ôô

When Should You Capitalize Words?

Pride capitals, common nouns, and proper nouns.

By
Rob Reinalda, Writing for,
Episode #184

When Should You Capitalize Words?

In today's episode, we’ll talk about capitalization—its overuse and its misuse in the business world.

Let’s talk about why capitalization of some words is a capital idea, and why uppercasing other words could be considered a capital offense.

Meaning Is Key

One reason capitalization matters is that a word’s meaning can change depending on whether it's uppercase or lowercase.

“See those three domiciles over there? Well, I live in the white house.” That’s quite different from, “I live in the White House [capital W, capital H.” That White House is where the president lives.

In English, we capitalize words that are proper nouns—that is, they describe a specific thing or entity. They could be a title, a name, or a specific place such as the president's residence: [THE White House].

Buy Now

We lowercase words that are considered common nouns—that is, they can be used to describe many things, such as any one of the multitude of white-colored houses in the world.

(As an aside, I'll note that in German all nouns and certain pronouns get uppercased; now there's a gratuitous “Das Kapital” reference just waiting to be made. And so I made one.)

Pages

About the Author

Rob Reinalda, Writing for Grammar Girl

Rob Reinalda, winner of ACES' 2019 Robinson Prize for excellence in editing, is the founder and principal of Word Czar Media. As executive editor for Ragan Communications, he writes its popular Brighter Writer column.

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.