Business, Communication, Writing

When Should You Capitalize Names of Schools, Companies, and Other Places?

Martina is nervous about her job search. She has found some open positions that look promising, but she is overwhelmed by all the writing she needs to do in order to apply for each job. What if she makes some silly mistake?

Even little things like capital letters are driving poor Martina crazy. In her cover letter, should she mention that she graduated from Hilltop Community College, Hilltop Community college, or Hilltop community college? Should she tell her would-be employers that her first job was at Hilltop Bank or Hilltop bank? Yes, Martina knows that Hilltop should be capitalized because it’s the name of her hometown, but what about all those other words?

Proper nouns

Proper nouns are the names of specific people, places, or things. These are different from common nouns, which are words used for general people, places, or things. Proper nouns are always written with a capital letter at the beginning, while common nouns are not. Here are a few examples of each:

Proper Nouns: President Lincoln, Taylor Swift, Tokyo, Manitoba, Taco Bell, Grand Central Station, Transformers, Barbie, Nike

Common Nouns: president, pop star, city, state, province, restaurant, train station, toys, shoes

Like Martina, many of our TextRanch customers are confused when a word that looks like a common noun is actually part of a proper noun.

The full name

Try thinking of a place name the same way you think of a person’s full name. The full names of most people consist of two or more words. The same is true for the names of many schools, businesses, and other places. Take another look at the above list of proper nouns. Note that each word in “Grand Central Station” is capitalized.

Thus, when words like “university” or “bank” or “company” are part of the name of a school, business, or other place, then each word is capitalized. For Martina, this means Hilltop Community College is correct, as is Hilltop Bank.

To make things clearer, here are some example sentences. You will see both proper nouns and common nouns. Can you tell the difference?

Peyton has been accepted into Michigan State University.

I don’t know which university I am attending next year.

Antonio works in the Fisher Building.

Do you have an account at Chase Bank?

I think that building used to be a bank, but now it’s Marwil’s Bookstore.

Our new house is right around the corner from Glenwood Elementary School.

Is there a good school in this neighborhood?

If you still aren’t sure whether or not a word should be capitalized, our editing team at TextRanch will be happy to help you. Click the link below or go here if you would like us to edit a longer document.

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