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Capitalization: Writing Skills Success Study Guide

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Exercises for this concept can be found at Capitalization: Writing Skills Success Practice Exercises.

Words have a longer life than deeds.

—Pindar, Greek poet (522 B.C.E.–443 B.C.E.)

Lesson Summary

Capitalization goes beyond the first word of a sentence. This lesson covers the finer points of capitalization by breaking them down into two segments: general rules and specific rules.

Start by seeing just how much you already know about the proper use of capital letters. Below you see the same passage written twice. The first column, called Problem, contains no capitalization at all—definitely a problem in writing! Circle those letters you think should be capitalized in the Problem column, and then check yourself against the Solution column.

Problem

when I first saw the black hills on january 2, 1995, i was shocked by their beauty. we had just spent new year's day in sioux falls, south dakota, and had headed west toward our home in denver, colorado. as we traveled along interstate 90, i could see the black hills rising slightly in the distance. after driving through the badlands and stopping at wall drug in wall, south dakota, the evergreen-covered hills broke the barren monotony of the landscape. my oldest daughter said, "dad, look! there's something that's not all white." we saw mount rushmore and custer state park, the home of the largest herd of buffalo in north america. we also drove the treacherous spearfish canyon road. fortunately, our jeep cherokee had no trouble with the ice and snow on the winding road. we were unable to see needles national park because the needles highway was snowed shut. winter may not be the best time to see these sights, but we enjoyed them nonetheless.

Solution

When I first saw the Black Hills on January 2, 1995, I was shocked by their beauty. We had just spent New Year's Day in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and had headed west toward our home in Denver, Colorado. As we traveled along Interstate 90, I could see the Black Hills rising slightly in the distance. After driving through the Badlands and stopping at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, the evergreen - covered hills broke the barren monotony of the landscape. My oldest daughter said, "Dad, look! There's something that's not all white." We saw Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park, the home of the largest herd of buffalo in North America. We also drove the treacherous Spearfish Canyon Road. Fortunately, our Jeep Cherokee had no trouble with the ice and snow on the winding road. We were unable to see Needles National Park because the Needles Highway was snowed shut. Winter may not be the best time to see these sights, but we enjoyed them nonetheless.

How did you do? As you progress through the lesson, try to identify the specific rules that you missed.

General Capitalization Rules

This table summarizes general capitalization rules. Rules relating to specific categories of proper nouns are addressed in the next section.

Capitalization

Here is an example of a dialogue that illustrates these rules. (A note about paragraphing in dialogue: Each time a speaker finishes, begin a new paragraph for the next speaker's dialogue.)

"Good afternoon," said the personal trainer as I walked into the gym.
"Good afternoon!" I replied, excited to get started.
"You must be Ms. Milner. I'm Jennifer Burnett. It's very nice to meet you."
"Tell me about your current workout routine, Jennifer. I'm eager to put together a brand-new exercise program for you."
I smiled and said, "It's so nice to be working with you. I heard you were a 'true fitness guru."'
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