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How to capitalise proper nouns

bruno-martins-442162-unsplash. How to capitalise proper nouns.
Photo by Bruno Martins

Capitalising proper nouns is an easy habit to develop but so often ignored. Start here to learn how to capitalise proper nouns and see your marks soar.

1. What is a proper noun?

A proper noun is the name of a person, a place or an organisation. Your examiner will expect you to capitalise all proper nouns, whether or not they are at the beginning of a sentence.

For example, Leo lives in Dublin, which is the capital city of Ireland. The River Shannon is the longest river on the island of Ireland and joins the Atlantic Ocean at Limerick, shortly after passing through the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric scheme.

Another example: Delia Smith lives in East Anglia and is part-owner of Norwich City Football Club. The club have been in and out of the top flight of English football during the past few years but a triumphant return to the Premier League will bring joy to the people of Norfolk.

Be careful when handwriting as some letters have the same shape whether they are upper or lower case. It is very common to see students whose S, C, K etc look the same size. Therefore, make sure your capital letters are clearly bigger than their lower case versions.

2. Capitalising titles of books

Titles of books are also capitalised as they are essentially the names of the books. The expected approach is:

  • Capitalise the first word of every book title.
  • Then, capitalise every ‘main’ word of the book title.
  • Leave ‘minor’ words un-capitalised.

Examples: An Inspector Calls, The Mill on the Floss, Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, Pride and Prejudice.

Another example: The shocking ending to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet leaves audiences in pieces.

3. Don’t forget the first person singular subject pronoun

Who could forget the first person singular subject pronoun? Unfortunately, many students forget to capitalise it: I, I’m, I’d, I’ll.

No matter where it happens in a sentence, ‘I’ should be capitalised.

Example: Although I was uncertain at first, I later came to accept Delia’s strategy. Only her approach, I realised, would yield results.

4. In conclusion

Lack of capitalisation is obvious within seconds of looking at a student’s writing. The message it sends is not a good one and, indeed, it makes your text a little bit harder to read.

So, cheer your examiner up with good, clear capitalisation. Capitalise all proper nouns and make it a habit not just in your exams. Practise in everyday writing: add capital letters to proper nouns in social media messages. It may look surprisingly formal to begin with but be sure that learning how to capitalise proper nouns will bring results.

Keep up the good work and good luck!

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Published by Edward Mooney

I am a highly qualified and experienced English tutor based in the UK. I founded this site in 2019 to help students of GCSE English learn how to reach their full potential.