Monday, February 17, 2020

Capitalisation and Writing Numbers

Rules of Capitalisation

In English grammar capitalisation is used at the head of a word, with the first letter in uppercase and the remaining in lowercase. 

Capitalisation for professional and academic writers is a bit more complicated than just writing names and titles with capital letters.

Two important rules to remember:

Rule 1

Always capitalise the first word in a sentence and after a period.

Rule 2

Proper nouns and adjectives that have been created from proper nouns should be capitalised.

  • London Bridge
  • War of the Worlds
  • an American song
  • the Eiffel Tower
Over time many proper nouns no longer need capitalisation, and have a life of their own.

  • draconian - originally from ancient-Athenian lawgiver Draco
  • quixotic - originally from the novel Don Quixote
  • herculean - originally from the ancient-Greek hero Hercules
The role of captialisation is to bring to attention component within a particular group or people, place or things.  We can talk about a mountain in a particular country or we could be more precise and say Mount Everest which sets it apart from every other mountain earth.
Handy Capitalisation Reference List:

  1. Companies
  2. Brand names
  3. Months of the year and days of the week
Authority and Government matters:
  • Parliament
  • Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs
  • HM Treasury
  • Home Office
  • Office of the Leader of the House of Lords
Episodes and eras in history:
  • The American Revolution
  • The Reformation
  • Tearing Down of the Berlin Wall
  • World War II
  • Gutenberg's Printing Press

  • Harvard University
  • University of Cambridge
Man Made Structures:
  • Taj Mahal
  • Pyramids of Giza
  • Rome Coliseum
Man Made territories:
  • London
  • Cook County
  • Berlin
Man Made and natural landmarks:
  • Mount Kilimanjaro
  • The Eiffel Tower
Famous nicknames and epithets:
  • Chuck Berry: King of Rock and Roll
  • Muhammed Ali: The Greatest or The Greatest of All Time
  • James Brown: Godfather of Soul
  • Mercury
  • Mars
  • Venus
  • Jupiter
Tribes and nationalities:
  • Caucasian
  • Navajo
  • Eskimo
  • East Indian
Religion and deities:
  • the Bible, but not biblical
  • or heaven, hell, satanic
Special occasions:
  • Academy Awards
  • the Olympic Games
  • the Cannes Film Festival
  • Grammy Awards
Streets and roads

Handy Lowercase Reference list:

This list is of categories not capitalised unless the word contains a proper noun or proper adjective (maybe a trademark).  n these cases only the proper nouns or adjectives are capitalised.

  • lion
  • tiger
  • black bear
  • koala bear
  • hydrogen
  • chlorine
  • californium
  • belium

Always lowercase unless they're a brand name, proper noun, adjective or custom-named recipe.
  • pepper
  • salt
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Lea and Perrins
  • tuna
Other heavenly bodies:
  • the sun, and the moon
Medical conditions:
  • diabetes insipidus
  • Down syndrome
  • tuberculosis

Plants, fruits and vegetables:
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • Douglas fir
  • cabbage
  • Golden Delicious apples
  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter
  • the winter solstice
  • daylight saving time
Rule 3

When do you stop adding capitals to words?  There is no logical explanation or formula to follow.  Use books and search engines as your reference guide.  Don't always expect big companies and corporations to use uppercase in their company names and products.  Many writers would still start with a capital even if the company name is eBay or iPhone.

  • Iphone are turning huge profits with their new phone.
Rule 4

Titles should only be capitalised before names, unless they are followed by a comma.  Don't capitalise the title when it's used after or instead of a name.

  • The Chairman of the Board Henry Ford will preside at the conference.
  • The senators from California and Alabama are expected this afternoon.
Rule 5

Occupations aren't the same as titles.  Occupations shouldn't be capitalised before full names.

  • director Christopher Nolan
  • owner Philip Hall
  • singer Adele
Rule 6

a. When used as a direct address capitalise a formal title.
b. When preceding a personal name capitalise a family name, or if they're used in place of a personal name.

  • My Dad gave me a lift this morning.
  • Grandma is amazing for her age.
  • Lisa and Lee love Uncle Arthur's pies.
Familiar names are not capitalised with pronouns or nouns, when they follow a personal name or when referencing a specific person.

  • My Aunt is here.
  • Alice's Grandma looks well.
  • There's not one father I know that would allow that.
c. Nicknames are capitalised in all cases.

  • Meet my sisters, Dove and Coco.
  • I just met two girls named Coco and Dove.
Rule 7

All geographical regions should be capitalised, but not points of the compass.

  • We live in the Northeast of England.
  • We had some relatives visit from South America.
Other areas have been capitalised because they are so well known to people.

  • I'm from New York's Upper East Side.
  • I'm from the Rocky Mountains.
  • I'm from the Midwest.
Rule 8

Don't capitalise the word 'the' before a proper noun.


I'm reading the Daily Mirror.
They're fans of the Ramones.

Rule 9

The words city, town and county, etc., don't require capitalisation before a proper name.

