Learn how to use capital letters correctly in English

Those who write in English or translate into it often wonder about its correct capitalisation rules. Correct capital letter use in a text is one of the ways of assuring its quality, thus being one of our concerns here at Letrário. If this is your case, worry no more. In this blog post, we will explain all you need to know while using examples. 

Too many capital letters overload the eye, too few lead to a loss of visual hierarchy. Both can make a text harder to read. 

  • The rule of thumb is that names of organizations and institutions begin with a capital letter, but a person’s role or job position begins with a lower case.
  • Additionally, job positions accompanied by full names start with capital letters, except when used generically. 
  • “City” also takes a capital letter when it is part of a city’s full name (e.g. Salt Lake City, Kansas City). Even when not an integral part of the name, it still is capitalised in certain circumstances (e.g. New York City, the City of London).
  • Regarding the points of the compass, the lower case is used for east, west, north and south, unless they are part of a place name (e.g. North Korea, South Africa) or to identify a defined regional area (e.g. the Midwest, the Middle East); however, the lower case should be used for vaguer areas, such as north-east, north-west and south-east. The lower case is also used for adjectives such as western and southern.
  • Food and drink. The lower case is used for wines, cheeses and grape varieties that are common or familiar (e.g. champagne, cheddar, brie and merlot). However, names of specific wines take the upper case (Côtes du Rhône, Montepulciano), as do some foods and drinks that include proper nouns and would look strange in lower case: Black Forest Gateau, Jaffa orange.
  • Ranks and titles. Use upper case when these are written in conjunction with a name, but lower case on their own: Pope John, but the pope; President Macron, but the French president.

Learn how to use capital letters correctly in English

So, to summarise:

Capital Letters

Lower Case

Organizations and institutions
Job positions accompanied by full names

(e.g. Director John Silver)

Role or job position (e.g. manager, director)
The word “city”, when part of a city’s full name (e.g. Salt Lake City, Kansas City)
Points of the compass when part of a place name (e.g. North Korea, South Africa, the American Midwest) east, west, north and south

north-east, north-west and south-east

northernmost, western and southern

Names of specific wines, foods and drinks that include proper nouns (e.g. Côtes du Rhône, Montepulciano, Black Forest Gateau, Jaffa orange) wines, cheeses and grape varieties that are common or familiar (ex: champagne, cheddar, brie and merlot)
Ranks and titles when these are written in conjunction with a name (e.g. Pope John, President Macron) Ranks and titles on their own (e.g. pope, president)

If you want to learn more about how to write in perfect English, download our eBook: A Style book for texts in English.

If you ever need professional help with a text in English or in any other language, feel free to contact us.