Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Grammar Goody #9 Capitalization

Capitalization rule #1

Always capitalize proper nouns. What's a proper noun, you ask?

It, quite simply, is a recognized formal name of something. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is an actual name; hence, it must be capitalized. But the civil rights movement (of which the NAACP was a part) is not an actual name--it's just what we've come to call a whole bunch of different organizations and people--so it is not capitalized.

So, the correct way to write this would be:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was a major contributing factor in the success of the civil rights movement.

Another example, consider the words south and South. Why is one capitalized and the other is not?

When you use the word south, you are describing the direction: He headed south toward I-90.

But when you use the word South, you are referring to the geographic entity otherwise known, in this country at least, as Dixie. The South is a recognized geographic name, so it is capitalized. The same goes for the North, the West, the Midwest, and the Northeast. [did you notice that last comma before the word and? I have another grammar goody on that one below.]

So, our always-correct student would write:

He packed up and headed south to get to his home in the South (and do, please, note that the word the is not capitalized before most proper nouns).

More on capitalization tomorrow.

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