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This article is about capitalization in written language. For another meaning, see market capitalization.

For any word written in a language whose alphabet has distinct cases (such as the Latin, Greek, or Cyrillic alphabets), capitalization (or capitalisation) is the writing of a word with its first letter as a majuscule (upper case letter) and the remaining letters in minuscules (lower case letters). This is distinct from all caps and small caps, where a word is written entirely in uppercase.

Capitalized words may also be said to be in title case, since traditionally most words in titles of books, films, etc. are capitalized. In Unicode, a few letters have a separate title case form, where the Unicode character for the first letter of a capitalized word differs depending on whether the whole word is in upper case or just the initial letter (see Croatian and polytonic Greek below).


[edit] What to capitalize

Capitalization custom varies with language. The full rules of capitalization for English are complicated. The rules have also changed over time, generally to capitalize fewer terms; to the modern reader, an 18th century document seems to use initial capitals excessively. It is an important function of English style guides to describe the complete current rules, although there is some variation from one guide to another.

[edit] Pronouns


  • In English, the nominative form of the singular first-person pronoun, I, is capitalized, along with all its contractions (I'll, I'm, etc).
  • Many European languages capitalize nouns and pronouns used to refer to God: Hallowed be Thy name. Some English authors capitalize any word referring to God: the Lamb, the Almighty.
  • Some languages capitalize the formal second-person pronoun. German Sie is capitalized along with all its declensions (Ihre, Ihres, etc.), and before the spelling reform, the informal pronoun Du (you) (and its derivatives, such as Dein) was also always capitalized in letters . Italian also capitalises its formal pronouns, Lei and Loro, and their cases (even within words, eg arrivederLa "good bye", formal). This is occasionally likewise done for the Dutch U. In Spanish, the abbreviation of the pronoun usted, Ud. or Vd., is usually written with a capital. Similarly, in Russian the formal second-person pronoun Вы with its cases Ваш, Вашего etc. is capitalised, but only when addressing someone personally (usually in personal correspondence).
  • In formally written Polish (the same rules apply also in Czech and Slovak), most notably in letters and e-mails, all pronouns referring to the addressee are capitalized. This includes not only ty (you) and all its declensions (twój, ciebie etc.), but also any plural pronouns encompassing the addressee, such as wy (plural you), including declensions. This principle extends to nouns used in formal third person (when used to address the letter addressee), such as Pan (sir) and Pani (madame) Template:Fact.

[edit] Nouns

  • In German, all nouns are capitalized. This was also the practice in Danish before a spelling reform in 1948. Template:Fact
  • In nearly all European languages, single-word proper nouns (including personal names) are capitalized, e.g., France, Moses. Multiple-word proper nouns usually follow rules like the traditional English rules for publication titles (see below), e.g., Robert the Bruce.
    • Where placenames are preceded by the definite article, this is usually lowercased, as in the Sudan, the Philippines.
      • Sometimes the article is integral to the name, and so capitalized, as in Den Haag, Le Havre. However, in French this does not occur for contractions du and au, as in "Je viens du Havre" ["I come from Le Havre"].
    • A few English names may be written with two lowercase f's: ffrench, ffoulkes, etc. This ff fossilizes an older misreading of a blackletter uppercase F.
    • Some individuals choose not to use capitals with their names, such as k.d. lang or bell hooks. E. E. Cummings, whose name is often spelt without capitals, did not spell his name so; the usage derives from the typography used on the cover of one of his books.
    • Most brand names and trademarks are capitalised (e.g., Coca-Cola, Pepsi). although some have chosen to deviate from standard rules (e.g., easyJet, id Software, eBay) to be distinctive.
  • In English, the names of days of the week, months and languages are capitalized, as are demonyms like Englishman, Arab. In other languages, practice varies<ref>Capitalization rules for days, months, demonyms and language-names in many languages from Wikimedia</ref>.
  • Capitalization is always used for most names of taxa used in scientific classification of living things, except for species-level taxa or below. Example: Homo sapiens sapiens.
  • A more controversial practice followed by some authors, though few if any style guides, treats the common names of some animal and plant species as proper nouns, and uses initial majuscules for them (e.g., Peregrine Falcon, Red Pine), while not capitalizing others (e.g., horse or person). This is most common for birds and fishes. Botanists generally reject the practice of capitalizing the common names of plants, though individual words of plant names may be capitalized by another rule (e.g., Italian stone pine). See the discussion of official common names under common name for an explanation.
  • Common nouns may be capitalized when used as names for the entire class of such things, e.g. what a piece of work is Man. French often capitalizes such nouns as l'État (the state) and l'Église (the church) when not referring to specific ones.
  • The names of gods are capitalized, including Allah, Vishnu, and God. The word god is not capitalized if it is used to refer to the generic idea of a deity, nor is it capitalized when it refers to multiple gods, e.g., Roman gods. There may be some confusion because the Judeo-Christian god is not referred to by a specific name, but simply as God. Other names for the Judeo-Christian god, such as Elohim and Lord, are also capitalized.
  • While acronyms have historically been written in all-caps, modern usage is moving towards capitalization in some cases (as well as proper nouns like Unesco, there are other examples such as Aids).

