Capitalization and Punctuation Study Guide
Every sentence begins with a capital, so the how-tos of capitalization seem like a logical place to begin learning about language mechanics. When doing the exercises in this section, refer to the following checklist. Matching your answer to a rule will reinforce the mechanics of writing and secure that knowledge for you.
- The first word of every sentence → Yes, we do carry the matching bed skirt.
- The first word of a quoted sentence (not just a quoted phrase)→And with great flourish, he sang, "O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain!"
- The specific name of a person (and his or her title), a place, or a thing (otherwise known as proper nouns). Proper nouns include specific locations and geographic regions; political, social, and athletic organizations and agencies; historical events; documents and periodicals; nationalities and their languages; religions, their members and their deities; brand or trade names; and holidays.
- The abbreviation for proper nouns. Government agencies are probably the most frequently abbreviated. Remember to capitalize each letter. → The CIA makes me feel very secure.
- Adjectives (descriptive words) derived from proper nouns.
- Ex: America (proper noun) → the American (adjective) flag
- The pronoun I.
- The most important words in a title → Last March, I endured a twenty-hour public reading of A Tale of Two Cities.
- At the end of a declarative sentence (sentence that makes a statement) → Today, I took a walk to nowhere.
- At the end of a command or request → Here's a cloth. Now gently burp the baby on your shoulder.
- At the end of an indirect question → Jane asked if I knew where she had left her keys.
- Before a decimal number → Statisticians claim that the average family raises 2.5 children.
- Between dollars and cents → I remember when $1.50 could buy the coolest stuff.
- After an initial in a person's name → You are Sir James W. Dewault, are you not?
- After an abbreviation → On Jan. 12, I leave for Africa.
- At the end of a question → Why do you look so sad?
- Inside a quotation mark when the quotation is a question → She asked, "Why do you look so sad?"
- At the end of a word, phrase, or sentence filled with emotion → Hurry up! I cannot be late for the meeting!
- Inside a quotation mark when the quotation is an exclamation → The woman yelled, "Hurry up! I cannot be late for the meeting!"
- When directly quoting dialogue, not when paraphrasing → Hamlet says, "To be, or not to be. That is the question."
- For titles of chapters, articles, short stories, poems, songs, or periodicals → My favorite poem is "The Road Not Taken."
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