College-bound with Correct Capitalization

Contributor: Dru Cartier. Lesson ID: 13685

How can using correct capitalization help you get into college? How can it help you earn more money? Check out this refresher lesson on when to capitalize and when not to.


Grammar, Preparing for College

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Did you know using proper capitalization when you write can actually make you more money than if you don't capitalize correctly?

Say what?!

It's true! Not only does it help you get into college, it helps potential employers see you as educated and detail-oriented.

Anyone can say they have a Bachelor's Degree, but someone who knows about proper capitalization (bachelor's and degree should be lowercase) will see right away the person writing is not detailed and should probably not get the job.

  • So, how do you decide when to capitalize and when not to?

It's actually easier than you think.

Start by asking yourself, "Is this proper? Or is it general?"

Proper examples include a teacher's name like Mrs. Willis, or a state like California.

  • What other things might be proper?

Test your capitalization knowledge with this quick quiz!

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  • Are you wondering why Grandpa Joe gets to be capitalized but not your sweet grandmother?
  • Why does a university get capitalized, but not an elementary school?

Keep reading to discover why!

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  • So…how will this whole capitalizing correctly thing help you succeed in life?

It is one of the many ways you can show you are a credible and educated person.

Imagine a new teacher came into class with baggy jeans and a backwards hat, and he was talking on his cell phone about the concert he was at last night.

  • Would you take that teacher seriously when he started telling you about writing an essay?

Probably not.

cool old man

Think of using proper capitalization as equally important as dressing appropriately for an interview.

  • How else can it help you make a good impression?

Read Top 10 Reasons Why College is Important by Susan Bogle for Southern New Hampshire University.

  • Those were some pretty convincing reasons to go to college, wouldn't you agree?

I know I want to live a longer life and have job satisfaction.

If you think about it though, none of those things would be possible without a few key things.

  • Guess what?

They involve writing. And not just any writing...writing that highlights you.

Think about the top two reasons from the article: "college graduates earn more on average" and "workers with a college degree are less likely to face unemployment." These rely on you getting into college and getting a job.

  • What is one thing both of those have in common?


College admissions people don't know what a hard worker you are or how devoted to your education you are. All they know is whether that hard work and dedication show through on your application.

For most colleges, that includes an admission essay. So, you need to stand out from all the other applicants by showing off those amazing skills of yours!

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The same goes for future employers. If they get 10 applications that are all great, but one has poor capitalization, they toss that one and move on.

Don't let all your hard work go to waste!

take the garbage ouit

Keep in mind the difference between specific and general as you review the basics of what to capitalize and what to leave lowercase.


Capitalize the first word in a sentence.

  • My degree is in astrology.
  • Kyle graduated from the University of Illinois.

Capitalize the pronoun I.

  • My professor said I am the best student in class!

Capitalize proper nouns including:

  • the names of specific people
    • Professor Williams
  • specific places
    • Dallas, Texas
  • specific organizations
    • Alumni Association
  • sometimes specific things
    • Derivatives of proper nouns that still depend on the proper noun for their meaning get capitalized.
      • American
      • French
      • Shakespearean
    • Derivatives of proper nouns that no longer depend on proper nouns for their meaning are lowercase.
      • french fries
      • pasteurize
      • darwinian
    • Bachelor of Arts, or bachelor's degree, or BA
    • Master of Business Administration, or master's degree, or MBA

Capitalize family relationships when used as proper nouns.

  • Grandma Betty
  • Grandpa Joe
  • Uncle Ted

Do not capitalize if it is a general relationship.

  • grandpa
  • uncle
  • parent

Capitalize titles that appear before names, but not after names.

  • Professor of Education Linda Hardwick

Before the name, "professor of education" is a specific title.

Do not capitalize titles that appear after a name.

  • Linda Hardwick, professor of education

When it comes after the name, it is a general position that person holds.

Capitalize directions that are specific names when used as sections of the country.

  • North
  • South
  • East
  • West
  • I am from the South

If you can put "the" in front of the direction, you probably want to capitalize it.

Do not capitalize general compass directions.

  • We drove east on the 580 into Northern Montana.
  • She is from out west.

Capitalize the days of the week, the months of the year, and holidays.

  • Sunday
  • Friday
  • December

Do not capitalize the seasons when used generally.

  • spring
  • fall

Capitalize the seasons, however, if used as proper names.

  • Fall Semester 2018
  • Spring Fling 2021

Capitalize members of specific national, political, racial, social, civic, and athletic groups.

  • Republican
  • President Kennedy
  • National Woman Suffrage Association
  • Suffragists
  • Suffragettes

Capitalize specific periods and events

  • Great Depression
  • Industrial Age
  • Victorian Era

Do not capitalize general century numbers.

  • eighth century

Capitalize specific trademarks.

  • Coca-Cola
  • Kellogg's
  • Target

Do not capitalize general names.

  • soda
  • cereal
  • store

  • What about abbreviations?
  • Or college degrees?

The same rules apply; specifics get capitalized, generalities don't.

  • I am earning my PhD in Astrophysics.

It is a specific degree and specific area of study.

  • I am a doctoral student studying astrophysics.

This is a general degree area in a general field of study.

  • Hi, I'm Marco DiPaulo, associate lecturer.

Associate lecturer here is a general career position.

  • Hi, I'm Associate Lecturer Marco DiPaulo.

Associate Lecturer here is a person's specific job title.

  • Are you ready to practice?

Identify all the words in the paragraph below that should be capitalized.

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you did it

Great job practicing the simple basics of capitalization.

Move on to the Got It? section and test your mad skills!

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