Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Capital letters


Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Capital letters

Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization. Most capitalization is for proper names, acronyms, and initialisms. It may be helpful to consult the style guide on proper names if in doubt about whether a particular item is a proper name.

Contents

General principles

Wikipedia does capitalize initial letters of proper nouns, and often proper adjectives. In doing this, we follow common usage, and when uncapitalized forms are the normal English usage (abelian group, k.d. lang), we follow common usage.

Capital letters are sometimes a matter of regional differences. If possible, as with spelling, use rules appropriate to the cultural and linguistic context.

Do not use for emphasis

Initial capitals or all capitals should not be used for emphasis. Instead, italics should be used:

Incorrect: it is not only a LITTLE learning that is dangerous
Incorrect: it is not only a Little learning that is dangerous
Correct: it is not only a little learning that is dangerous.

Section headings

Shortcut:
WP:Section caps

Use sentence-style capitalization, not title-style capitalization: Capitalize the first letter of the first word and any proper nouns in headings, but leave the rest lower case. Thus Rules and regulations, not Rules and Regulations.

Titles of people

Shortcut:
WP:Job titles

Offices, positions, and job titles such as president, king, emperor, pope, bishop, abbot, executive director are common nouns and therefore should be in lower case when used generically: "Mitterrand was the French president" or "There were many presidents at the meeting." They start with a capital letter only when followed by a person's name, in other words when they have become part of the name: "President Nixon", not "president Nixon". A very high ranking office may begin with a capital letter when used to refer to a specific and obvious person as a substitute for their name, e.g. Elizabeth II is "the Queen" not "the queen".

The correct formal name of an office can be treated as a proper noun, so it is correct to write "Louis XVI was the French king" or "Louis XVI was King of France". Exceptions may apply for specific offices.

In the case of a compound word such as "prime minister" or "chief executive officer", either all parts begin with a capital letter or none (except at the beginning of a sentence), e.g., "Winston Churchill was British prime minister during WWII", or "After WWII, Prime Minister Churchill was defeated in the 1945 elections".

Styles of nobility should normally be capitalized, e.g., "Her Majesty" or "His Highness".

Religions, deities, philosophies, doctrines and their adherents

Names of organized religions (as well as officially recognized sects), whether as a noun or an adjective, and their adherents start with a capital letter. Unofficial movements, ideologies or philosophies within religions are generally not capitalized unless derived from a proper name. For example, Islam, Christianity, Catholic, Pentecostalist and Calvinist are capitalized, while evangelicalism and fundamentalism are not.

Proper nouns and titles referencing deities are capitalized: God, Allah, Freyja, the Lord, the Supreme Being, the Messiah. The same is true when referring to important religious figures, such as Muhammad, by terms such as the Prophet. Common nouns should not be capitalized: the Norse gods, personal god. Transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense also begin with a capital letter: Good and Truth. Pronouns referring to deities, or nouns (other than names) referring to any material or abstract representation of any deity, human or otherwise, are not capitalized.

In a biblical context "God" is always capitalized when referring to the Judeo-Christian deity, but not capitalized when referring to anyone else to whom the word "god" is applied, for example: "And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet." (Exodus 7:1) Note that "prophet" is not capitalized in the Bible, except one place where the people refer to Jesus as "the Prophet" in John 7:40.

The names of major revered works of scripture like the Bible, the Qur'an, the Talmud, and the Vedas should be capitalized (but not italicized). The adjective biblical should not be capitalized. Koranic is normally capitalized, but usage varies for talmudic, vedic, etc. Be consistent in an article.

Do not capitalize terms denoting types of religious or mythical beings such as angel, fairy or deva. The personal names of individual beings are capitalized as normal (the angel Gabriel). An exception is made when such terms are used in fantasy fiction and they also denote ethnicities, in which case they are capitalized.

Shortcut:
Wikipedia:DOCTCAPS

Philosophies, theories, doctrines, and systems of thought do not begin with a capital letter, unless the name derives from a proper noun: lowercase republican refers to a system of political thought; uppercase Republican refers to a specific Republican Party (each party name being a proper noun). Even so, watch for idiom: Platonic ideas, or even Ideas, as a combination of proper nouns, but platonic love. Doctrinal topics or canonical religious ideas that may be traditionally capitalized within a faith are given in lower case in Wikipedia, such as virgin birth (as a common noun), original sin or transubstantiation.

