Capitalisation rule #1 – capitalise the first word in quotations, provided the quoted material is a complete sentence. For example:
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
Capitalisation rule #2 – use capitals for proper nouns. In other words, capitalise the name of people, specific places, and things. For example:
We don’t capitalise the word “bridge” unless it starts a sentence, but we must capitalise Tower Bridge because it is the name of a specific bridge.
Capitalisation rule #3 – Capitalise titles when they are on the signature line of a letter, when the title comes immediately before a name, or when the title replaces the use of a name (i.e., a title used as a direct address). Here are some examples:
Vicky Marquez, President
Ms. Vicky Marquez
Capitalisation rule #4 – Capitalise directions only when they refer to specific regions. For example:
My favourite place in the world is Northern Cyprus.
Do not capitalise “north,” “south,” “east,” and “west” when giving directions: Drive six miles north, and then turn right.
Capitalisation rule #5 – Large words in the titles of movies, books, and other publications should be capitalised, while all small words (a, an, the, but, and, if, as, or, nor, to name a few) should not be capitalised unless they are the first or last words in the title:
War of the Worlds (the words “of” and “the” are not capitalised because they are small and are not at the beginning or end of the title.)
Capitalisation rule #6 – The first word of a salutation should be capitalised, as well as the first word of a closing. For example:
Dear Billy, OR
Capitalisation rule #7 – Capitalise words derived from proper nouns. For example:
I like English, but maths is my favourite subject. (English is capitalised because it is derived from the proper noun England, while math is not capitalised because it is not derived from a proper noun.)
Specific course titles should, however, be capitalised. For example:
I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have to take French literature next year and it looks hard!
Capitalisation rule #8 – Capitalise when two or more sentences follow a colon. For example:
We have set this restriction: Do your chores before watching television. That includes washing the dishes.
Capitalisation rule #9 – Use capital letters for many abbreviations and acronyms:
Finally, don’t get carried away with using capitals, text written completely in capitals is difficult to read, mainly because as children we are taught to read and write in small letters before capitals, and in English particularly capital letters are used as visual clues, such as a start of a sentence or a proper noun, words written in capitals have no shape, no ascenders (like b) or descenders (like p) which makes it tricky for your brain to take in each individual letter.
So if you want people to read your hard work, think carefully how you use your capitals!
To further improve your writing skills, take a look at our blog on common writing mistakes at http://www.harveyandhugo.com/common-writing-mistakes/