In the middle of a regular sentence—not a title—only proper nouns should have the first letter capitalised. A proper noun is a name; the name of a person, place, official name of a person of office or position of state or government, the title of a creative or non-fiction work, etc.
Only capitalise it as part of a proper noun, such as naming a specific national park, not when writing about national parks in general.
We decided to visit some national parks on our holiday. The first place we stayed at was Girraween National Park.
Words like mother, father, mum (American: mom), dad, aunty, grandma, cousin and great uncle are nouns. Ordinary nouns are not given capitals unless they are at the start of a sentence. However, proper nouns should start with a capital letter, and family words sometimes are used as proper nouns.
Family words only become proper nouns when used in a sentence instead of, or alongside, the person's name.
Honorifics like Her Majesty the Queen are offices or positions of government, like His Royal Highness and The Department of Agriculture. So, they do take capitals.
However, when talking about queens in general or a queen, it is written in lower-case. To make this distinction clearer, the queen’s slippers should have a lower-case Q. The Queen of England should have an upper-case Q because it is an official title (proper noun).
Job titles are often written in title case, as in, I am the Managing Director of Australian eBook Publisher but, when written in a sentence, position titles should not be in capitals. In a signature (at the end of an email or letter) it is appropriate to have the position title start with capital letters. Also when the title precedes the person’s name it becomes part of the name and takes capitals, as in King George went to the queen’s garden for tea.
Minister Rowby at The Department of Agriculture asked the CEO of Earthmoving Australia to dig around and find the king’s crown on the vacant lot at Saxby St. The chief executive officer failed in his duty and asked the construction worker, Digby Sirrus, to contract Manager Roger Cowan to check again.
Titles are proper nouns so they should be written in title-case, which means every word has the first letter capitalised except for the, and, a, an, in and of. Here are some examples:
In titles that are punctuated by a colon, capitalisation of the word immediately following the colon will vary, depending on whether it’s a book title or a journal or magazine title. For example:
Book title (capital letter after colon)
Health and Happiness: A Personal Wellbeing Guide
(no capital after colon, unless what follows is a subtitle and it started with a capital in the published work)
Health and happiness: a personal wellbeing guide
Reason: the colon in a book title is not normally in the title, but reflects a division between title and subtitle. See ‘Titles’ section re the use of title case in book titles and subtitles.
The title of a chapter is usually written in title case or with only the first letter capitalised. Modern Australian English favours minimising capitals so try to go with only the first letter being capitalised.
When referring to somebody else's chapter, article or curriculum area in your writing, however, capitalise it. Even if the author did not capitalise their chapters, it assists your reader to know where the name of the chapter ends and your words continue. A chapter name is also, arguably, a proper noun.
In Brodie’s book, Health and Happiness, Chapter Two: Your Hormones was particularly relevant to this study.
Like the chapter of a book the title of an area in a curriculum is a proper noun and should be capitalised. The Australian Curriculum is also a proper noun as it is the name of an official publication, however, if you are writing about curricula in general, there should be no capital C.
Thunk and Webbs’ (2017) analysis of the Technologies: Design and Technologies curriculum was particularly relevant to this study.
Educational subjects are not proper nouns and should not usually be capitalised. Whether you are talking about maths, English, design or geography, the rules for capitalisation depend on whether each word is a proper noun or not. The word English is a proper noun, as it refers to the proper noun for the English language, so it is capitalised.
School subjects will often appear as headings, in which case you may see them capitalised, but this should not be confused with the way you should write the subject in a sentence. In some circumstances it might be more consistent or easier to understand if a subject is written in capitals, so in that case the rule is to be consistent in your piece of writing.
In academia it is common to see concepts capitalised, but you should question why this is the case before including them in your own writing. Concepts are not usually proper nouns, so for example, ‘design thinking’ and ‘learning area’ should not be capitalised in the middle of a sentence.
Please also see my Spelling list for an A-Z list of how to capitalise, space and punctuate a range of words in Australian English.