  • the city of Chicago.
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Cook County.
Rule 10

When using a quotation at the beginning or middle of a sentence, always capitalise it.

  • Geoff said, "That car we started working on last April is done."
Rule 11

Some writers like to capitalise a mid-sentence independent clause or question.

  • One of his key rules was, Always tell the truth.
  • It really made me think, What will happen to us when the storm reaches the island?
Rule 12

Always capitalise course titles, but not academic subjects.

  • I must study geography and Algebra 101.
  • She has a 1st in English Local History.
Rule 13

All art movements should be capitalised.

  • I like Abstract Expressionism, but I never understood Surrealism.
Rule 14

List items that follow a colon should not be capitalised.

  • We used the following for our project at school: paper, a pencil, rubber and notepad.
Rule 15

Capitalisation isn't required for 'the national anthem'.

Rule 16

Book titles, films, plays, songs, essays, and chapters can be really annoying, especially when there are various policies to follow.

Here are some universal rules to follow for composition titles:
  • The title's first and last word should be capitalised
  • All verbs should be capitalised including: is, are, was etc.
  • All pronouns should be capitalised including: it, he, who, that etc.
  • Not should be capitalised
  • A, an or the shouldn't be capitalised unless used first or last in the title
  • The same applies to and, or, or nor unless used first or last in the title
  • Don't capitalise the word to with or without an infinitive, again unless it's used as the first or last in the title
Rules for Writing Numbers 

Writing out numerals or numbers is down to the writer' preference.  If you decide to use a particular style of writing numbers, always make it consistent throughout your work.

A convoluted topic, often with many exceptions, with no consistency found in books, newspapers, magazines or blogs. 

Here are 12 rules to think about when you write out numbers:

Rule 1

All numbers should be spelt out at the beginning of a sentence.

  • Three thousand and two people were taken to hospital after the accident.
  • Nineteen thirty-three was a busy year for the police.
Rule 2

a. All compound numbers should be hyphenated.

  • Fifty-five people were killed during the fires in Australia.
  • Thirteen people were injured in the air crash.

b. All written-out fractions should be hyphenated.

  • They stole about one-third of the money in the safe.
  • One-half is slightly less than five-eighths.
Rule 3

a. When using four or more digits, use commas.   Place the first comma three spaces to the left.  Then continue placing commas after every three digits. 

Important note: Don't include decimal points when doing the counting.

  • 2,066 people
  • £10,450,899.10
b. Points, pounds or dollar signs aren't required when writing out sums of less than a pound or dollar.
  • Not recommended: She had only £0.50.
  • Better: She had only fifty pence.
Rule 4

a. Always use midnight and noon, instead of 12.00 AM and 12:00 PM.

AM and PM can also be written A.M. or P.M., a.m. and p.m., or am and pm. 

b. Most people use numbers for the time of day.

  • The boat leaves at 8:30 am.
  • Please leave by 10:00 sharp.
Many writers still prefer to write out the time, especially when they're using o'clock.

  • He takes the five thirty-five train back to London.
  • The children wake up at six o'clock in the morning on Christmas day.
Rule 5

Unless used at the beginning of a sentence, mixed fractions are usually expressed in numbers.

  • We expect our wages to go up by 8½ percent by the end of this financial year.
  • Eight and one-half percent was the expected wage rise for the end of the financial year.
Rule 6

Express large numbers the simple way.

  • forty-five hundred (easier than four thousand five hundred)
Be consistent with large round numbers in a sentence.

  • Consistent: You can win one million to ten million dollars every week.
  • Inconsistent: You can win one million to 10 million dollars every week.
  • Inconsistent: You can win $1 million to 10 million dollars every week.
Rule 7

Always use numbers when writing out decimals, this is easier for the reader to understand.

  • The tree grew 0.69 inches last year.
  • The tree grew only 0.06 inches this year.
Rule 8

Numbers with three or more digits, the word isn't necessary.  The word 'and' can be used to express a decimal point that accompanies any numbers.


  • one thousand one hundred sixty-four pounds
  • one thousand one hundred sixty four pounds fifty pence
  • Easier: eleven hundred sixty-four pounds and fifty pence
Rule 9

The examples below are more commonly used when using figures to express dates.

  • the 10th June, 1984
  • June 10, 1984
Rule 10

It's not necessary to capitalise decades.

  • During the fifties and sixties the British economy grew.
Rule 11

When writing out decades using numbers it's easier to put an apostrophe before the incomplete number and no apostrophe between the number and the 's'.

  • During the '50s and '60s, the British economy grew.
Often writers place the apostrophe after the number:
  • Consistent: During the 50's and 60's, the British economy grew.
  • Inconsistent: During the '50's and '60's , the British economy grew.
Rule 12

You can also write decades in complete numerals, without the 's' after the year.

  • During the 1950s and 1960s, the British economy grew.
Share this post with your friends!


  1. Thank you for this. It's exactly what I needed for my collection of tips when writing. Caps and numbers have always confused me. LOL

    1. Thank you for your comment Sharon. Caps and numbers can be confusing at the best of times :)


Tell me your thoughts.