This resource was written by Jaclyn M. Wells.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on August 7, 2009 .
Lesson 4 explains mechanics. This resource deals with capitalization.
Lesson 4: Mechanics
This lesson addresses mechanics. Questions about mechanics make up 25 percent of the questions in Part I of the GED Language Arts, Writing test. Reviewing these skills will also help you prepare for the GED Essay and improve your language skills in general. Topics addressed in this resource are as follows: capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.
Some of the multiple-choice questions will ask you to correct errors in capitalization. To prepare for these questions, become familiar with the following rules for what words to capitalize and what words not to capitalize. Familiarizing yourself with these rules will also help you to edit your essay.
Always capitalize the names of people.
- I think Harrison Ford is in that movie.
- My girlfriend introduced me to her friend Maria.
Capitalize titles, like doctor, professor, and judge, when they refer to a specific person. Don’t capitalize those words when they refer only to an occupation.
- He was sentenced to five months’ probation by Judge Karen Wilcke.
- The course was taught by Professor Johnson.
- When I was a kid, I thought I’d be a doctor, but I became a professor instead.
Capitalize family relationships only when they are used as part of a person’s title.
- Sarah’s Aunt Trudy bought her the ugliest sweater I’ve ever seen.
- My mother is named Nancy Barker.
Capitalize the names of political, racial, social, national, civic, and athletic groups.
- The local Red Cross is holding a blood drive today.
- I love to watch the Chicago White Sox play baseball.
- This university has a high population of Asian-American students.
Always capitalize the names of specific places: cities, countries, geographic regions, street names, schools and universities, and landmarks.
- She is originally from Cairo, Illinois, but now she’s living in New York City.
- On my vacation next week, I’ll get to see Mount Rushmore.
- This flight will be my first time flying over the Atlantic Ocean.
- When we were kids, we played basketball on Arbor Street.
- I’m taking classes right now at Heartland Community College, but I will transfer to Illinois State next year.
Capitalize words that are derived from the names of places, including languages.
- My favorite Italian city is Florence.
- Celine Dion is my favorite Canadian singer.
- I am learning to speak Spanish.
Do not capitalize directions or other general geographical words.
- The mall is just a little bit south of here.
- I think I would enjoy living in the desert.
- The state is cracking down on drunk drivers.
Dates and Events
Always capitalize names of months, days of the week, and holidays.
- I was sick for nearly the entire month of November.
- Jamie isn’t available on Tuesday, so we’ll need to schedule the meeting for Wednesday.
- My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, but Valentine’s Day is a close second.
Capitalize the names of historic events.
- My research paper is about the Vietnam War.
- We will study the Great Depression during this unit.
Do not capitalize the names of seasons, unless the season is part of a title.
- I love fall because of crisp, cool air.
- We are going to bike a lot during summer vacation.
- I am taking my last two classes during the Fall 2008 semester.
Titles of Works
Always capitalize the titles of articles, books, magazines, songs, albums, television shows, plays, etc.
- This month’s Rolling Stone had a really interesting article on punk music.
- The song “No Excuses” is the best grunge song ever.
Don’t capitalize short prepositions or articles (the, an, of, etc.) if they aren’t the first word of the title.
- The best Shakespeare play, I think, is Romeo and Juliet.
- I’m tired today because I stayed up all night watching The Office.
- My favorite book is definitely The Catcher in the Rye.
Capitalize the brand names of specific products.
- I love Pepsi, but I absolutely hate Mountain Dew.
- My first car was a Chevy Cavalier.
Do not capitalize the general names of products.
- I sort of feel like pizza tonight, but I could go for burgers and fries instead.
- It would be nice to have a convertible, but it’s too cold for it here in North Dakota.
Some of the following sentences contain capitalization errors. Identify and correct the errors. Note: not all sentences contain errors.
1. I read To Kill A Mockingbird when I was in High School.
2. We went to Maui for vacation last year.
3. I don’t drink Coke, but I’d love a Diet Soda.
4. I hear you’re learning to speak french. I would love to go to France.
5. Jamie and Jonathon went to their high school dance together last May.
6. My Father-in-Law took me to a Chicago Cubs game; He doesn’t know I’m a White Sox fan.
7. Jessica’s dad, Dr. Johnson, wants her to be a Doctor as well.
8. Jeremy went to Alexander community college for two years.
9. My sister’s new boyfriend is italian.
10. We traveled South on vacation because my dad wanted to study Civil War history.
Click here for exercise answers.
Titles: Underline, Italics, or Quotations?
(printable version here)
When writing about other works, it's hard to decide when to underline (or place in italics) a title and when to place it in double quotations. Note that some publications have a "house style" that must be followed. When in doubt, however, these guidelines from the Modern Language Association may help:
For titles of written or musical works that are published within other works use double quotations; underline or italicize names of works published by themselves:
ex. I just read the short story "Looking for Jake" in China Miéville's anthology of the same name, Looking for Jake.
ex. Beckett's play Waiting for Godot will be performed next season.
ex. Devo's second album, Duty Now for the Future, has one of my favorite songs, "Swelling Itching Brain."
ex. Yes, I went to a science-fiction convention. I really enjoy the original Star Trek TV series, especially the episode "Return of the Archons," and the first three Star Wars films, especially The Empire Strikes Back, okay?
ex. I read the story "All about the Bronx" in the city section of today's New York Times.
ex. I have subscribed to my favorite magazine, The Atlantic, for many years.
For names of artwork, always use italics or underlining:
ex. We have a copy of Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks in the Writing Center lobby. I always think about it when I'm listening to Tom Wait's CD Nighthawks at the Diner.
For the names of famous aircraft, ships, and spacecraft, always use italics or underlining:
ex. I built scale models of the USS Nimitz and the space shuttle Discovery last year.
ex. The Bible, Book of Exodus, or Qu'ran do not get underlined in the text of a paper. A specific edition would, however, be underlined in a works-cited list. Their titles are capitalized.
Back to 'Sentence Structure and Mechanics', 'Punctuation', or 'Using Sources'
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