, intentionally made the name singular because she wanted people to honor their own mother. She did not intend it to be a day of celebrating motherhood in generally, and eventually she came to despise the commercialization of her invention so much that she tried to get the day abolished—to no avail.

Nevertheless, happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there. May your children always love you and know when to use apostrophes.

A version of this article originally appear in “Office Pro Magazine.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Mignon Fogarty is Grammar Girl and the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips. Check out her New York Times best-seller, “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

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