What to Capitalize
Improperly capitalizing nouns is one of the most common errors I come across. Just because a word is important or distinctive doesn’t mean it should be capitalized. Only proper nouns—those that name specific people, places, and things*—are capitalized. Sounds easy, right? Dig on the errors (in italics) I’ve come across in the past week:
- Don’t leave it up to the Federal Government
- She’s an expert in Reflexology and Reiki
- The center offers tai chi and Yoga
- homeowners might consider Xeriscaping
- the course offers licenses in Landscape and Irrigation
- it was the equivalent of an Iron Lung
- We attended local Irish Festivals
- then she was diagnosed with Down Syndrome
- Fitch’s Farm Market in Avon harvests Kohlrabi
- Her undergraduate degree is in Accounting with minors in Programming and English.
- such as the President’s lectern
- he obtained a degree in Political Science
- A slight by Sissi, the bitchy Empress of Austria
- The event will mark the 100th Anniversary
- Experience the Evolution vs. Creation argument in “Inherit the Wind”
- Enjoy the ancient Japanese floral art of Ikebana
- This festival favorite has won Audience Awards the world over
- When we started, it was all Red and Golden Delicious apples
- The Ancient Greeks and Romans argued
- The Cost Management process, employed by many companies
But don’t some of these—reiki, xeriscaping, ikebana—seem like the name of specific things? They do, but compare them to similar nouns that you would automatically lowercase: reiki and meditation, xeriscaping and landscaping, ikebana and assemblage. The words’ counterparts may seem more normal, but the things they describe are equally as common.
*Making this slightly more complicated is that some nouns that would at first glance seem common but are based on the names of specific things should also be capitalized: Port (the type of wine is from Portugal), Parmesan (originally from Parma, Italy), Chippendale furniture (after English cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale), and Pilates (developed by Joseph Pilates).