MORE Devilish Details: Capitalization

more devilish details capitalization

Are you ready for more devilish details: capitalization?

So far I’ve written three posts (#1#2#3) on devilish details that can derail even the best article, because many writers are not putting their best selves forward. They’re turning readers away due to small errors that when added up may make the writers look unprofessional.

Today I am going to focus on using capital letters correctly, because there seems to be a lot of confusion concerning them.

We use capital letters for the letter when it stands alone, for the first word of a sentence, and to name a person or a specific place or thing.

The letter I: In American English – and I believe in ALL English versions – the letter I standing alone is always capitalized. It just is. We cannot write “i did”; it must be “I did.”

I see this frequently in social media profiles, which are the first things we see about anyone, and we’d all be smart to check ours to see if we missed it while typing. Most publishing platforms do not have a built-in spellchecker, so if we do type i, it will stay that way. I’m creating this post in Word, and every time I type i, it automatically gets changed to the capital letter (I have to force it to stay as the lowercase form). We can become so used to our spellcheck program making the change we don’t even realize it did not happen on a publishing platform.

First letters of our name: We should capitalize the first letters in our name. The basic rule for capitalizing is to capitalize words that are “proper nouns,” words that name people and specific places and things. To not use capital letters in those circumstances will look odd and wrong to many readers, and it will take away from your professional presentation. And our name is our singular identity; let’s be sure we’re using it to signal our pride in it!

YES: Susan Rooks
NO: susan rooks

NOTE: I realize that around the world some names have words in them that do not get capitalized; I have seen that. But almost always the FIRST word of the name will be. I am simply saying that if you do not have a good reason to leave off the capital letters, please consider using them in your name.

Specific people, places, or things: Too many writers think titles like doctor, president, or executive are always capitalized, but unless they’re referring to a specific person, we generally do NOT capitalize the word. The same idea holds true for places and things; there are general terms that are not capitalized; there are specific ones that are.

Dr. Albert Schweitzer; Albert Schweitzer was a doctor.

the High Bridge (aka Python Bridge), Amsterdam, Netherlands; a bridge in Amsterdam

the Queen of England; a queen in England

the Kashmir Valley in India; a valley in India

So the next time you use a capital letter, you might want to make sure it’s actually needed. Too many capital letters will take away some of the profesional appearance of what you wrote.