Science and mathematics

In science and mathematics, only proper names that are part of a name for an idea should be capitalized (Hermitian matrix, Lorentz transformation). A small number of exceptions exist (abelian group).

Calendar items

The names of months, days, and holidays always begin with a capital letter: June, Monday, Fourth of July, Michelmas, Ides of March.

Seasons start with a capital letter when they go with another noun or when they personify. Here they function as proper nouns: "Autumn Open House"; "I think Spring is showing her colors"; "Old Man Winter". However, in the general sense, they do not start with a capital letter: "This summer was very hot."

Animals, plants, and other organisms

Scientific names for genera and species are italicized, with an initial capital letter for the genus, but not for the species; for more detailed guidelines on titles with taxonomic terms, see Wikipedia:WikiProject Tree of Life#Article titles (The tulip tree is Liriodendron tulipifera; All modern humans are Homo sapiens.) Taxonomic groups higher than genus have an initial capital and are not in italics (gulls are in the family Laridae, and we are in the family Hominidae).

Common (vernacular) names of flora and fauna should be written in lower case (oak, lion). There are exceptions:

  1. Where the vernacular name contains a proper noun, such as the name of a person or place, the initial letter is capitalized (The Amur tiger may have a range of over 500 square kilometres; The Roosevelt elk is a subspecies of Cervus canadensis).
  2. For particular groups of organisms, there are particular rules of capitalization based on current and historic usage among those who study the organisms; for example, official common names of birds.
  3. In a very few cases, a set of officially established common names is recognized only within a country or a geographic region. Those common names may be capitalized according to local custom, but not all editors have access to the references needed to support these names; in such cases, using the general recommendation is also acceptable.

Create a redirect from an alternative capitalization where it is used in an article title.

Use a consistent style of capitalization for species names in articles covering two or more taxonomic groups. This could involve the use of:

  • scientific names throughout (often appropriate for specialist articles);
  • title case for common names of species throughout, and lower case for common names of groups of species (the Golden Eagle is a relatively large eagle; see WP:BIRDS); or
  • lower-case initial letters for common names, which may work well for non-specialist articles that happen to refer to different taxonomic groups.

Celestial bodies

The words sun, earth, and moon are proper nouns when the sentence uses them in an astronomical context: "The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System"; but not elsewhere: "It was a lovely day, because the sun felt warm". These terms are only proper nouns when referring to a specific celestial body (our Solar System, Sun, Earth, and Moon): "The Moon orbits the Earth"; but not elsewhere: "Io is a moon of Jupiter".

Names of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, stars, constellations, and galaxies are proper nouns and begin with a capital letter ("The planet Mars can be seen tonight in the constellation Gemini, near the star Pollux"). In the case of compounds with generic terms such as comet and galaxy (but not star or planet), follow the International Astronomical Union's recommended style and include the generic as part of the name and capitalize it ("Halley's Comet is the most famous of the periodic comets", "The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy").

Directions and regions

Regions that are proper nouns, including widely known expressions such as Southern California, start with a capital letter. Follow the same convention for related forms: a person from the Southern United States is a Southerner.

Directions (north, southwest, etc.) are not proper nouns and do not start with a capital letter. The same is true for their related forms: someone might call a road that leads north a northern road, compared to the Great North Road.

If you are not sure whether a region has attained proper-noun status, assume it has not.

Most adjectives derived from proper nouns should be capitalised, e.g.: "the English people", "the London commuter belt", but "cheshire cheese", "french polish".

Institutions

Proper names of specific institutions (for example, Harvard University, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, George Brown College, etc.) are proper nouns and require capitalization.

However, the words for types of institutions (church, university, college, hospital, high school, bank, etc.) do not require capitalization if they do not appear in a proper name.

