Using Capital Letters
We can write each letter of the English alphabet as a small letter (abc...) or as a large or capital letter (ABC...). Here is a full list of capital letters.
In English, we do NOT use capital letters very much. We use them mainly for the first letter of sentences, names, days and months as well as for some abbreviations. We always write the first person pronoun as a capital I.
It is not usual to write whole sentences in capitals. A sentence or paragraph written in capitals is very difficult to read. Did you ever see a book written in capital letters? Of course not! We cannot easily read lots of text in capital letters. Lawyers, for example, know that capitals are difficult to read and that is why they often write contracts in capital letters!
When do we Use Capital Letters?
1. Use a capital letter for the personal pronoun 'I':
- What can I say?
2. Use a capital letter to begin a sentence or to begin speech:
- The man arrived. He sat down.
- Suddenly Mary asked, "Do you love me?"
3. Use capital letters for many abbreviations and acronyms:
- G.M.T. or GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
- N.A.T.O. or NATO or Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
4. Use a capital letter for days of the week, months of the year, holidays:
- Monday, Tuesday
- January, February
- Armistice Day
5. Use a capital letter for countries, languages & nationalities, religions:
- China, France
- Japanese, English
- Christianity, Buddhism
6. Use a capital letter for people's names and titles:
- Anthony, Ram, William Shakespeare
- Professor Jones, Dr Smith
- Captain Kirk, King Henry VIII
7. Use a capital letter for trade-marks and names of companies and other organizations:
- Pepsi Cola, Walkman
- Microsoft Corporation, Toyota
- the United Nations, the Red Cross
8. Use a capital letter for places and monuments:
- London, Paris, the Latin Quarter
- the Eiffel Tower, St Paul's Cathedral
- Buckingham Palace, the White House
- Oxford Street, Fifth Avenue
- Jupiter, Mars, Sirius
- Asia, the Middle East, the North Pole
9. Use a capital letter for names of vehicles like ships, trains and spacecraft:
- the Titanic
- the Orient Express, the Flying Scotsman
- Challenger 2, the Enterprise
10. Use a capital letter for titles of books, poems, songs, plays, films etc:
- War And Peace
- If, Futility
- Like a Virgin
- The Taming of the Shrew
- The Lion King, Gone With The Wind
11. Use capital letters (sometimes!) for headings, titles of articles, books etc, and newspaper headlines:
- HOW TO WIN AT POKER
- Chapter 2: CLINTON'S EARLY LIFE
- LIFE FOUND ON MARS!
- MAN BITES DOG
Why are Capital Letters Difficult to Read?
Why are texts written all in capitals more difficult to read than words in small letters? There are several reasons, including:
- At least for native English speakers, children usually learn to read and write small letters before capital letters.
- In English, capital letters give us many visual clues, such as the start of a sentence or a proper noun.
- For the same type size, capital letters are usually wider than small letters and therefore take up more space, causing the eye to travel further.
- Words written in capital letters have no "shape". Words with small letters go up and down. Some small letters have "ascenders" (like the letter b). They go up. Some small letters have "descenders" (like the letter p). They go down. Some small letters have no ascender or descender. They stay in the middle. So small letters vary in height. But all capital letters are the same height (BP). When we read text, especially when we read fast, we do not read each individual letter. Instead, we read whole words and phrases. And we recognize these words and phrases partly by their shape.
A word written with small letters has a special "shape". Look at these words. They have different shapes:
But a word written all in capital letters has no special shape. Look at these words. They have the same shape:
The I Song
This fun song by Jonathan Taylor is about the importance of using a "capital I" for the personal pronoun "I", as in:
- Do you know where I live?
Do you know where i live?")
- I think I'm going to sleep.
I think i'm going to sleep.")
The I Song LYRICS
Hi, I am the I
And when I'm alone
I reach the sky
I said hi,
I am the I
And when I'm alone
I stand high
But baby when
you need to
Yeah baby when
in your word
That's when I
need to shrink
I said hi,
I'm the I