The capital letter "A" in the Latin alphabet followed by its lowercase equivalent, in sans serif and serif typefaces, respectively
The capital letter "A" in the Latin alphabet followed by its lowercase equivalent, in sans serif and serif typefaces, respectively

Capitalization (American English) or capitalisation (British English)[1] is writing a word with its first letter as a capital letter (uppercase letter) and the remaining letters in lower case, in writing systems with a case distinction. The term also may refer to the choice of the casing applied to text.

Conventional writing systems (orthographies) for different languages have different conventions for capitalization, for example, the capitalization of titles. Conventions also vary, to a lesser extent, between different style guides. In addition to the Latin script, capitalization also affects the Armenian, Cyrillic, Georgian and Greek alphabets.

The full rules of capitalization in English are complicated. The rules have also changed over time, generally to capitalize fewer words. The conventions used in an 18th-century document will be unfamiliar to a modern reader; for instance, many common nouns were capitalized.

The systematic use of capitalized and uncapitalized words in running text is called "mixed case".

Parts of speech

Owing to the essentially arbitrary nature of orthographic classification and the existence of variant authorities and local house styles, questionable capitalization of words is not uncommon, even in respected newspapers and magazines. Most publishers require consistency, at least within the same document, in applying a specified standard: this is described as "house style".


2nd-person pronouns

Many languages distinguish between formal and informal 2nd-person pronouns.



Places and geographic terms

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The capitalization of geographic terms in English text generally depends on whether the author perceives the term as a proper noun, in which case it is capitalized, or as a combination of an established proper noun with a normal adjective or noun, in which case the latter are not capitalized. There are no universally agreed lists of English geographic terms which are considered as proper nouns. The following are examples of rules that some[which?] British and U.S. publishers have established in style guides for their authors:

Upper case: East Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Central America, North Korea, South Africa, the European Union, the Republic of Poland, the North Atlantic, the Middle East, the Arctic, The Gambia, The Bahamas, The Hague

Lower case: western China, southern Beijing, western Mongolia, eastern Africa, northern North Korea, the central Gobi, the lower Yangtze River.


When a term is used as a name and then subsequently a shorter term is used, then that shorter term may be used generically. If that is the case do not capitalize. ("The Tatra National Park is a tourist destination in Poland. Watch out for bears when visiting the national park.")[15][16]

By context

Names of capitalization styles

The following names are given to systems of capitalization:

Sentence case

"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."
The standard case used in English prose. Generally equivalent to the baseline universal standard of formal English orthography mentioned above; that is, only the first word is capitalized, except for proper nouns and other words which are generally capitalized by a more specific rule.

Title case

Main article: Title case

"The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog."
Also known as headline style and capital case. All words capitalized, except for certain subsets defined by rules that are not universally standardized, often minor words such as "the" (as above), "of", or "and". Other commonly lowercase words are prepositions and coordinating conjunctions.[17] The standardization is only at the level of house styles and individual style manuals. (See Headings and publication titles.) A simplified variant is start case, where all words, including articles, prepositions, and conjunctions, start with a capital letter.

All caps

Main article: All caps

Also known/written as "all-caps". Capital letters only. This style can be used for headlines and book or chapter titles at the top of a book page. It is commonly used in transcribed speech to indicate that a person is shouting, or to indicate a hectoring and obnoxious speaker.[18][19] For this reason, it is generally discouraged. Long spans of Latin-alphabet text in all uppercase are harder to read because of the absence of the ascenders and descenders found in lowercase letters, which can aid recognition.[20][21] In professional documents, a commonly preferred alternative to all–caps text is the use of small caps to emphasize key names or acronyms, or the use of italics or (more rarely) bold.[22] In addition, if all–caps must be used, it is customary in headings of a few words to slightly widen the spacing between the letters, by around 10% of the point height. This practice is known as tracking or letterspacing.[23]

Special cases

Compound names

In poetry, ’k, the shortened / unemphasized form of ik ("I") follows the same rule.


See also: Letter case § Headings and publication titles

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends that the titles of English-language artistic works (plays, novels, essays, paintings, etc.) capitalize the first word and the last word in the title.[25] Additionally, most other words within a title are capitalized as well; articles and coordinating conjunctions are not capitalized.[25] Sources disagree on the details of capitalizing prepositions.[25] For example, the Chicago Manual of Style recommends rendering all prepositions in lowercase,[26] whereas the APA style guide instructs: Capitalize major words in titles of books and articles within the body of the paper. Conjunctions, articles, and short prepositions are not considered major words; however, capitalize all words of four letters or more.[27]

In other languages, such as the Romance languages, only the first word and proper names are capitalized.


Acronyms are usually capitalized, with a few exceptions:



In most languages that use diacritics, these are treated the same way in uppercase whether the text is capitalized or all-uppercase. They may be always preserved (as in German) or always omitted (as in Greek) or often omitted (as in French).[28] Some attribute this to the fact that diacritics on capital letters were not available earlier on typewriters, and it is now becoming more common to preserve them in French and Spanish (in both languages the rule is to preserve them,[29] although in France and Mexico, for instance, schoolchildren are often erroneously taught that they should not add diacritics on capital letters).

However, in the polytonic orthography used for Greek prior to 1982, accents were omitted in all-uppercase words, but kept as part of an uppercase initial (written before rather than above the letter). The latter situation is provided for by title-case characters in Unicode. When Greek is written with the present day monotonic orthography, where only the acute accent is used, the same rule is applied. The accent is omitted in all-uppercase words but it is kept as part of an uppercase initial (written before the letter rather than above it). The dialytika (diaeresis) should also always be used in all-uppercase words (even in cases where they are not needed when writing in lowercase, e.g. ΑΫΛΟΣ — άυλος).

