When Should You Capitalize Words?

Pride capitals, common nouns, and proper nouns.

Rob Reinalda, Writing for
5-minute read
Episode #184

OK, here it goes: If you’re writing or editing a piece about your corporate culture or the development of a product line and think that these are among Plato’s transcendent ideas and ideal forms, think again.

For example, if you were to go on and on about a product’s Creation with a capital c, that would be a huge mistake. It had better be a miracle if you’re going to introduce it with such a … Big Bang.

See? Not only are you likely to draw attention in the wrong way, you may even convey the wrong meaning.

The Tip

So here’s the Quick and Dirty Tip on random or vanity capitalization: don’t. 

Save uppercase for conventional uses such as a proper name or one of Plato’s lofty ideals—or for nouns if you happen to be writing in German. (In that case, maybe you should look for Grammatik Fräulein instead of Grammar Girl.)

When in doubt, look up a word to see whether its meaning varies depending on capitalization. If it does, and you really need to have it lowercase for clarity’s sake, do what you can to ensure that it doesn’t start your sentence. It would be capitalized there, of course, so its mere placement might undermine your intent.

Since it's back-to-school season, next week we'll expound on capitalization conundrums that come up in the classroom.


This podcast was written by Rob Reinalda, executive editor for Ragan Communications (word_czar on Twitter), and read in the podcast by Mignon Fogarty, the author of the New York Times bestseller Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

That's all. Thank for listening.

 "Chalkboard" image, Feen via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0



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. He is the author of "Why Editors Drink."