In honor of the Associated Press Stylebook changes on capitalizing internet and web (lowercase starting today), here are some other guidelines for capitalization. One rule of thumb to guide you: In general, avoid unnecessary capitals.

Proper and Common Nouns

  • Capitalize proper nouns and proper names: John, Mary, Nelson, Facebook.
  • Capitalize common nouns such as party, river and street when part of a proper name: Democratic Party, Ohio River, Poynter Street.
  • Lowercase common nouns when they stand alone: the party, the river, the street. Lowercase the common noun element of names in all plural uses: the Democratic and Republican parties, Nelson and Poynter streets, lakes Erie and Ontario.


  • In general, capitalize formal titles used directly before a name. Lowercase and spell out when not used with an individual name: The president issued a statement.
  • Use lowercase at all times for terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles. Note that first lady is a courtesy title and is never capitalized.

Taken from Cleaning Your Copy: Grammar, Style and More, a self-directed course at Poynter NewsU.

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