large, chest-high painting of the letter “A” in the style of graffiti

Source: Taking Down Misspelled by Reyes at E6, Steve Rhodes, Flickr

Some of the first rules you learned in school were about when to capitalize a letter. You probably know the basic rules: Capitalize the word “I” (the pronoun referring to yourself); capitalize the first letter of every sentence (The dog howled); and capitalize initials or acronyms (CBS, for example). However, like everything else in the English language, some rules are more clear-cut than others. Some of the most common questions deal with the following rules:

A photograph of a three students, two females and a male, working together at a table in a classroomi

Source: SMI Students Writing, Cambridge
Community Television, Flickr

A general rule of thumb is to capitalize specific names of people, places, things, or events, but do not capitalize general labels for people, places, things, or events.

So, the answers to the questions above are as follows:

Keeping these examples in mind, do the following exercise. Determine whether or not a capital letter is needed. Make your choice from each drop-down menu.

icon for an interactive exercise

To capitalize or not to capitalize, that is the question. Remember that when you are using editing strategies, it’s OK to look words up in a dictionary to make sure you have spelled them correctly. Each time you do, try to devise a handy mnemonic to remember whether or not a word is capitalized.