rulEs FOR ProPer caPitaliZation.

Do you know when you should use “upper-case” letters? If you don’t, it would be a “capital” idea to find out! (Bad pun intended. Well, they can’t all be funny, you know. You just can’t expect that!)

Next to run-on sentences, improper capitalization is the most common error that I encounter in the blogosphere.

If you travel back through the misty memories of your childhood, you might stumble upon a few things you remember learning in fifth or sixth grade. Here are some basic rules that you may have been given about caps:

  • Always capitalize the first word word of a complete sentence. (Granted, marketers will take a lot of “poetic license” by creating taglines that are not complete sentences. Many are short sentence fragments. In those cases, the rules get very fuzzy. If sentence fragments are quoted within a complete sentence, rules still apply.)
  • Capitalize the first word of a quoted sentence within a sentence. “My what a big post you have!” she exclaimed. “We think it needs some serious editing.”
  • Do not cap the first letter within quotation marks if it does not begin the first sentence. “What we need right now,” she continued, “is a big red pen.”
  • Cap the letter I when it is used as a personal pronoun. Duh!
  • Cap the first letter of a question found within a sentence. The current fuel crisis presents us with a serious question, Are we ever going to think of alternatives to fossil fuel?
  • Cap the first letter of a title when it is used in conjunction with a name or group of people. Even Senator White has some serious misgivings about the Republican Party platform. Always capitalize a title if it is used in direct statement to the person holding the Title. “The budget proposal, Governor, must be revamped.”
  • Do not capitalize the first letter of a title if it is not make specific reference to a person or groups. The president was a veteran; the senator was not.
  • Do not capitalize the names of the seasons.
  • Capitalize the days of the week, months of the year, and all holidays.
  • Capitalize compass points (north, south, east, west) only when they apply to a geographic place. She was born in the South. Do not capitalize them if they apply to a direction. They drove north for the event.
  • What about the titles of plays, books, magazines, movies, etc? Cap the first and last words, plus every other word except for articles (the, an, a) or prepositions (by, to, with) and conjunctions (but, and, or.) “I‘m Singin’ in the Rain!
  • Cap a noun that is not usually capitalized if it is used as part of a proper name. Let’s go see Aunt Sally.

  • Capitalize all proper names. Capitalize the names of people, places, events, organizations, eras, buildings, deities, ethnic groups, military titles, religious titles, awards, specific names of boats or ships, (i.e. HMS Pinafore), names of religious texts (i.e. Bible, Talmud), noble/royal titles, and religious denominations.
  • Cap all scientific classifications all the way down to, but not including genus.

Had enough?

personally, i think that caps are not necessary to convey information or share ideas. do you think text-messaging, instant messaging, and hasty emails will eventually cause caps to become dropped? i certainly hope so. maybe all of the capping errors you see on the internet will degrade the language to the point where caps are just dropped because nobody remembers how to use them properly. perhaps we would need a larger period mark so we would not accidentally run sentences together when reading them.

Caps and Title Tags

What about your page title tags? This is where the “rubber meets the road.” A title tag is NOT the headline or title that the visitor sees. A title tag is the heading that shows up in the Google search results. My personal opinion is that this is a good place to take some liberties with the rules. Sometimes I use all lower-case letters in the title tag to make it stand out on the search results page. The title “arkansas real estate for sale” will stand out when placed on the same page with other nine other results with the title tag “Arkansas Real Estate for Sale.” However, it might give the impression that you are semi-literate or just plain careless. I have arguments with myself about this issue. (The purpose of the title tag is to attract attention to Google users without making a bad impression.) They never get resolved, so will do it both ways, depending upon my mood. However, if you are going to use caps at all in the title tag, keep reading.

CAPPING EVERY LETTER IN EVERY WORD IS OBNOXIOUS.

There are three conventional ways to use caps in a title or title tag on the internet:

Capitalize the first letter of EVERY word in the title. Search For Missouri Homes. I will not say that this is proper English, but it is common and accepted. Most article submission sites will accept this method for use in the title.

The traditional method of capping every word in the sentence except articles, conjunctions, and prepositions. This is the format that was taught to you in fifth grade. Find Homes and Real Estate for Sale.

Simply writing the title as a sentence, applying the same rules for caps that you would use for a regular sentence in any other part of the body of the post. Find homes and real estate for sale. If you used this method on the title of a college term paper, your grade might suffer. It certainly is not correct. However, you can certainly do it on the internet. After all, it is your site. If you look at search results that use this method, they don’t look especially out of place. If you choose to use this in header titles or sub-titles, be consistent throughout the site. If you don’t your site will look slap-happy, and the reader will think you don’t know what you are doing.

Which method do you prefer? Whichever you choose, use it consistently through the whole title tag. Do not do something like this: Find Real estate and homes For Sale on the internet.

Incoming search terms:

  • @eal ee mail
  • real estate agent capitalized
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Comments

  1. Kermit, thank you for this article. Real estate agents could appear to be more professional if they followed your guidelines in all forms of written communication, not just blogging or title tags.

  2. Informative post and good content. I will follow your capitalization format in my sites and blogs.

  3. Hubert Miles says:

    Just found your post on capitalization and found it very useful. Great work.

  4. Copywriter says:

    Hi Kermit,

    This is a great article. Too many times copywriters forget about proper writing. I have an assistant that helps me out A LOT but I still publish stuff without her help at times ;)

    Chris Elliott

  5. sandrar says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  6. Matt Brennan says:

    It’s great to see some reminders on this issue. As a reader it’s always annoying when there’s no rhyme or reason to the capitalization approach. Also PEOPLE NEED TO STOP YELLING ONLINE! They may not know that they’re doing it, but you are right, it’s obnoxious.

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