hullabaloo grammar matters urkelIn kindergarten we were taught to capitalize our names. It’s proper, our teachers said, it gets a big letter. The same went for our last names, street addresses, holidays, or the beginning of a sentence, no matter how short. But then sometime in the next several decades of our life, we forgot the rules. (Or at least a majority of the population forgot.) Letters began being capitalized at random – verbs, insignificant nouns, even pronouns got the big letter treatment.

For whatever reason, these words have been crowned, throwing all caution to the proper grammar wind.

No one thinks to hire a copy editor.

The Rules

Above, there are two tiles; titles’ main words are capitalized.

I’m going to read To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my favorite books.

Only proper nouns get the big-guy treatment, this means names, holidays, and the first word of a complete sentence.

Jan Brady lives on Groovy Lane in Hippyville, Florida. She has a brother named Peter, with whom she likes to celebrate Arbor Day. They also enjoy eating applesauce on Tuesdays.

Common nouns should be lowercased; commercial businesses are the biggest offenders of this error.

Jan hates it when menus read Pizza when they should read pizza. (Me too, Jan. Me too.)

Home of the $15 oil change. Oil changes for only $15. Or as a stand alone, oil change.

capitalization rulesNow for the sticklers:

Job titles are only capitalized in a formal setting, and when the title reads before the name.

President Obama, or Obama, president

This also only works for proper titles; if you are a teacher, chances are your formal position name isn’t “Teacher Smith,” if it is, color me corrected.

Acronyms (NASA or SCUBA) receive all caps, abbreviations ( vs. or Tues.) do not.

AP style (what newspapers use) only capitalizes the first word of titles. Though I’m not sure what they are, they have their reasons.

Possible Causes for Mistakes

  • handwriting, which can often use a mix of capital and lower case letters, regardless of intention
  • Word documents, which automatically capitalize the first word after a period, which does not always indicate the end of a sentence. For ex. that one right there.
  • foreign languages, many of which capitalize all nouns
  • stubbornness and/or lack of grammar knowledge
  • sticky caps lock keys

Whatever the excuse, let’s revert back to the days of correct capitalization.; your shift key has more than earned its vacation.