One of the trickiest aspects of the English language has to do is with capitalization. The rules about capitalization are generally quite consistent. But there are some situations that might cause a bit of confusion.
For example, you might already know that seasons usually don’t get capitalized. “I’m taking the summer off,” would usually be the right way to punctuate that sentence.
But regardless you might find the season in question capitalized in certain cases.
There are, indeed, unique occasions, where capitalizing the season might be appropriate. But it has to do with more than just the seasons themselves.
We will first look at a few rules that you should be following when it comes to capitalization. These rules will give you a good starting point that you can branch out from. So you should be sure to follow them pretty much all the time.
When to Capitalize Seasons
Summer is being capitalized in the previous example because it is like any other word that should be capitalized in the title. But you can find scenarios where it should be capitalized in regular sentences as well.
For example, if the season in question is part of a proper noun such as an event name or the name of a place, then it should most definitely be capitalized.
A good representation of this would be Spring Break. Spring is a season so it would not be capitalized if you were referring to it in passing.
But Spring Break is an entity unto itself. This indicates uniqueness and therefore mandates capitalization.
What this means is that any instance where the season is part of a proper noun should get capitalized.
Both Summer and Autumn can be used as people’s names, so you would definitely capitalize them if this were the case.
Capitalizing seasons outside of these contexts is quite a common error. Since there can be confusion surrounding whether it is a proper noun. But it is a mistake that you should avoid at all costs because it can reflect rather poorly on your writing if you make it.
The capitalize rule used in title cases will remain pertinent. And proper nouns will similarly prove to be exceptions to the otherwise consistent use of lower case when it comes to the names of seasons.
It can take some time to get the hang of this. But suffice it to say that if the season you are referring to is not part of a title or headline, you should probably start write it all in lower case.
This is true if it’s not someone’s name or part of the name of some other unique entity and if it’s not at the start of the quote you are mentioning either.
Basic Capitalization Rules
To understand what words need capitalization and which ones don’t, you must first understand the two different types of nouns.
These are proper nouns as well as common nouns.
A common noun is any kind of object or entity. Table, chair, plant, animal, and book are all common nouns.
Any object, including persons and people, you can consider to be a common noun. But if the object has a specific name, title, or some other kind of unique descriptor then this is a proper noun.
The basis for a proper noun is uniqueness and individuality. If your name is John, then the term “John” will only get used to referring to you in specific contexts.
Thus it is a proper noun, and should always end up capitalized. Names of any and all kinds are pretty much always proper nouns.
This goes for country names, trademarks, and other kinds of labels as well. Place names often need you to capitalize certain descriptors they have as well.
For example, you would capitalize the word south in South England. Because it’s not only describing the geographic location of the place. Rather, it has also become a part of the name for that area.
Hence, a proper noun is a term that you can use to describe an entire group or class of entities. You can group them as individuals or as parts of a whole. A proper noun, though, is something you can use to describe individual entities. even though there may be many iterations of the individual out there. Hence, even though there are likely countless people named John, each John is unique in this case. What’s more, is that people of this name generally can’t be called a class of entities.
Capitalization plays an important role in sentence structure as well. The first letter of a sentence should always get capitalized.
You should also bear in mind that adding quotation marks creates a completely new sentence which should once again be capitalized. It is important for you to capitalize the first word after the quotation marks. This is true whether you are writing dialogue in prose or including a quote in your text or article
That said, partial quotes should not be capitalized. Capitalizing it would make it seem like a distinct statement rather than alluding to its fragmentary nature. Especially if the part of the text within quotations marks is only a piece of what someone might have said. Pay attention to these two examples:
“I can’t come today, I have to work”, said Tracy
Tracy said she “can’t come today”, apparently she has work.
The second sentence involves someone partially quoting Tracy. So when this is written out capitalization would not be used to state that it is only a partial quote.
Generally speaking, seasons are not capitalized. But we will be talking about a scenario in which capitalization might be the right way to go.
When you are writing the title or headline for a piece or article, you would have to use a specific formatting style. This goes for capitalization too.
Regular sentence case won’t work here.
That is where you capitalize the first letter and follow capitalization rules for all the other words. Many writers face confusion in this regard because there are a lot of formatting styles that are used for titles.
You should follow the formatting rules of the organization or client that you are working with. But a good rule of thumb is that every word should be capitalized except for “the”, “a” and “an”.
Conjunctions of three words or less such as “but” would usually be the lower case too. Hence, if you need to add the name of a season, such as a summer, to your title, you might want to capitalize it. Otherwise, it would look out of place.
A good example is if your title has to do with higher average global temperatures during the summer months. You could write it as “Average Summer Temperatures Increase Around the World”.
As you can notice, in this sentence we have capitalized the first letter of every word except for “the”, including summer.
Some formatting or punctuation styles will make prepositions lower case too. Which in this instance would be the word “around”. The Chicago Manual Style definitely recommends this. It can often help stress the parts of your titles that actually matter.