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capitalization: general points

Capital letters have three basic uses:

  • to give emphasis, as in official titles and initial words;
  • to distinguish proper nouns and adjectives from common ones; and
  • to highlight words in headings and captions.

In our articles on capitalization, we have given rules to define which words require capitals; but editorial practice varies considerably on this subject, depending on the desired degree of formality, the intended readership and the organization’s house style.

In order to ensure consistency in your own style, follow the rules we have presented, which apply to most general types of writing; and consult the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, which gives the upper case use of many words.

Capitalization in specialized documents should be based on the guidelines given in professional style guides.