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Capitalization

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 Sometimes you will have something to say that is very important and you want to emphasize that to your reader. The computer has made it possible to do so in many different ways. You might use italics or underline. Some writers will choose to CAPITALIZE or even use boldface. But like profanity, each should be used sparingly. So here are some conventions to send you on the right path.

 Capitalize proper nouns and their derivatives.

 These include names of persons (Mary, Uncle Pedro, and Father when used as a name), religions and deities (Methodist, God, Allah), places and their languages (France, French), political parties and organizations (Phi Beta Kappa, the Capital Center, the Republican Party). You should also capitalize historical movements (the Enlightenment), periods (Great Depression), electronic sources (the Internet) and trade names (Coke, Kleenex). If a title is used after a proper name, the standard abbreviations should be used (“William James, Sr.” and “Robert Wilson, M.D”)

 Months, holidays and days of the week are proper nouns. The seasons and numbered days of the month are not (“Our state fair begins on the first Monday after Labor Day”).

Titles of persons should be capitalized along with the name but not when used alone. (“I heard Judge John Clark call the meeting to order,” but “The judge called the meeting to order.”)

 Abbreviations for departments and governmental agencies and other organizations as well as call letters of radio and TV stations should be capitalized. This also holds for abbreviations that form words such as AIDS and SNAFU and organizations such as CIA and USA that don't have periods following each letter. If the organization is unfamiliar, you should write out the full name of the organization the first time it is used followed by the abbreviation in parenthesis.

 Do not capitalize common nouns.

 Generally (though not always), a common noun is preceded by an article (a, an, the). So you would write "a god" or "a federal agency" or "the computer network." Names of school subjects are not capitalized unless they are names of languages (“This semester Mary will be taking math, history, Spanish and English.”)

 Notice that none of these conventions are used for emphasis. Instead, they signal titles, names or status. And like most grammatical conventions, they are few and easily learned.

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