[edit] Adjectives

  • In English, adjectives derived from proper nouns (except the names of characters in fictional works) usually retain their capitalization – e.g. a Christian church, Canadian whisky, a Shakespearian sonnet, but a quixotic mission, a chauvinist pig, and malapropism, holmesian and pecksniffian. Where the original capital is no longer at the beginning of the word, usage varies: anti-Christian, but Presocratic or Pre-Socratic or presocratic (not preSocratic)
  • Such adjectives do not receive capitals in German (sokratisch, präsokratisch), French (socratique, présocratique) or Polish (sokratejski, presokratejski).
  • Adjectives referring to nationality or ethnicity are not capitalized in French, even though nouns are: un navire canadien, a Canadian ship; un Canadien, a Canadian. Both nouns and adjectives are capitalized in English.

[edit] Others

Other uses of capitalization include:

  • In most modern languages, the first word in a sentence is capitalized, as is the first word in any quoted sentence.
    • In Latin and Ancient Greek they are not.
    • For some terms a capital as first letter is avoided by avoiding their use at the beginning of a sentence, or by writing it in lowercase even at the beginning of a sentence. E.g., pH looks unfamiliar written PH, and m and M may even have different meanings, milli and mega.
    • In Dutch, ’t, d’, or ’s in names or sayings are never capitalized, even at the start of sentences. (See Compound names below).
  • Most English honorifics and titles of persons, e.g. Doctor Watson, Mrs Jones, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.
    • This does not apply where the words are not titles; e.g. Watson is a doctor, Philip is a duke.
  • Traditionally, the first word of each line in a piece of verse, e.g.:
      Meanwhile the winged Heralds, by command
    Of sovereign power, with awful ceremony
    And trumpet's sound, throughout the host proclaim
    A solemn council forthwith to be held
    At Pandemonium, the high capital
    Of Satan and his peers. […]
    (Milton, Paradise Lost I:752–756)
  • The English vocative particle O, an archaic form of address, e.g. Thou, O king, art a king of kings.

In English, there even are few words whose meaning (and, sometimes, pronunciation) varies with capitalization. See: List of case sensitive English words.

[edit] How to capitalize

[edit] Headings and publication titles

Template:OR In English-language publications, different conventions are used for capitalizing words in publication titles and headlines, including chapter and section headings. The main examples are:

all-uppercase letters
The Vitamins Are In My Fresh Brussels Sprouts 
capitalization of all words, regardless of the part of speech
The Vitamins Are in My Fresh Brussels Sprouts 
capitalization of all words, except for internal articles, prepositions and conjunctions
The Vitamins are in My Fresh Brussels Sprouts 
capitalization of all words, except for internal articles, prepositions, conjunctions and forms of to be
The Vitamins are in my Fresh Brussels Sprouts 
capitalization of all words, except for internal closed-class words
The Vitamins are in my fresh Brussels Sprouts 
capitalization of all nouns
The vitamins are in my fresh Brussels sprouts 
sentence-style capitalization (sentence case), only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized
the vitamins are in my fresh Brussels sprouts 
capitalization of proper nouns only
the vitamins are in my fresh brussels sprouts 
all-lowercase letters

Among U.S. publishers, it is still a common typographic practice to capitalize additional words in titles. This is an old form of emphasis, similar to the more modern practice of using a larger or boldface font for titles. The exact rules differ between individual house styles. Most capitalize all words except for internal closed-class words, or internal articles, prepositions and conjunctions. Some capitalize longer prepositions such as "between", but not shorter ones. Some capitalize even only nouns, others capitalize all words.

