I’m about to hit you with a mnemonic device that will bring the armies of men into peace with the wood elves.
That’s right, I have one device to rule them all when it comes to remembering the eight rules of capitalization, and it comes from “Lord of the Rings.” Is this going to be nerdy? You betcha. Are you ready? Whenever you want to recall what gets capitalized, just remember “Forgetful Bilbo Baggins took Pippin into Sam’s watermelon marmalade store.” It’s as simple as that.
F is for the first letter in a sentence. This is an easy one. Always capitalize the first letter in a sentence. Your phone automatically does it, as does your computer’s word processing software. That’s why God invented Clippy.
B stands for buildings and other manmade structures. This means we need to capitalize the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge.
The second B is for borders of countries, states, counties and regions. Always capitalize Jamaica, New Jersey, Jakarta and Jefferson County.
T is for titles. “Titles” relates to people (Dr. Quinn), formal job titles (when the job title immediately precedes the person’s name: Emperor Palpatine, and book and movie titles (“The Hunt for Red October”). You’ll notice I didn’t capitalize “for” in the previous title. In titles, do capitalize the first word, adjectives, nouns and the last word. Do not capitalize conjunctions (including and, but and or), articles (a, an, the) or prepositions (including for, to or by).
P is for people. Always capitalize people’s names (Frodo, Sauron, Gandalf, etc.).
I is for I. Yes, an I for an I. Capitalize the word “I.” Again, many of our robot devices do this for us automatically. Also, make sure to never stare directly into the Eye of Sauron; it will haunt your dreams for 1,000 eternities.
S is for schools, including colleges and universities. Although I don’t think Gandalf ever taught at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I’m sure they’d let him substitute.
W is for bodies of water. The Red River separates Oklahoma from Texas. The Southern Ocean wasn’t a thing when I was in school. You get the idea.
M is for mountains. Be careful when climbing Mount Doom; you might drop your jewelry into it.
Finally, S is for streets. Good luck finding a place where the streets have no name, because people love naming things. The president lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Although The Beatles sang about Penny Lane, their recording studio was on Abbey Road.
Forgetful Bilbo Baggins took Pippin into Sam’s watermelon marmalade store. Memorize that and you’ll be able to harness all the powers of capitalization against the terrible gaze of the Eye of Sauron.
(Curtis Honeycutt is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist. Connect with him on Twitter @curtishoneycutt or at curtishoneycutt.com.)