Military terms

Shortcut:
WP:MilTerms

The general rule is that wherever a military term is an accepted proper noun, it should be capitalized. Where there is uncertainty as to whether a term is generally accepted, consensus should be reached on the talk page.

  • Military ranks follow the same capitalization guidelines as titles (see above). Thus, one would write "Brigadier General John Smith", or "John Smith was a brigadier general".
  • Formal names of military units, including armies, navies, air forces, fleets, regiments, battalions, companies, corps, and so forth are proper nouns and should be capitalized. However, the words for types of military unit (army, navy, fleet, company, etc.) do not require capitalization if they do not appear in a proper name. Thus, the American army, but the United States Army. Unofficial but well-known names should also be capitalized (the Green Berets, the Guard).
    Correct: the Fifth Company; the Young Guard; the company rallied.
    Incorrect: The Company took heavy losses. The 3rd battalion retreated.
  • Accepted full names of wars, battles, revolts, revolutions, rebellions, mutinies, skirmishes, risings, campaigns, fronts, raids, actions, operations and so forth are capitalized (Spanish Civil War, Battle of Leipzig, Boxer Rebellion, Action of July 8, 1716, Western Front, Operation Sea Lion). The generic terms (war, revolution, battle) take the lowercase form when standing alone ("France went to war"; "The battle began"; "The raid succeeded"). As a rule of thumb, if a battle, war, etc has its own Wikipedia article, the name should be capitalized in articles linked to it as it is in the article name.
  • Proper names of specific military awards and decorations are capitalized (Medal of Honor, Victoria Cross).

Musical and literary genres

Names of musical or literary genres do not require capitalization at all, unless the genre name contains a proper noun such as the name of a place. For example:

Incorrect: They are a Psychedelic Rock band.
Correct: They are a psychedelic rock band.
Incorrect: Asimov is widely considered a master of the Science-Fiction genre.
Correct: Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre.

Radio formats such as adult contemporary or classic rock are also not capitalized, unless they are abbreviated. For instance, if a radio station's format is given as "adult album alternative", do not capitalize, but if AAA, a common abbreviation for this format, is used instead, then do capitalize the abbreviation.

Acronyms and initialisms

Shortcut:
WP:CAPSACRS

When showing the source of an acronym, initialism, or syllabic abbreviation, emphasizing the letters that make up the acronym is undesirable:

Incorrect: FOREX (FOReign EXchange)
Incorrect: FOREX (foreign exchange)
Correct: FOREX (foreign exchange)

If it is necessary to do so, for example, to indicate the etymology, use italics: FOREX (from "foreign exchange")

Specifically, do not apply initial capitals in a full term that is a common noun just because capitals are used in the abbreviation.

Incorrect  (not a name/proper noun):    We used Digital Scanning (DS) technology
Correct:   We used digital scanning (DS) technology
Correct: (name/proper noun): produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

All caps

Shortcuts:
MOS:ALLCAPS
WP:ALLCAPS

Avoid writing with all capitals. Reduce them to one of the other title cases.

  • Reduce newspaper headlines and other titles from all caps to "start case".[1]
  • Reduce track titles on albums where all or most tracks are in all capitals.
  • Reduce court decisions from all caps: The decision when issued was "ROE v. WADE", but write Roe v. Wade.[2]
  • Reduce proclamations, such as those for the Medal of Honor from all-caps.
  • Reduce all-caps found in trademarks. See Wikipedia:Manual of Style (trademarks).
  • Reduce Latin quotations and terms[3] from all-caps. see Foreign terms.
  • Change small caps to title case.

Avoid writing with all capitals when you can emphasize by other means, such as the wikitext's two pairs of single quotes (''like this instead''). See also: Wikipedia:Manual of Style (emphasis)

Do write in all capitals for acronyms and initialisms, unless the acronym gains common usage as an ordinary, lowercase word (e.g., we write scuba and laser, but NATO).

