Do You Capitalize Mom And Dad In A Formal Essay

A Little Help with Capitals

Summary:

This resource details standard capitalization rules.

Contributors:Chris Berry, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2013-07-12 11:45:25

This handout lists some guidelines for capitalization. If you have a question about whether a specific word should be capitalized that doesn't fit under one of these rules, try checking a dictionary to see if the word is capitalized there.

Use capital letters in the following ways:

The first words of a sentence

When he tells a joke, he sometimes forgets the punch line.

The pronoun "I"

The last time I visited Atlanta was several years ago.

Proper nouns (the names of specific people, places, organizations, and sometimes things)

Worrill Fabrication Company

Golden Gate Bridge

Supreme Court

Livingston, Missouri

Atlantic Ocean

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Family relationships (when used as proper names)

I sent a thank-you note to Aunt Abigail but not to my other aunts.

Here is a present I bought for Mother.

Did you buy a present for your mother?

The names of God, specific deities, religious figures, and holy books

God the Father

the Virgin Mary

the Bible

the Greek gods

Moses

Shiva

Buddha

Zeus

Exception: Do not capitalize the nonspecific use of the word "god."

The word "polytheistic" means the worship of more than one god.

Titles preceding names, but not titles that follow names

She worked as the assistant to Mayor Hanolovi.

I was able to interview Miriam Moss, mayor of Littonville.

Directions that are names (North, South, East, and West when used as sections of the country, but not as compass directions)

The Patels have moved to the Southwest.

Jim's house is two miles north of Otterbein.

The days of the week, the months of the year, and holidays (but not the seasons used generally)

Halloween

October

Friday

winter

spring

fall

Exception: Seasons are capitalized when used in a title.

The Fall 1999 semester

The names of countries, nationalities, and specific languages

Costa Rica

Spanish

French

English

The first word in a sentence that is a direct quote

Emerson once said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

The major words in the titles of books, articles, and songs (but not short prepositions or the articles "the," "a," or "an," if they are not the first word of the title)

One of Jerry's favorite books is The Catcher in the Rye.

Members of national, political, racial, social, civic, and athletic groups

Green Bay Packers

African-Americans

Anti-Semitic

Democrats

Friends of the Wilderness

Chinese

Periods and events (but not century numbers)

Victorian Era

Great Depression

Constitutional Convention

sixteenth century

Trademarks

Pepsi

Honda

IBM

Microsoft Word

Words and abbreviations of specific names (but not names of things that came from specific things but are now general types)

Freudian

NBC

pasteurize

UN

french fries

italics

Kinship Names: To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize?


Several readers have asked why kinship names, such as names of brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, etc., are sometimes capitalized and sometimes not. Let’s have a closer look.

Rule 1: Capitalize a kinship name when it immediately precedes a personal name or is used alone, in place of a personal name.

Examples
Andy and Opie loved Aunt Bee’s apple pies.
We adore Uncle Malik, because he always treats us like royalty when we visit him.
Grandma and Grandpa were married in a chapel in a small French village.
Let’s go ask Mom if we can go to the movies.

Rule 2: Do not capitalize a kinship name when it is not part of the personal name but is a word describing the personal name. This usually occurs when the kinship name is preceded by articles such as the, a, or an; or possessive pronouns such as his, her, my, our, your, or their.

Examples
Andy and Opie loved their aunt Bee’s apple pies.
We adore our uncle Malik, because he always treats us like royalty when we visit him.
My grandma and grandpa were married in a chapel in a small French village.
Let’s go ask my mom if we can go to the movies.

Rule 3: Do not capitalize a kinship name when it follows the personal name or is not referencing a specific person.

Examples
The James brothers were notorious for robbing scores of banks and trains.
There’s not one mother I know who would allow her child to cross that street alone.

Pop Quiz
Select the correct word:

1. We’d travel all day to eat a meal prepared by our aunt/Aunt Ella.
2. When I saw the letter from mother/Mother, I knew it contained only good news.
3. Lydia became a mother/Mother at twenty.
4. I’m sorry, son/Son, but we’re not going to have a campfire tonight.
5. Some fathers/Fathers build a campfire every night.

Answers:
1. We’d travel all day to eat a meal prepared by our aunt Ella.
2. When I saw the letter from Mother, I knew it contained only good news.
3. Lydia became a mother at twenty.
4. I’m sorry, Son, but we’re not going to have a campfire tonight.
5. Some fathers build a campfire every night.

Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2012, at 4:16 pm

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