Capitalization…When in doubt, don’t


  • Capitalize proper nouns that constitute the unique identification for a specific person, place or thing: Timothy, Sarah, James, America, Philadelphia, England, Statue of Liberty.
  • Common nouns receive proper noun status when they are used as the name of a particular activity: General Electric, Gulf Oil.
  • Capitalize common nouns such as party, river, street, north and room when they are an integral part of the full name for a person, place or thing: Democratic Party, Columbia River, Wall Street, North Bend, Room 220.
  • Lowercase the common noun elements of names in all plural uses: the Democratic and Republican parties, Main and State streets, lakes Erie and Ontario.
  • Capitalize words that are derived from a proper noun and still depend on it for their meaning: American, Oregonian, Washingtonian, Christian, Christianity, English, French, Marxism, Shakespearean.
  • Lowercase words that are derived from a proper noun but no longer depend on it for their meaning: french fries, herculean, malapropism, pasteurize, quixotic, venetian blind.
  • Capitalize the first letter of the first word in a statement that stands as a sentence: Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny got.”
  • Capitalize the first letter of the first word as well as key words in the titles of books, movies, plays, poems, operas, songs, radio and television programs, works of art: The Scarlet Letter, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Raven, Carmen, “Stand By Me” (song title) Scream, National Public Radio, South of Heaven, Mona Lisa.
    • Lowercase articles, conjunctions and prepositions of four or fewer letters in titles except when the title begins with them: War and Peace, Wizard of Oz
  • Capitalize words when they are followed by figures: Highway 101, Chapter 3, Page 29, Room 220.
  • Athletic teams: Techmen, Techsters, Tarriers, Generals, Minutemen.
  • Advanced Placement Program: AP, AP tests, Advanced Placement English, advanced placement class (lowercase because it is not the official title).
  • Awards: Teacher of the Year, Most Valuable Player, National Merit Scholar Finalist.
  • Buildings: Capitalize the proper names and their distinguishing modifiers of buildings and official areas within the school and city: Rose Garden Arena, Pioneer Square, Universe Lab.
    • Words which serve as both proper nouns and common names (depending upon the way in which they are used in a sentence) should always be lowercase: auditorium, cafeteria, library, main office, room G201, choir room, journalism room, etc.

Campus terms: 

  • Century: Capitalize the word century when referring to specific centuries: Eighth Century, 17th Century.
  • Characters: in books, plays, comic strips, etc.
  • Church: Capitalize as part of the formal name of a building, a congregation or a denomination: St. Mary’s Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic and Episcopal churches. Lowercase in other uses: The pope says the church opposes abortion.
  • Classes: Capitalize official class names, but use lowercase when used to identify individuals [also see B13, C46]: junior, Junior Class, senior Kari Steinbock, Class of 1989.
  • Clubs and organizations: Capitalize the names of clubs and organizations: Speech Team, Pep Club, French Club (but “the club”), Varsity Rally, JV Rally (but “the rally performed”), Pep Band, A cappella Choir, National Honor Society, Debate Team, Chess Team.
  • Colleges and universities: Capitalize formal names of schools and departments of colleges and universities, but use lowercase when informal names are used: School of Music (but “music school”), Department of Zoology (but “zoology department”).
  • Colors: When used to stand for the name of the school: the Blue and Orange tennis team won…
  • Committees: Capitalize official titles of school committees: Prom Committee, Graduation Committee.
  • Course titles: Capitalize only the proper name for a class. If in doubt, consult the Forecasting Guide: Computer Applications, personal typing, English 3-4, sophomore English, Geometry, algebra class.
  • Degrees: Capitalize abbreviations of college degrees, and put no space between letters: B.A., M.A., Ph.D., LL.D.
  • Deity: Capitalize nouns, pronouns and adjectives used to designate the Supreme Being in any monotheistic religion: God, Holy Spirit, Allah, He, His, Him (denoting deity). Lowercase personal pronouns: he, him, thee, thou. Do not capitalize who, whom, whose.
    • Lowercase gods and goddesses in references to Greek, Roman and Norse mythology and deities of polytheistic religions.
    • Lowercase god, gods and goddesses in reference to false gods: He made money his god.
  • Departments of government: Department of Commerce, Department of Justice.
  • Departments of high schools: Capitalize formal names of high school departments (do not abbreviate the word “department”): English Department, Science Department, Fine Arts Department.
  • Directions: In general, lowercase north, south, east and west when they indicate compass directions. Capitalize these words when they designate regions: Pacific Northwest, Snow fell in the Northeast, east, south, She traveled west.
  • Documents: Constitution (referring to the U.S. Constitution and State Constitution), Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights.
  • Government bodies: Capitalize congressional committees, cabinet positions, specific courts, governmental agencies, district and school governing bodies: Senate, House, U.S. Supreme Court, Legislature (even though not preceded by a state name), Grievance Committee, Portland School Board (but “school board”), Portland Public Schools, District 1.

C30 Holidays and special, historic or school events or days: Fourth of July, National

Dog Week, New Year’s Eve, World War II, Reformation, Christmas, Homecoming,

Spirit Week, Western Day, Fad Day, Blue and Orange Day (but do not capitalize “pep


C31 Junior Varsity: Capitalize and do not use periods when using as a modifier, as in

JV team. Otherwise, spell it out [also see M8, M18]: JV baseball, JV volleyball, JV


C32 Languages: Spanish, French, English, Swahili.