Digraphs and ligatures

Some languages treat certain digraphs as single letters for the purpose of collation. In general, where one such is formed as a ligature, the corresponding uppercase form is used in capitalization; where it is written as two separate characters, only the first will be capitalized. Thus Oedipus or Œdipus are both correct, but OEdipus is not. Examples with ligature include Ærøskøbing in Danish, where Æ/æ is a completely separate letter rather than merely a typographic ligature (the same applies in Icelandic); examples with separate characters are Llanelli in Welsh, where Ll is a single letter; and Ffrangeg in Welsh where Ff is equivalent to English F (whereas Welsh F corresponds to English V).[30] Presentation forms, however, can use doubled capitals, such as the logo of the National Library of Wales (Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru). The position in Hungarian is similar to the latter.

Initial mutation

In languages where inflected forms of a word may have extra letters at the start, the capitalized letter may be the initial of the root form rather than the inflected form. For example, in Irish, in the placename Sliabh na mBan, "(the) mountain of the women" (anglicized as Slievenamon), the word-form written mBan contains the genitive plural of the noun bean, "woman", mutated after the genitive plural definite article (i.e., "of the"). The written B is mute in this form.

Other languages may capitalize the initial letter of the orthographic word, even if it is not present in the base, as with definite nouns in Maltese that start with certain consonant clusters. For example, l-Istati Uniti (the United States) capitalize the epenthetic I, even though the base form of the word — without the definite article — is stati.

Case-sensitive English words

In English, there are a few capitonyms, which are words whose meaning (and sometimes pronunciation) varies with capitalization. For example, the month August versus the adjective august. Or the verb polish versus the adjective Polish.

See also


  1. ^ "capitalization". Oxford Dictionaries – English. Archived from the original on September 25, 2016.
  2. ^ "Teitittely: oletteko kokeillut tätä?". Institute for the Languages of Finland. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  3. ^ General Guide to Perfected Spelling of the Indonesian Language, Section: Capital Letters (in Indonesian) from Indonesian Wikisource.
  4. ^ Gschossmann-Hendershot, Elke; Feuerle, Lois (7 February 2014). Schaum's Outline of German Grammar, 5th Edition. New York: McGraw Hill Professional. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-07-182335-7. OCLC 881681594. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  5. ^ Daniel Solling (June 2009). "Små bokstäver ökade avståndet till tyskarna" (in Swedish). Språktidningen. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  6. ^ Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, p.65
  7. ^ See E. E. Cummings: Name and capitalization for further discussion.
  8. ^ Friedman, Norman (1992). "Not "e. e. cummings"". Spring. 1: 114–121. Archived from the original on 2005-12-12. Retrieved December 13, 2005.
  9. ^ Capitalization rules for days, months, demonyms and language-names in many languages from Meta-wiki
  10. ^ See the entry Maiuscolo in the Italian Wikipedia for descriptions of various rules of capitalization in Italian and for references.
  11. ^ Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Doerr, Edd (November–December 2002). "Humanism unmodified". The Humanist. American Humanist Association. 62 (6): 1–2.
  13. ^ Economist Style Guide, Capitalization – Places and for administrative areas (West Virginia, East Sussex).
  14. ^ Council of Science Editors, Style Manual Committee. Scientific Style and format: the CSE manual for authors, editors, and publishers, 7th ed. 2006. Section 9.7.3, P. 120. ISBN 978-0-9779665-0-9.
  15. ^ Government of Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada (8 October 2009). "capitalization: names of institutions".
  16. ^ "PLACE-NAMES - National Geographic Style Manual".
  17. ^ "Title Capitalization Tool - Capitalize My Title - Title Case Tool". Capitalize My Title. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  18. ^ Butterick, Matthew. "All Caps". Practical Typography.
  19. ^ Ilene Strizver (2011). "ALL CAPS: To set or not to set?". Monotype Imaging. Retrieved 21 June 2011.; Cohen, Noam (4 February 2008). "Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC?". New York Times. Retrieved 29 January 2011. Jason Santa Maria, creative director of Happy Cog Studios, which designs Web sites, detected a basic breach of netiquette. “Hillary’s text is all caps, like shouting,” he said.
  20. ^ Wheildon, Colin (1995). Type and Layout: How Typography and Design Can Get your Message Across - Or Get in the Way. Berkeley: Strathmoor Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-9624891-5-0.
  21. ^ Nielsen, Jakob. "Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes". Nielsen Norman Group. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  22. ^ Butterick, Matthew. "Small caps". Practical Typography. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  23. ^ Butterick, Matthew. "Letterspacing". Practical Typography. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  24. ^ Oxford Manual of Style, R. M. Ritter ed., Oxford University Press, 2002
  25. ^ a b c "Writer's Block - Writing Tips - Capitalization in Titles". Archived from the original on October 9, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-28. Archived.
  26. ^ "Capitalization, Titles". Retrieved 2012-10-28.
  27. ^ Nordquist, Richard. "Capitalization Conventions for Title Case". ThoughtCo.
  28. ^ "The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition". The Chicago Manual of Style Online. Archived from the original on 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2019-01-01.
  29. ^ 'Accentuation des majuscules' Questions de langue : Académie française
  30. ^ Lewis, H (ed) Collins-Spurrell Welsh Dictionary Collins UK 1977 p. 10. ISBN 0-00-433402-7
  31. ^ Vladimir Anić, Josip Silić: "Pravopisni priručnik hrvatskog ili srpskog jezika", Zagreb, 1986 (trans. Spelling handbook of Croato-Serbian language)
  32. ^ "Z dopisů jazykové poradně". Naše řeč. 83 (4): 223–224. 2000.

Further reading