Capitalizing the first letters of words is a tradition in English that comes from German. In traditional German, all nouns are capitalized. The Idea behind capitalizing Letters is that it makes the important Things in a Sentence stand out, but some Nouns, we have decided, are more important than Others. Today, we only capitalize proper nouns (the names of specific people, places, or things) and the first words of sentences (to make it easier to find the beginning of a sentence).

Types of proper nouns:

  • names of people
  • titles and ranks
  • names of cities, states, counties, countries and other places
  • titles of books, movies, magazines, plays, and other media
  • days of the week and months of the year
  • names of organizations, brands, and businesses
  • certain religious names and terms

The tricky ones (that students often forget) are proper pronouns. Pronouns, you will remember, are words that take the place of nouns. Regular pronouns like “him,” “they,” “it,” and “we,” don’t get capitalized.

Example 1: “Steve’s excited about becoming a dad.”

The pronoun “dad” is not capitalized here, because it is referring to a classification of people and not one person in particular. If we replace the word “dad” with his name, it won’t make any sense: ““Steve’s excited about becoming a Steve.”

Example 2: “Well, Dad said it was your turn to do the dishes.”

In this example, the pronoun “dad” is capitalized because it is referring to a specific person in place of their name. If his name was “Steve,” then the sentence could be written: “Well, Steve said it was your turn to do the dishes.”

Pro tip: As a general rule, if you can replace the pronoun with the person’s name, then it’s a proper pronoun.