One of the most common mistakes I come across in editing is capitalization when it isn’t necessary. It may seem impossible to know all the rules of capitalization without keeping a dictionary or the Chicago Manual of Style at your side, but here are three examples to remember.
Pretty much every time I see president capitalized, it’s wrong. It almost seems like a natural habit of respect to capitalize the word president, but you actually don’t have to capitalize it as often as you may think. The same goes for other titles, such as king, pope, and general. The reason president is capitalized in “President Obama” is because it’s being used as part of Barack Obama’s name or title, a proper noun, so we do capitalize it.
“Today, I met President Obama.”
“Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States.”
“Did you know Pope Francis was born in Argentina?”
“I watched the pope speak to Congress.”
Along with other family titles, such as dad, aunt, and uncle, mom is only capitalized when you are using it as a substitute for a proper noun—in other words, for your mom’s real name (a proper noun)—just like with president.
“I told Mom not to buy the kids candy.”
“I told my mom we would come over for dinner.”
“I saw Aunt Donna at the store yesterday.”
“I visited my aunt Donna on her birthday.”
We all love summer, but summer should almost always be lowercased. Months of the year and days of the week are capitalized, but the seasons generally are not. Only when the season is functioning as a title, however, it should be capitalized.
“I think summer is my favorite season.”
“The winters in Michigan are much colder than those in Georgia.”
“The Fall 2016 issue will include my short story.”
“They just released the schedule for the Spring 2017 semester.”
When in doubt, consult a dictionary or style manual! Better yet, hire an editor!