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Our language, unlike German and a few others, uses capital letters sparingly; and usually writers who have trouble with capitalization use too many rather than too few capital letters. Of the guidelines below, the two general ones are the most important. The others, while worth studying and learning, can be considered special conventions because their use is limited to a relatively small number of specialized situations.

General Conventions

1. Capitalize the first letter of the first word of each sentence you write.

Too much ketchup spoils the steak.

Why don’t you order a hamburger?

2. Capitalize the first letter of proper names and of adjectives derived from them.

I thought Lennie was driving.

I’ve always wanted to visit Nepal.

The English language is like a spaceship.

You have to hand it to Mr. Park.

Special Conventions

1. Capitalize north, south, east, and west and their compounds only when they designate an actual place, not when they point in a direction.

I’ve always loved the beauty and freedom of the Southwest.

The East is heavily industrialized.

Go west two blocks and then head north.

2. Capitalize the first word of a title of a book, magazine, story, essay, or play; and capitalize all other important words also.

We really enjoyed The Taming of the Shrew.

I want to renew my subscription to Ebony.

Have you ever read " A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?

3. Capitalize the official title of a person when you use it with the person’s name.

This award goes to Major Burckhardt.

I voted for Senator Wurgel.

You can get away with it if you’re a general.

4. Capitalize the names of months and of days of the week.

I’ll be going on Tuesday, November 23.

4.18. Supply capitalisation to the following sentences:


a. last night we saw woman in the dunes.

b. i slipped the note to senator kaufmann.

c. the most beautiful city i’ve ever seen is san diego.

d. to someone newly up from the south, detroit felt cold and frightening.

e. my sister came back from miss valerie’s school of dance with a dream of joining the pennsylvania ballet.


A Note on Spelling


There is no quick, easy way to overcome spelling problems. This is true partly because English spelling system is complex and difficult to explain logically. Also, most spelling habits are formed early when people are learning to read. As we they older, those habits, good or bad, become almost automatic, and often they spell without thinking about whether it is right or wrong. Even computer spell-checkers can cause problems for unwary users.

If you have trouble with English spelling, then, you need to do more than learn a few words. You need to form spelling habits, and the most important is to make spelling a conscious activity. This can be frustrating if you interrupt your writing to look up a word, only to find you knew how to spell it all along. Because spelling improvement is as important as it is difficult, however, you can’t afford to let it slide. The suggestions that follow are intended to help you develop good spelling habits.


Suggestions for Spelling Improvement

1. Don’t look words up while you’re composing. Wait until your thought-flow runs its course. As you write, highlight or mark any words you aren’t absolutely sure about. Then later when editing, your attention will go right to these words and you can look them up all at once without interrupting and losing track of your thoughts. By looking up words later, you also can concentrate on learning to spell them correctly so you won’t have to look them up again. You might even consider keeping a list of Target Words to concentrate on.

2. Every time you write a word ask yourself whether you know how to spell it. There are only two possible answers to this question: yes and no. Maybe, probably, and I think so all count as no. If the answer is yes, keep on writing, but if the answer is no, mark the word to look up. Most spelling errors come not on words like " cataclysmic, " which you know you need to look up, but on words like " front, " where you think the odds are with you.

3. Notice what part of the word you’ve spelled wrong. Hardly ever do you spell a whole word wrong. Usually one or two letters need to be changed. Find the trouble spot by comparing the dictionary version with the version you’ve already written down. Sometimes a memory prod will help you get those letters right next time. For example, you might learn to spell " environment" by remembering that it has the word " iron" in it.

4. Watch out for words that sound like other ones. Here the problem isn’t so much spelling as using the wrong word, as when someone says, " I don’t care weather it rains." Besides " whether" and " weather, " some other frequently confused words are listed below. These words are especially treacherous because computer spell-checkers won’t pick them up.

a–an–and our–hour–are

accept–except personal–personnel

cite–site–sight quiet–quite–quit

cloths–clothes roll–role

desert–dessert soul–sole

do–due than–then

led–lead there–their–they’re

loose–lose to–too–two

moral–morale wear–where–were

new–knew who’s–whose

no–know your–you’re



4.19. Use each of the above-listed words correctly in a complete sentence. Use a dictionary to check the meaning of any word you aren’t sure of. Exchange and compare your sentences with those done by a partner.

4.20. As a partner dictates the following passage, transcribe it onto a sheet of paper. When you’ve finished, check back over what you’ve written to see if all sound-alikes have been used correctly. Check your writing slowly. Actually touch each word with your pen or pencil. Examine every part of every word. When you’re satisfied, check your version against the version below. Again, actually touch each word with your pencil or pen. Notice which sound-alikes give you problems, look them up in a dictionary, and learn to use them correctly.

The Good Old Days

Folks don’t always do what they’re supposed to do, not like they used to when I was a kid. Too often these days people think life’s just a game, but back then it was more than that. A person knew where he stood. People were kind to each other and honest, but now we’re all confused about our values. Our values are too superficial. Our standards are too loose. There aren’t many folks around who know their own minds. You’re never sure who your friends are anymore. It just keeps on getting worse.


4.21. Make your own Target List of frequently misspelled words. Keep it on your desk or with your writing equipment so you can refer to it easily and work on the words. Mark the part of the word that you tend to spell wrong, focus on that part, and when you’ve learned the word, check it off as learned.

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