(printable version here)
Note: This list is arranged alphabetically by types of words.
Academic Department: Use lowercase except for proper nouns or adjectives.
ex.: department of psychology, biology department, department of English, the Spanish department.
ex.: Merit Scholarship, Pulitzer Prize; Renaissance, Prohibition; Labor Day, Halloween; the Boer War, World War II.
ex.: Bible, Qur'an, Book of Job (not underlined)
God, Allah. The rules about pronouns referring to the deity vary; some reference works state that "He" or "His" or "Thee" are capitalized whenever "God" is capitalized. Some writers always put the pronouns in lower case. Check with your professors about their requirements.
Proper names of gods are capitalized: Krishna, Hera, Odin.
ex.: Buick, Nike, Microsoft. Lowercase generic terms: a VW van.
Buildings/Rooms: Capitalize the word "building" if it is an important part of the name.
ex.: the James Center, Chrysler Building, President's Dining Room, Oval Office; waiting room, doctor's office, bank building.
ex.: U.S. Capitol and the Capitol (when referring to the building in Washington, D.C. or to state capitols).
ex.: U.S. Congress and Congress (referring to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives). Lowercase "congressional" unless it is part of a proper name.
Constitution: Capitalize references to the U.S. Constitution, with or without the "U.S." Place "constitutional" in lowercase. Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, First Amendment, and other legislation and treaties are capitalized.
Directions/Regions: north, south, northeast, etc. when they indicate direction; North, South, West, etc. when they indicate geographical regions. Phrases such as the Mid Atlantic, Silicon Valley, Dixie, Sun Belt, and Midwest are capitalized.
ex.: Ben drove south to visit his uncle Bubba, who has a Southern accent.
Earth: Generally put in lowercase, but capitalize when used as a proper name.
ex.: In his garden, he enjoyed the feeling of earth between his fingers.
"You Earth creatures make me VERY angry, " the Martian shouted as he pulled out his disintegrator.
Government: Capitalize city, state, federal, courthouse, legislature, assembly, and other similar words when used in a formal name.
ex.: Henrico County, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Richmond City Council, Virginia General Assembly. Also "City Council" or "General Assembly" when writing about a specific governmental body.
Highways & Roads:
ex.: U.S. Highway 1, U.S. Route 66, Virginia Route 6, Interstate 95, Pennsylvania Turnpike, Rock Creek Parkway.
Nationalities/Race: Capitalize the proper names of nationalities, races, tribes, etc.: French, Caucasian, Mataponi, Zulu. However, lowercase black, white.
Political Parties: Capitalize the name of a political party and the word "party." Use lower case for a general political philosophy.
ex.: Democrat, Republican, German Social Democratic Party. Fred's parents were staunch Republicans; at their urging he joined the Party.
Proper nouns: Capitalize them except when they are used alone later in the paragraph.
ex.: We went fishing on the James River. Later, our family joined us at the river.
Satan: Capitalize Satan, but lowercase "devil" and "satanic."
Titles: Capitalize titles, including academic rank and honorific titles, when used before a name. Lowercase titles used after a name, alone or in constructions that set them off from a name by commas. Use lowercase at all times for terms that are job descriptions and not titles.
ex.: President Lincoln; Professor Smith; Bill Gates, president of Microsoft Inc.; the Honorable I.M. Juste; professor of history; farmer Brown; security guard.
Do Not Capitalize:
- first lady
- presidential, presidency
- seasons of the year
- years in school
Back to 'Sentence Structure and Mechanics'
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