A Lesson by compositionc

What should and should NOT be capitalized in dialogue.


"hi, my name is aria, and i'm in love with my best friend, max," i said.


Just stop right there, girly. JUST STOP, DAMN IT. Okay. This lesson will cover the basics of capitalization in dialogue, and I hope that by the end of tis lesson, you will be able to properly capitalize that sentence.


What is capitalization?



the act or process of capitalizing.
All right, so what is capitalizing?


[kap-i-tl-ahyz] verb, -ized, -iz·ing.
–verb (used with object)
to write or print in capital letters or with an initial capital.
Much better. To capitalize is to use an upper case letter. Remember those from grade school? Your lower case and upper case? Good! Before I can go into the dialogue specifics, we need to talk about what you capitalize. Anybody know?
*cricket sounds*
*sigh* Proper nouns, which would include names of people [first and last] and places, proper adjectives, the first letter of a sentence, titles, and the word 'I'
Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, John Doggett, and Monica Reyes are all names of people and need to be capitalized.
France, Spain, Norway, and England are all names of places and need to be capitalized.
French, Spanish, English, and American would all be proper adjectives and need to be capitalized.
Dogs are cool. The D is the first letter of the sentence and needs to be capitalized.
I like dogs. 'I' needs to capitalized as it is the word 'I', which must always be capitalized.
Why must 'I' always be capitalized?
I wasn't sure, so I looked it up on Yahoo Answers. Some genius had a very good answer. Read it below, and no, I did not answer it, so all credit goes to a mysterious banned man: "The letter I is capitalized in a sentence when it is used as a word to refer to the person writing. Proper (personal) names of people, places, and things are capitalized in English grammar. The word "I" is a personal pronoun; its function is to take the place of the name of the person doing the writing. Thus, the capitalization." Did you understand that? No? Well, in short, 'I' is capitalized becase it is a personal pronoun taking the place of a proper noun, your name.
What wouldn't be capitalized in a sentence?
Every word minus proper nouns, adjectives, titles, the first letter of a sentence, and the word 'I'. Not so specific, right? In a sentence, only capitalize what needs to be an upper case letter. Otherwise, leave it be. If you're not sure, do not touch it under any circumstances.
How does this have anything to do with dialogue?
It doesn't. *laughs* No, just joshing with you, dove! Dialogue is just someone saying a sentence. The capitalization for a sentence and a line of dialogue are the same thing. However, with dialogue, there is one little difference. I'll show you then.
"Aliens exist!" he yelled.
First letter of the sentence capitalized, check. That would be the only thing that needs capitalization in the entire sentence. Now, you can ask, what about 'he yelled'? It's a new sentence, isn't it? Well, yes, kind of, but the 'h' in 'he' is not capitalized because it is a part of the dialogue. It is saying who yelled "Aliens exist!" *cough cough* Mulder. *cough cough*
Now, let's tackle that beginning sentence, 'kay?
"hi, my name is aria, and i'm in love with my best friend, max," i said.
1. First letter of the sentence. The 'h' in 'hi' should be upper case.
2. The 'a' in 'Aria' needs to be capitalized. It's a proper noun-- someone's name.
3. The 'I' in 'I'm' because 'I'm' is the contraction for 'I am', and the word 'I' is in it. And 'I' is always capitalized.
4. The 'm' in 'Max' needs to be capitalized. It's a proper noun-- someon's name.
5. The 'I' in 'I said'. Now, forget about what I said about the whole not needing to be capitalized because it's a part of the sentence. It's still an 'I', and we all know 'I' is always capitalized.
*insert magic here*
"Hi, my name is Aria, and I'm in love with my best friend, Max," I said.

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Posted 12 Years Ago

Well doen, though, explaining everything. I feel thoroughly taught now. Thank you for that. Who says that you don't learn anything during the summer?

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Posted 12 Years Ago

The "personal pronoun" explanation for capitalizing "I" doesn't make sense; otherwise, we'd also capitalize "he" and "she" (which also take the place of someone's name), but it DOES need to be capitalized. Every single time. Even in dialogue by a character with bad grammar. :)
"He" in the dialogue example is not part of the dialogue; it IS part of the dialogue tag (the part that says who speaks and how they do it).

I wish I could blame cell phones and text messaging for the horrible non-capitalizing habits of today, but I suspect that this sort of thing has always happened and that I only noticed it when I started being a "mercenary proofreader" online...

Are you going to do a lesson with more on punctuating dialogue?
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Added on July 10, 2011
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