The convention followed by British publishers is the same used in other languages (e.g. French), namely to use sentence-style capitalization in titles and headlines, where capitalization follows the same rules that apply for sentences. This is also widely used in the U.S., especially in bibliographic references and library catalogues. This convention is also used in the International Organization for Standardization and Wikipedia house styles.

Book titles are often emphasized on cover and title pages through the use of all-uppercase letters. Both British and U.S. publishers use this convention.

In creative typography, for example music record covers and other artistic material, all styles are commonly encountered, including all-lowercase letters.

[edit] Compound names

  • In Dutch, ’t, d’, or ’s in names or sayings are never capitalized, even at the start of sentences. They are short for the articles het and de (or the old possessive form des). Examples: ’s Gravenhage (from des Graven Hage), d’Eendracht (from de Eendracht), ’t Theehuis (from het Theehuis).
  • In Dutch (though not Flemish), the particle "van" in a surname is not capitalized if a forename or initial precedes it. So
    • "Onder de Franse zuiderzon maakt Vincent van Gogh zijn meest ophefmakende werken." without the forename Vincent would be
    • "Onder de Franse zuiderzon maakt Van Gogh zijn meest ophefmakende werken."
  • In English, practice varies when the name starts with a particle with a meaning such as "from" or "the" or "son of".
    • Some of these particles (Mac, Mc, M, O) are always capitalized; others (L, Van) are usually capitalized; still others often are not (d', de, di, von). If the particle is written as two or more words, the same capitalization applies to both (De La or de la).
    • The remaining part of such a name, following the particle, is always capitalized if it is set off with a space as a separate word, or if the particle was not capitalized. It is normally capitalized if the particle is Mc, M, or O. In other cases (including Mac), there is no set rule.

[edit] Accents

In most languages which use diacritics, these are treated the same way in uppercase whether the text is capitalized or all-uppercase. They may be always preserved (as in German) or always omitted (as, often, in French and Spanish).

  • However, in the polytonic orthography used for Greek prior to 1982, accents were omitted in all-uppercase words, but kept as part of an uppercase initial (written before rather than above the letter). The latter situation is provided for by title-case characters in Unicode.

[edit] Digraphs and ligatures

Some languages treat certain digraphs as letters. In general, where one such is formed as a ligature, the corresponding uppercase form is used in capitalization; where it is written as two separate characters, only the first will be capitalized. Thus Oedipus or Œdipus are both correct, but OEdipus is not. Examples with ligature include Ærøskøbing in Danish, where Æ/æ is a letter rather than a merely typographic ligature; with separate characters include Llanelli in Welsh, where Ll is a single letter.

  • An exception is the Dutch letter IJ. Originally a ligature (ij/IJ), both components are capitalized even though they are now usually printed separately, as in IJsselmeer. A less-used practice is the letter Y as an alternative to the ligature, e.g. Ysselmeer. This is still used in cursive writing and in inscriptions.
  • A converse exception exists in the Croatian alphabet, where digraph letters (, Lj, Nj) have mixed-case forms even when written as ligatures<ref>Vladimir Anić, Josip Silić: "Pravopisni priručnik hrvatskog ili srpskog jezika", Zagreb, 1986 (trans. Spelling handbook of Croato-Serbian language)</ref>. With typewriters and computers, these "title-case" forms have become less common than 2-character equivalents; nevertheless they can be represented as single title-case characters in Unicode (Template:Unicode, Template:Unicode, Template:Unicode).

[edit] Initial mutation

In languages where inflected forms of a word may have extra letters at the start, the capitalized letter may be the initial of the root form rather of than the inflected form. For example, Slievenamon is in Irish written Sliabh na mBan ("women's mountain", where mBan derives from Bean, "woman"), even though the B is in fact mute in the derived form.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

<references />

[edit] External links

sv:Versalisering de:Großschreibung

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