May 23, 2021

You already know that you should capitalize the first words of sentences.

You learned this rule in first grade.

If a question is followed by a question fragment that is closely related to the first, capitalize the fragment as well.

She won a million dollars? Really?

When capitalizing dialogue, the basic rule is fairly simple. Capitalize the sentences as they would have been capitalized when spoken. The speaker’s sentence began with a capital letter, so no matter where the quotation falls in a sentence, capitalize the first word of the speaker’s sentence, and only the first word. The narrator’s sentence also always begins with a capital.

That boy is my friend and not my cousin.
The girl said, “That boy is my friend and not my cousin.”
“That boy is my friend and not my cousin,” said the girl.
“That boy is my friend,” said the girl, “and not my cousin.”

If the speaker said more than one sentence, each sentence is capitalized.

“James is my friend and not my cousin,” said Marcos. “My cousin is Justin.”

Hint:Imagine crossing out the narrative part and check the capitalization. Example: “James is my friend,” said Marcos, “and not my cousin.”

Capitalize all the important words in a title. Aren’t they all important? Not really. Unless they are the first or last word in the title, you can skip the articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor, so, yet) and short (2-4 letter) prepositions (of, to, in, with). You must capitalize all other short words, including verbs.

All Quiet on the Western Front
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Bridge over the River Kwai
Who Was That Masked Man?
When We Were Young.

The word the may precede a title. The best way to tell if it is part of the title and should be capitalized is if it is in italics or in quotation marks.

the New York Times
“The Way Home.”