Public Speaking and Capitalization and Spelling Help

Updated on Sep 28, 2011


Capitalization is an important tool to help us identify (1) the beginning of a new sentence and (2) proper nouns and adjectives. Here are six rules for correct capitalization:

  1. Capitalize the first word of a sentence.
      Please close the door.
      What are you trying to say?
  2. If you are quoting a full sentence within your own sentence, use a capital letter, unless you introduce the quote with that.

      The author notes, "A shocking three out of four students admitted to cheating."
      The author notes that "a shocking three out of four students admitted to cheating."

    If you have a full sentence within parentheses, that sentence should be capitalized as well (and the end punctuation mark should be within the parentheses).

      He was expelled for repeatedly violating the school's code of conduct (including several instances of stealing and cheating).
      He was expelled for repeatedly violating the school's code of conduct. (He was caught stealing and cheating several times.)
  3. Capitalize proper nouns. A proper noun is the name of a specific person, place, or thing (as opposed to a general person, place, or thing). See the following table.
  4. Capitalize the days of the week and months of the year, but not the seasons.
      It was a warm spring day in May.
      Wednesday is the first official day of autumn.
  5. Capitalize the names of countries, nationalities, geographical regions, languages, and religions.
      He has traveled to Brazil and Tunisia.
      She is half Chinese, half French.
      She is from the South.
      (But, Drive south for five miles.)
      We speak Spanish at home.
      He is a devout Catholic.
  6. Capitalize titles that come before proper names.
      Judge Lydia Ng                 Lydia Ng, judge in the Fifth District
      Professor Lee Chang       Lee Chang, professor of physical science
      Vice President                 Tilda Stanton,
      Tilda Stanton                   vice president
  7. Capitalize titles of publications, including books, stories, poems, plays, articles, speeches, essays, and other documents, and works of art, including films, paintings, and musical compositions.
      Pablo Picasso's painting Guernica captures the agony of the Spanish Civil War.
      Read Susan Sontag's essay "On Photography" for class tomorrow.
      The Declaration of Independence is a sacred document.


Homonyms, contractions, and possessives are an important part of basic grammar. The spelling of these words is reviewed in the following section.

Contractions and Possessives

Confusion between contractions and possessives results in some of the most common spelling mistakes.

Contractions are words that use an apostrophe to show that a letter or letters have been omitted from the word(s). Possessive pronouns indicate ownership of objects and ideas. They DO NOT take an apostrophe.



Homonyms are words that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings. Here are some of the most common homonyms:

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