28 Jun 2010
The other day I asked my nephew what the capital of France is. He replied ‘F’.
Yep, most of us know that capital letters are used for proper nouns and at the beginning of a sentence. But take a quick look at the intertubes and you’ll discover that the misuse of capital letters is now reaching epidemic proportions.
So here’s a handy capital letters checklist.
Use capital letters for:
The first letter of a sentence: It was there
Days of the week and months: Monday, July
Personal pronoun: I
Proper names: Sarah, London, River Thames
Brand names: Microsoft, Sony
Countries: England, Australia
Languages: French, German
Job titles if the title comes before a name: Vice-President Jeff Atkins
Salutations: Dear Sir
Acronyms and abbreviations: BBC, UN
Holidays and festivals: Christmas, Easter
In titles of books and films: Confessions of a Shopaholic, Crime and Punishment
When you’re shouting: HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED?
In the US capital letters are used for every word in a heading apart from prepositions (to, over), conjunctions (and, but) and articles a and the: The Simple Power of a Killer Offer. Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself.
But don’t use capital letters for:
The seasons: summer, winter
When a country appears as part of a well-known phrase: danish pastries, french windows, english muffins
Relatives: mum, dad, aunt (unless they’re my Mum, my Dad or my Aunt)
Compass points: Drive east on the A3, he lived on the north coast of France
Job titles if it comes after a name: David Cameron, the British prime minister, is due to meet with Barack Obama this afternoon
So how about online stuff? (For the record online is lower case and all one word.) Purists write Web and Internet with capital letters but web and internet are now widely used. So just pick one style and stick to it. The word website is lower case as is email. But the jury is still out on Ebooks and Enewsletters and you’ll see them written with upper and lower cases.
Agree or disagree with any of the above? Let us know in the comments.