ESL Writing: Capitalization


Now let’s go into more detail that will help you in your writing by teaching you to use Capital Letters correctly.

Capitalize the first word of a sentence

Examples: My uncle made this cheese from goat milk. He recently bought a house.

Capitalize the pronoun “I”

Examples: John asked Peter where I had bought my jacket. If I see her, I will punch her in the nose.

Capitalize proper nouns –  capitalforbusiness Proper nouns refer to specific people, places, things, groups, etc. Remember to always capitalize the name of someone or something.


I visited Florida with my class.

The Empire State Building is in New York City.

My dog’s name is Spot.

Peter and John are going to the store.

The Black Eye Peas are presenting a musical next week.

The Democrats would like to see the economy grow.

Have you given Mom her present yet?

I think Dad needs a vacation to get some time off work.

There are many special rules concerning proper nouns. Here are some specific rules to follow to capitalize proper nouns:

Capitalize North, South, East, and West when contained in the name of a place (state, country, etc.) but not when used for giving directions.

Correct Examples: My friend lives in North Carolina. We are planning a factory in South Africa.

Incorrect Examples: She lives in Southern Europe. Correct: She lives in southern Europe.

I’m going to visit my friends in Eastern Oregon. Correct: I’m going to visit my friends in eastern Oregon.

Go South to the bridge then turn Left. Correct: Go south to the bridge then turn left.

Capitalize company trademarks (product names)

Examples: I love Timberland shoes. Do you prefer Sprite or Dr Pepper?

Capitalize common names of periods of time in history

Examples: The Sixties were important in American life.

The Dot Com Era fell apart more quickly than many people expected.

Capitalize specific events

Examples: I went to the Garlic Festival in Gilroy last weekend. He boycotted the Star Wars Convention.

Capitalize acronyms which refer to specific names

Examples: I prefer to watch MSNBC whenever possible.

The CIA commissioned torture by other governments.

Capitalize common nouns when used as names for an entire class

Example: Scholars believe that Humanity is destined for outer space!

I think that Capital is the cause of our ills.

The politician blamed the Press for his defeat.

Names of the supreme being are capitalized: Allah, Vishnu, God, etc. The general use of the word god is generally not capitalized.

Examples: The singer played Wotan in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

The pastor prayed that God should deliver us from our sins.

Capitalize days of the week, holidays, and months of the year. Do not capitalize seasons.

Correct Examples: Mary flew to Austin in September.

Do you have any time on Monday?

Incorrect Examples: I love skiing in Winter.

Correct: I love skiing in winter.

They visited Bob last Summer.

Correct: They visited Bob last summer.

Capitalize countries, languages, and names of peoples

Examples: He resided in France for over 10 years.

I never have had any really expensive French wine.

Do you speak Quechua?

The Japanese are very polite.

Capitalize titles that come before names.

Correct Examples: Several soldiers wrote to General Smith.

Have you spoken to Vice Principal Martinez?

Incorrect Examples: George Washington was the first President of the United States.

Correct: President George Washington was revered by his people.

Correct: George Washington was the first president of the United States.

Peter Smith was elected Mayor in 1995.

Correct: Peter Smith was elected mayor in 1995.

Correct: Mayor Peter Smith was impeached for corruption.

Capitalize letter salutations (openings) and closings

Dear Mr. Smith, Best regards,

Capitalize the first word in a quote.

Examples: The last time I talked to Peter he said, “Study hard and get to bed early!”

Thomas Patterman was a simple man who said, “Give me life, liberty and a 5 cent cigar!”

Capitalize important words (nouns, pronouns, principal verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) in titles.

Examples: The movie: “My Life on Rainy Days” The book: “How to Win Friends and Become Mayor”

Capitalize the first word in each line of poetry

Roses are red. Violets are blue. My feet stink and so do you!

This article was written by Frank Gerace and is is taken from his book ESL Learners CAN WRITE RIGHT!

Frank Gerace Ph.D has served in Latin America in UN and national Educational and Communication Projects, and has taught in Bolivia and Peru. He currently teaches English in New York City as well as maintaining a strong bilingual presence on the web. He provides guidance on accent reduction and the proper American English accent at He also offers resources for Spanish Speaking learners of English and for English speaking learners of Spanish.

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