No, we're not talking about seed funding for your startup (sorry): "capitalization" refers to beginning a word—or, in the case of some acronyms, writing an entire word—with the large (capital, uppercase) version of a letter, as opposed to the small (lowercase) version.
As a rule, words that should be capitalized include the following:
- The first word of a sentence
- Proper nouns (names of specific people, groups, places, events, published works, etc.): e.g., "Lake Geneva"
- Words derived from proper nouns: e.g., "Kafkaesque"
- The letters in an acronym: e.g., DIME
By contrast, some categories of words that typically should not be capitalized include the following:
- Common (generic) nouns: e.g., "lake"
- Official titles when not attached to a person's name: e.g., "Lord Munodi" but "the governor of Lagado"
- Spelled-out acronyms (but do still capitalize any proper nouns!): e.g., "diplomatic, informational, military, and economic (DIME)"
- Theories, ideologies, and other schools of thought (unless derived from proper nouns): e.g., "Kantianism" but "utilitarianism"
Ultimately, however, while some rules remain constant, other stylistic norms concerning which words do and do not get capitalized vary according to academic or professional context or other considerations.
The links below offer further guidance on capitalization; if you have additional questions, GWC coaches are here to help. For questions about field-specific articles of usage, consult a faculty member, the literature of your field, and/or the appropriate style manual.