C33 Magazines: Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, Men’s Health, Utne Reader

C34 Nationalities: Avoid referring to nationalities and races unless it is integral to

the story. Capitalize the proper names of nationalities, peoples, tribes, etc. [also

see C38]: Arabic, Caucasian, Cherokee, American, Indochinese, Mexican, Italian,

Egyptian, Iranian, Jewish, Norwegian, Asian, Japanese, Gypsy, Russian.

C35 Newspapers: Article “the” may be capitalized if it is in the nameplate: The New

York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Academy Times, the Tech Pep, the Orange R.

C36 Planets, stars and groups of stars: Capitalize these. The words sun, moon and

earth are capitalized only of used in association with the names of other astronomical

bodies that are capitalized: The sun sends its rays to warm the earth; The

Sun is our nearest star, and is orbited by the planets Earth, Jupiter, Mars, Venus….

C37 Political organizations: Capitalize political parties and such words as Fascist and

Communist, but not when used in a general sense: Republican, Democrat, communism,

Nationalist China, republican system of government, fascism, democratic principles.

Prepositions, conjunctions or articles: See C52.

C38 Race: Do not refer to race unless it is relevant to the story. When it is relevant,

identify a person’s origin by geopolitical area and/or nationality [also see C54]:

African-American, European-American, Asian-American, Native-American, Mexican-

American, Indian.

C39 Radio and TV stations: Use all capital letters. Use hyphens to separate the type

of station from the basic call letters: KBPS-AM, KBPS-FM, KGW-TV.

C40 Regions: The names of specific regions are capitalized: Pacific Northwest, Midwest,

Southwest, Northeast.

Satan: Capitalize Satan and Hades because each is a proper name, but lowercase

devil, hell, satanic.

Scientific terms: See C53.

Seasons: See C54.

Sports teams: See C55.

Time: See C56.

C42 Titles: Capitalize specific titles preceding and attached to a name, but lowercase

a title if it follows a name or stands by itself [also see C57, J1, J4, J6-8, J10]:

President Bill Clinton; Bill Clinton, president; Principal John Vingelen; John Vingelen,

principal; Vice Principal Jeff Spalding; Adviser Steve Matson; queen of Rosaria;

Portland Rose Festival queen; Queen Kelly; Coach Alicia Provost; Clayton Ladd,

coach; Head Secretary Kathy Otto; Manager Kent Kuo; Captain Blake Costello; Editor

Josh Tiger; Chris Garrett, editor.

  • Lengthy titles of more than three words should be placed after the name: Frank

Murray, English department head (not chairman).

  • Do not capitalize false titles or occupational titles: day laborer James Delaney,

junior Joe Bright, southpaw Pete Gomez, attorney John Smith, teacher Dwight Berning,

custodian Kent Boyer, counselor Bette Rhodaback

C42 Trademarks: Use the generic description unless the trademark is essential to the

story: Scotch tape (transparent tape), Coca-Cola (soft drink), Pepsi-Cola (cola),

Xerox (photocopy), Kleenex (tissue).

C43 Wars: World War II, the second world war, Korean War, the war in Korea.

C44 ZIP code: Use all capitals to stand for Zone Improvement Program, but no capital

for the word “code.”


C45 Campus terms: alma matter, alumnus, alumni, faculty, graduate.

Church: See C16.

C46 Classes: Do not capitalize senior, junior, sophomore or freshman when used with

individual names as identification, but do capitalize official class names: Junior

Class, Senior Class, junior Ruth Urry, senior Jason Luty.

C47 Course titles (informal): If in doubt, use this rule of thumb: if you are referring

to a specific class then capitalize; but if you are referring to a subject or class in

general, then use lowercase: Global Studies, world history, fifth-year French, French

class, Biology students, Algebra class, business test, math assignment, I take Creative

Writing Period 6, I’m studying creative writing.

C48 Degrees when spelled out: bachelor of arts degree, master’s degree.

C49 Directions: Seattle is north of Portland.

C50 Governmental bodies when not used specifically [also see C29]: student body,

executive board, exec board, varsity, administration, federal government, federal,

nation, the church.

Former, ex- or -elect when used with titles: The President-elect knows former

President George Bush and ex-President Ronald Reagan.

God/gods: See C24

C52 Prepositions, conjunctions or articles: Do not capitalize these in titles, except

when they begin the title [See Q7]: For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Man Who Came to


C54 Race: Do not refer to race unless it is relevant to the story. Lowercase colors when

they refer to race, such as in quotes, but prefer geopolitical area or nationality

[See C38]: black, white, red, yellow, mulatto, etc.

C55 Scientific terms: classes, orders, families, genera of plants, animals and insects.

C56 Seasons: These are lowercase except when part of a proper name for an event:

spring, summer, fall, winter, Winter Formal, Spring Fling.

C57 Sports teams: basketball team, baseball team, varsity soccer team, junior varsity

soccer team.

C58 Time: Figures should always be used with a.m. and p.m. Do not use double zeroes

for times on the hour [also see B23, D41]: 9:35 a.m., 11 p.m., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.,

3–5 p.m.

C59 Titles when they follow a person’s name: This also applies in the case of the

President of the United States. Lowercase in all instances except when the title

comes before the name: President Clinton (but “the president left for Camp David”);

Helen Choi, principal; Angie Suchy, sports editor.

C60 Varsity: Do not capitalize varsity unless it is part of a proper name: It was an

exciting moment for Vars


Uniontown High School online school newspaper Tomahawk Talk

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