English - Capital Letters

Example

Underline the letters in the following passage which should be capitalised. – “the dark sky over the north pole stayed all day during the winter”.

The rules for capital letters are straightforward - until you start thinking about them in detail! We can all tell a child that there is a capital needed to start a name, whether it's of a place or a person, but what about the name of a season? Also, we see the points of the compass frequently capitalised but is this necessarily the case?

Look at the above sentence. Obviously, we need the first letter to be capitalised; encourage your child to remember this as otherwise they will become so hung up on the tricky ones that they'll miss the glaringly obvious one. Secondly, we have to look to see whether there are any names of either places or people. In this sentence, we do not have any names of people but there is a name of a place (north pole) so this will have to be capitalised.

Finally, the issue of the capitalising of seasons: the rule is simple - we do not use a capital for these words unless they are part of a specific name.

Therefore the sentence, properly capitalised, should look like this:

The dark sky over the North Pole stayed all day during the winter.


Example 2

Underline the letters in the following sentence that should be capitalised.- "well," lily began, "you need to travel east until you reach the m1."

This time there are issues of more than just basic capitalisation - you will need to know about the rules of punctuating speech.

Firstly, we must do the obvious things. The first word of a sentence must be capitalised, so that should be done without even thinking! Secondly, we search for names of people and places. 'Lily' is a name but there are no others.

Thirdly, we look at 'm1' - it is a convention that we use a capital letter to show a motorway or other road name. Some people may also think that 'east' needs a capital letter but, like seasons, there is no need to do so. We frequently see directions capitalised but that's because we are used to seeing the words as part of a place name, when obviously they have to have a capital letter.

The last thing we need to look at is speech. The first word of speech in a sentence needs a capital letter; in our sentence, that is also the first word of the sentence. The word 'you' does not need a capital as it is not the first word of speech in the whole sentence. That leaves the answer as follows:

"Well," Lily began, "you need to travel east until you reach the M1."

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