Compass bearings are not capitalised (north, south, north-west, north magnetic pole, true north) unless abbreviated, e.g. NE, NW (no full stops). Places such as North Pole, South Pole are capitalised.
Use capitals for ethnologic groups (Aborigines, African-American, Inuit, Polynesians, Caucasians, etc.) and do not italicise.
Nicknames for ethnic groups should also be capitalised:
Aussies, Kiwis, Poms, etc.
Sometimes there are specific names for ethnic participants in a particular era, such as during the Great War:
Diggers, Tommies, Jerries, Kiwis, etc.
Use capitals for accepted geographical divisions (South-East Asia, North-West Plains, Mid-West, etc.), but not for vague or generalised areas (southern Asia, north-west areas of the state, etc.).
Use lower case for: southern hemisphere/northern hemisphere.
Because movements vary in their treatment, dependent on whether they are a philosophical, religious or political movement, it can be useful to defer to a dictionary such as the Macquarie with respect to capitalisation. Some examples are: Freemasonry, Marxism, fascism, gnosticism, Nazism, communism, socialism and post-modernism.
The words ‘god’, ‘goddess’ and ‘deity’ should not normally be capitalised as they are general nouns not proper nouns. As their names are proper nouns, the first letter of the names of gods, deities and the Indefinable should be capitalised.
Arguably ‘the Indefinable’ is a deity, an entity which non-religious humans (e.g. agnostics, universalists and new age spiritualists) assign a name like ‘the Indefinable’ out of respect for the fact it is unknowable. A writer can choose how to go about capitalising ‘god’ and ‘indefinable’, in line with their view of the universe, but to be grammatically correct this should be consistent in any given work.
Christians generally use capitals for the names of God, like God the Father, Jesus Christ, Yahweh, the Holy Spirit, etc. They will even capitalise ‘the Word’ when it is referring to Jesus Christ. They also usually capitalise all pronouns referring to God, but this doesn’t have to be done. It’s up to the individual author whether or not they feel it’s appropriate.
All three persons of the Trinity—e.g. the Lord, He is mighty; to Him we come; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Christians will use capital ‘Y’ for You and Yours, when referring to God, except in Bible quotes, in which case the capitalisation used in the Bible takes precedence. However, as mentioned above, this is not necessary, although it should be used if it’s the author’s preference.
They will use lower case for relative pronouns such as who, whom. They will use a lower case ‘g’ for false gods (e.g. Baal was a god of the Canaanites). Exception: when quoting the Bible, use the same capitalisation as the version being quoted.
Also: ‘Sovereign One’ but ‘God is sovereign’. And: ‘of all deities, God is the only true and sovereign one’.
Christians will use uppercase ‘D’ for deity only when used as a direct substitution for the name of God.
Where referring to the Holy Name of God, the tetragrammaton ‘LORD’, Christians will often use all small caps with the L in upper case, i.e. LORD.
Use capitals for the name of an organisation or group, but do not use upper case when only part of the name is used in subsequent reference. It is no longer a proper noun.
Jump for Cancer Association, the association
Anti-Discrimination Board, the board
Equal Opportunity Tribunal, the tribunal
Brisbane City Council, the council
Capitalise the names of sporting events and their nicknames:
The Ashes, the Third Test, the State of Origin, etc.
Brackets are often used as part of a reference to a photo, figure or publication (footnote/endnote) that accompanies an article. These should be written in lowercase.
(see photo 1), (see fig. 4), (see ref. 2)
Earth should be written with a lower case ‘e’, except where it is the specific name of the planet—i.e. where one could substitute ‘Saturn’ or ‘Mercury’, for example, and it would still make sense.
Capitalise State and Government when referring to a specific political division or party.
The State of Tasmania, the State of Kentucky (but the state of your health), the proposal of the Federal Government (but the art of good government).
Capitalising entire words should be minimised or avoided as it generally comes across as over-the-top. When used online it equates to shouting and can cause webpages to be penalised by Google, perhaps because all capitals are not a proper way to use the English language, and are often used by spammers. Use bold or italics to emphasise words.
Capitalising the first word in each bulleted or numbered list is the standard way of writing lists.
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