Capital Letters

1. You may feel completely knowledgeable about the use of capital letters, and it is all too easy nowadays to let the computer put them in for us as we type.

We all know that capital letters are used at the start of sentences and proper nouns, for 'I', and in titles of book, articles, and songs. However, some confusion can arise.

For example, please look at this German text.

Bei Bewerbern, deren Muttersprache weder deutsch, englisch noch französisch ist, genügen die Beherrschung einer der Arbeitssprachen der OTIF, sehr gute Kenntnisse des Englischen und Grundkenntnisse in der jeweils dritten Arbeitssprache; in jedem Fall die Fähigkeit in einer Amtssprache leicht und richtig zu redigieren und Kenntnisse in der englischen oder französischen Sprache, in der [...]

Here's the English translation.

For applicants whose first language is not German, English or French, fluency in one of the working languages of OTIF, a very good knowledge of English and a basic knowledge of the third working language of OTIF is sufficient; ability to prepare drafts easily and correctly in one of the working languages and knowledge of English or French, in which the applicant must be able [...]

And please remember, in English, the names of all languages, and adjectives related to a geographic location ("...  a Berlin restaurant ..."), a language or culture ("... a Mandarin-style design ..." , or religion (... a Hindu temple ...) .

Here are some other examples.

Which is correct out of the pairs listed below?

The word 'school' only begins with a capital letter when it is part of a name of a specific school, not when it appears on its own. The same is true for the names of other places, institutions, organisations, and buildings.

In the example, we may have no problems in using a capital 'P' and a capital 'L' for Park Lane, but the "title" also includes the word "School", so this needs a capital letter.

2. In "titles" (the name of a film, book, article, essay, "role", or a historical period or event) capital letters are required at the beginning of the first word and all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions.

Look at the titles below and identify the correct form.

The above examples throw up a few additional points to remember. People's titles should always have capital letters, for example: Prime Minister, Princess Royal.

Historical periods also begin with a capital letter: Gothic, the Renaissance, the Depression.

3. As you know, the names of countries begin with a capital letter, but so, too, do languages and nationalities, for example: English, Kurdish, Chinese, Arabic, French, Polish. Note that all words that are formed from, or are connected to, these base words also begin with capital letters, for example: Frenchman (but not "french fries"), Arabia, Chinese lantern.

4. The first word after the "salutation" of a letter or email is always capitalized.


Dear Professor Smith,

As you can see in my enclosed CV, ...
Hi Joe,

My dog vomited on my laptop, so I can't ...

5. Note that although capital letters are used at the beginning of the days of the weeks and the months, they are not needed for the points of the compass or for seasons.



  • Use capital letters at the beginning of proper nouns.
  • In the titles of books, articles, movies, university courses, etc., use capital letters at the beginning of the first first word and all nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
  • Countries, languages, and nationalities always start with a capital letter.
  • After the salutation of a letter or email (Dear ..., Hi ..., etc.), the first word is always capitalized - even though (technically speaking) it may follow a comma or other punctuation.
  • Do not use a capital letter at the start of seasons or points of the compass.

"Borrowed" and adapted from