Okay, I couldn’t resist the title. All joking aside, I thought I knew the rules of capitalization. Then, while I was editing Fiona’s story, I learned a few new things. So I spent my time researching to see what I knew and learn what I didn’t.
First the no-brainers.
1) The first word in a sentence, salutation or close needs to be capitalized. (Good thing spell check can do that automatically, since sometimes I write faster than I can hit the shift key)
2) Proper names and titles/high ranking government officials (before a name, but–wait for it–NOT after the name, unless it’s in the signature line). Also words derived from proper names and specific course titles.
Example: I’m taking economics and Art History 101.
3) First and last words in a title of a book, magazine, etc. Do not capitalize the words a, an, but, as, if, and, or, nor and preposition in the middle of the title.
4) Titles when used as a direct address.
Correct: Stop criticizing me, Mom.
Incorrect: My mom can’t stop criticizing me.
5) Points on the compass that refer to specific regions but are not adjectives.
Example: Although I was born in Maryland, I grew up in the Southwest.
Okay, so that’s not a comprehensive list, but I think I’ve covered ninety percent of the situations I’ll encounter in my writing.