Mixed or non-capitalization

For trademarks that are given in mixed or non-capitalization by their owners (such as adidas), follow standard English text formatting and capitalization rules for proper nouns. Trademarks beginning with a one-letter lowercase prefix pronounced as a separate letter do not need to be capitalized if the second letter is capitalized (e.g., iPod or eBay); Wikipedia does not capitalize the first letter, when, as in these cases, not doing so has become normal English usage. (Beginning article titles lower case requires the {{lowercase}} template or equivalent code.) The mixed or non-capitalized formatting should be mentioned in the article lead, or illustrated with a graphical logo.

Some individuals do not want their personal names capitalized. In such cases, Wikipedia articles may use lower case variants of personal names if they have regular and established use in reliable third-party sources (for example, k.d. lang).

In articles where the case of symbols is significant, like those related to programming languages or mathematical notation (for example, n is not equivalent to N), the title should reflect this. It is best to avoid putting symbols like n at the beginning of a sentence where English rules would require capitalization.

Anglo- and similar prefixes

Most words with prefixes such as Anglo-, Franco-, etc., are capitalized. For example, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-French and Anglo-Norman are all capitalized. However, there is some variation concerning a small number of words of French origin. In French, these words are not capitalized, and this sometimes carries over to English. There are variations by country, and since editors often refer to only one dictionary, they may unwittingly contravene WP:ENGVAR by changing usage to that of their own country. In general terms, Americans are most favourable to capitalization and Canadians least favourable, with other countries falling somewhere in between. The main exceptions to the capitalization rule are the following.[4]

  • anglicism, gallicism, etc. These words are often, but not always, capitalized. Anglicism is less likely to be capitalized in Canada.
  • anglicize, gallicize, etc. Anglicize is often capitalized in the U.S., and sometimes in other countries. Gallicize is often capitalized in the U.S., and usually capitalized in other countries.
  • anglophile, francophile, etc. Words in this category are usually capitalized both as nouns and adjectives, except in Canada where they sometimes are.
  • anglophobe, francophobe, etc. Words in this category are capitalized in all countries except Canada, where they sometimes are. The same applies to anglophobic.
  • anglophone, francophone, etc. These words are often capitalized in the U.S. as adjectives, and usually as nouns. They are usually not capitalized in other countries, whether as nouns or adjectives.

Composition titles

Shortcut:
MOS:CT

Capitalize the first letter in the first and last words in the titles of English compositions (books and other print works, songs and other audio works, films and other visual media works, paintings and other artworks etc.). The first letter in the other words is also capitalized, except for short coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), prepositions (of, to, in, for, on, with), and articles (a, an, the), as well as the word to in infinitives. More specifically, capitalize:

  • the first and last word;
  • every adjective, adverb, noun, pronoun and verb. This includes all forms of the verb to be (be, am, is, are, was, were, been);
  • prepositions that are
    • long, such as those not listed above;
    • the first or last word of the title (e.g., "Walk On");
    • phrasal verbs (e.g., "Give Up the Ghost");
    • the first word in a compound preposition (e.g., "Time Out of Mind", "Get Off of My Cloud");
  • each word-part of
    • compound hyphenated terms according to the applicable rule;
    • parenthetical phrases in titles as if they were separate titles (e.g., "(Don't Fear) The Reaper").

Trademarks

See: Wikipedia:Manual of Style (trademarks)

Trademarks should be written in a way that follows standard English text formatting and capitalization rules.

Notes

  1. ^ For example, replace "WAR BEGINS TODAY" with "War Begins Today". (This is what The New York Times does when transcribing its historical collection. e.g., "Troops Use Machine Gun on Boston Mob; 5,000 Guarding City as Riots Continue; City Acclaims Parade of Fighting First". September 10, 1919. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0910.html#article. Retrieved January 8, 2009. )
  2. ^ "ROE v. WADE". http://tourolaw.edu/patch/Roe/. Retrieved January 8, 2009. 
  3. ^ Latin had no small letters in it. For Latin phrases, then, reducing all-caps to small letters is an anachronism.
  4. ^ Sources have been consulted for the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, but not for Ireland or South Africa. Sources: U.S.: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., The New Oxford American Dictionary. Canada: The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Gage Canadian Dictionary. U.K.: The Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd edition revised), The Concise Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary (English-French). Australia: The Australian Oxford Dictionary. New Zealand: The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary.

External links


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