You developed some good capitalization habits in elementary school, or grammar school, as it was once known:
You already know a lot about capitalization, but if you’d like a bit of silly fun, you may remember this Electric Company song about when to use “Texas-sized letters.”
Now it's time to dig a little deeper into the mechanics of our language and expand your knowledge of capitalization. In this lesson, you'll develop the knowledge base you need for proofreading your written work and the work of your peers.
First, capitalize the first word of an embedded quotation, if it is a complete sentence in its own right like these:
–In his essay, the student wrote, “In 1957, Eugene O'Neill won a Pulitzer Prize.”
–Another student asked a classmate, “How does that work again?”
Second, capitalize words in lists when a clause introduces the list. (A clause contains a subject and a verb.) Whether you use numbers or bullets to set a list apart, use capital letters for each item, as shown in the next example.
Rodeo applicants will be tested on their basic skills in the following areas:
Short words with fewer than four letters like articles (the, a, an), prepositions (of, for, in, with), and conjunctions (and, but) are not capitalized unless they are the first or last word in a title.
Speaking of titles, let’s consider the rules for capitalizing book titles. Let’s use some classic books with a single letter missing as examples of what words to capitalize in book titles. Use the example below as a model for the two book titles that follow. Drop the first letter of the first noun in each book title and think about how you would capitalize the title. The original titles have been left uncapitalized to provide you with some practice. Check your understanding to see correct responses and a humorous description of the new title.
the pearl by John Steinbeck becomes The Earl and is now a novel about royalty rather than a fisherman. In either case, “The” is capitalized because it is the first word.
Lice in Wonderland: Lewis Carroll's story of the vermin epidemic during the time of a shampoo shortage
Of Ice and Men: John Steinbeck's account of a fateful expedition to Antarctica