To capitalize or not to capitalize: 7 easy rules

The author faced a serious conundrum recently: Is the ‘c’ in ‘charley horse’ uppercase? The search for an answer helped her created this set of guidelines.

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The question that stumped me this week came when I was writing a medical case study. In the case, a patient complained of a “charley horse.” My question: Do you capitalize the “c” in “charley horse”?

After searching through several stylebooks for rules about capitalization, I was unable to find a clear answer. I asked a colleague, and her response was, “What difference does it make if it’s capitalized or not?” I finally turned to the “MedlinePlus Medical Dictionary” and discovered that the “c” is not capitalized.

I continued writing the case study, but curiosity about the capitalization rules for proper nouns or (pseudo-proper nouns) sidetracked me. Here are seven easy rules to refer to, which include numerous examples:

1. Capitalize geographic names, including the names of canyons, dams, and regions.

• the Antarctic
• Third World
• the West Coast

2. Capitalize the names of languages, nationalities, ethnicities, political parties, religions, and deities.

• Indian food
• English language
• Protestant
• the Holy Spirit

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