I know some writers find it hard to use capital letters correctly; New Hart’s Rules has an introduction to capitalisation you might find reassuring:
Capital letters in English are used to punctuate sentences, to distinguish proper nouns from other words, for emphasis, and in headings and work titles. It is impossible to lay down absolute rules for all aspects of capitalisation … the capitalisation of a particular word will depend on its role in the sentence, and also to some extent on a writer’s personal taste or on the house style being followed.
The most important thing, I think, is to consider why you have used a capital letter – nouns don’t automatically need one.
There are some general principles you can use to guide you. The convention for months and seasons is fairly simple. I have included days and festivals below because they are often queried at the same time.
The names of days are capitalised:
She was born on a Wednesday Can I visit next Saturday?
The names of months are capitalised:
The referendum will be held on 23 June 2016 I'm going on holiday in April
The names of seasons are not capitalised:
I like to visit the beach in summer There was a distinct lack of snow this winter
However, you should use a capital letter if you have personified the season:
And Winter shook his frosty mane The warm sun ended Spring's slumber
Festivals and holidays:
The names of festivals, holy days and holidays are capitalised:
We are preparing for Ramadan I don't like Halloween What are you doing on May Day?
If you would like more information on using capitals, I recommend starting with Trask’s Guide to Punctuation. If you would like additional guidance, New Hart’s Rules is a useful style guide for UK publishing and is fairly thorough on the topic on capitalisation.
New Hart’s rules: the handbook of style for writers and editors (2014) 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Trask, R. L. (1997) The Penguin guide to punctuation. London: Penguin Books.
6 thoughts on “Capitalisation: months and seasons”
This is so helpful. I always struggle with whether or not to capitalize “Mom”, “Dad”, “Mother”, “Father” and the like. It seems like the season rule might apply here as well. I’ve read that if the word takes the place of the person’s proper name it should be capitalized, but what about when using the phrase “my mom”? This gets into a gray area for me since I cannot replace the word “mom” with a name and still have it make sense but it is clearly indicating a single person?
Loving your blog. I only began following a week or so ago, but have found your posts incredibly useful.
I’m really glad you found this post, and my blog in general, useful! Thank you.
Yes, if you are using it to replace her actual name you should use Mom – I’m cooking dinner for Mom. If it’s a description of your relation to her, you should use mom – I’m cooking dinner for my mom. You wouldn’t write my Sister or my Friend, so the same principle applies. I hope that helps a bit; I will make a note to cover it in more depth in a blog post soon.
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I needed this last night. Fabulous post Hannah. I’ll check out Amazon for that book!
Thank you! I can’t recommend the Guide to Punctuation highly enough. I hope you find it useful if you do decide to invest in a copy.
So that’s why sometimes a season is capitalized and sometimes not…. 🙂
Yup. 🙂 I have seen some people capitalise them because they believe seasons should be treated as proper nouns but as far as I’m aware no style guides support that view.
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