Beyond PR

Mar 04, 2013

Grammar Hammer: March Forth!

In honor of National Grammar Day (March 4), I thought I would take a look at a few rules surrounding capitalizations. The first rule is pretty easy; capitalize the first word of a sentence.

I was surprised to see that there are so many rules on capitalizations (Grammarly lists out 17 of them). I’m not going to go into all of them here, but I’ll cover the ones I see most often violated in the releases that cross my desk each day.

Rule #1 – Titles Preceding and Following Names

A formal title that precedes a name should be capitalized.

RIGHT: His Royal Highness Prince William and his wife are expecting their first child later this year.

WRONG: I read an article last week about prince William and his wife. (Prince, in this case, should be capitalized.)

Quick tip – remember that the title should be capitalized, but the job is not.

EXAMPLE: President and CEO of XYZ Corp., John Smith, is the company’s fourth president since its founding in 1935.

Rule #2 – Major Words in the Titles of Books, Articles, and Songs

I’ll be honest, this one confuses me. I look at my bookshelf and see titles of books in all lower-cased letters, title-cased letters, and all capital letters. Generally speaking, in informal writing, you can capitalize every word in the title. In formal writing, do not capitalize prepositions, articles, and conjunctions (unless they’re the first letter of the first word).

INFORMAL: The first book in the Harry Potter series is Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone.

FORMAL: The first book in the Harry Potter series is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I must be a formal writer. I want to correct the informal version with my red pen.

Rule #3 – Names of specific groups (national, political, racial, social, civic, and athletic groups)

Names of specific groups are proper nouns and should be capitalized.

EXAMPLE:  I’m a foaming-at-the-mouth, bleeding-heart Democrat.

EXAMPLE:  Everyone is wondering if the Chicago Cubs will ever win the World Series.

Go forth on March Fourth and conquer (grammatically)!

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

2 Comments on Blog Post Title

Net66 11:22 EST on Mar 4, 2013

I still see a lot of misuse of There, They’re and Their. There: The cat is over there. Their: It is their cat. They’re: They’re getting a cat. I correct people all the time but my popularity in the office continues to slide. I wonder why?

Souljan Gentry 13:24 EST on Mar 7, 2013

Their, There, and They’re, Its and It’s. Who’s and Whose. We’re and Were. Then and Than.

I see all of these used incorrectly on almost a daily basis. Is it laziness, ignorance, or lack of education that contribute to these common mistakes?

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