10 Capital Ideas


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

10 Capital Ideas

“My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.”

— A. A. Milne

In this quotation from Winnie-the-Pooh, not only is the spelling “Wobbly,” but the capitalization is as well.

“Wobbly” is an adjective, and “Wobbles” is a verb. Both should be lowercase.

Have you noticed that some Writers use Capital Letters when they think a word is Important? That’s incorrect capitalization. It distracts from the message, and it casts doubt on the person’s thinking.

Formal business writing requires correct capitalization.

What capitalization rules should I know?

Let’s review these 10 basic capitalization rules:

1. Capitalize proper nouns.

Proper nouns are the names of people, places, things, and ideas. They include the names of individuals, organizations, months, days, holidays, religions, political parties, states, and cities. Do not capitalize common nouns unless they start sentences or appear in titles.

  People Places Things Ideas
Proper Nouns Beyoncé New York City The Constitution Cubism
Common Nouns singer city a constitution movement

2. Capitalize proper adjectives.

Proper adjectives are formed from proper nouns.

  People Places Things Ideas
Proper Adjectives Orwellian ideas American values Kleenex tissue Islamic teaching

3. Capitalize first words.

The first word in a sentence and the first word in a quoted sentence should be capitalized.

The server said, “Your table is ready now.”

4. Use title capitalization.

In a title, capitalize the first and last words as well as any words in between except a, an, the, and short prepositions (4 letters or fewer).

Have you read The Wind in the Willows? It includes the chapter “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.”

In titles, do capitalize short words that are not prepositions, such as the pronoun It or the verb Is.

5. Capitalize salutations and complimentary closings.

In letters and emails, capitalize the first and all major words in the salutation. In the complimentary closing, capitalize only the first word.

Dear Director of Operations,

Yours sincerely,

6. Capitalize a separate sentence in parentheses.

The company had its best June ever. (June is traditionally a strong sales month.)

Do not capitalize a sentence in parentheses that is within another sentence.

Our Kenosha branch (we have five branches) had a record-setting year.

7. Capitalize a formal title before a name.

Do not capitalize the title if it comes after the name or stands alone.

I spoke to Admissions Director Rasheeda Smith.

I spoke to Rasheeda Smith, admissions director.

I spoke to the admissions director.

8. Capitalize a word used as a name.

We should ask Coach when practice starts tonight.

Don’t capitalize a common noun not used as a name.

We should ask our coach when practice starts tonight.

(In the first example, the coach’s name could be swapped in for “Coach.” In the second example, the coach’s name could not be: “We should ask our Larry Thompson when practice starts tonight.”)

9. Capitalize a letter used as a shape.



10. Capitalize the names of courses.

I have Introduction to Political Science at 2:00 p.m. today.

Do not capitalize general terms for courses.

I have my political science class at 2:00 p.m. today.


Play the Editor!

Read each sentence and correct the capitalization errors in it. Then scroll down to see the answers.

  1. I have a Meeting with Brenda Johnson, President, and Brad Ferrell, Vice President.
  2. when I was in Third Grade, my teacher read us The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe.
  3. The national aeronautics and space administration, or NASA, plans Missions to mars.
  4. An o-ring on space shuttle challenger caused a Disaster in 1986.
  5. I took dad to the hospital to visit mom.
  6. Dear chief operating officer,
  7. Yours Truly,
  8. the Professor who teaches medieval studies 300 wants us to see the Art collections at the cloisters in new york city.
  9. My friend mike (He drives me to work) asked if I could fill the Gas Tank next time.
  10. The united states constitution is a surprisingly short Document.

Get More Support

Check out the Write for Business Guide, Courses, and eTips for more strategies for clear and precise writing.


Editor’s Recommendation

  1. I have a meeting with Brenda Johnson, president, and Brad Ferrell, vice president.
  2. When I was in third grade, my teacher read us The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  3. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, plans missions to Mars.
  4. An O-ring on Space Shuttle Challenger caused a disaster in 1986.
  5. I took Dad to the hospital to visit Mom.
  6. Dear Chief Operating Officer,
  7. Yours truly,
  8. The professor who teaches Medieval Studies 300 wants us to see the art collections at the Cloisters in New York City.
  9. My friend Mike (he drives me to work) asked if I could fill the gas tank next time.
  10. The United States Constitution is a surprisingly short document.