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Kinship Names: To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize?

Several readers have asked why kinship names, such as names of brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, etc. are sometimes capitalized and sometimes not. Lets have a closer look.

Rule 1: Capitalize a kinship name when it immediately precedes a personal name or is used alone, in place of a personal name.

Examples
Andy and Opie loved Aunt Beas apple pies.
We adore Uncle Malik because he always treats us like royalty when we visit him.
Grandma and Grandpa were married in a chapel in a small French village.
Lets go ask Mom if we can go to the movies.

Rule 2: Do not capitalize a kinship name when it is not part of the personal name but is a word describing the personal name. This usually occurs when the kinship name is preceded by articles such as the, a, or an; or possessive pronouns such as his, her, my, our, or their.

Examples
Andy and Opie loved their aunt Beas apple pies.
We adore our uncle Malik because he always treats us like royalty when we visit him.
My grandma and grandpa were married in a chapel in a small French village.
Lets go ask my mom if we can go to the movies.

Rule 3: Do not capitalize a kinship name when it follows the personal name or is not referencing a specific person.

Examples
The James brothers were notorious for robbing scores of banks and trains.
Theres not one mother I know that would allow her child to cross that street alone.

Due to the E-Newsletter's large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com's "Grammar Blog."


Pop Quiz

Select the correct word:

1. Wed travel all day to eat a meal prepared by our aunt/Aunt Ella.
2. When I saw the letter from mother/Mother, I knew it contained only good news.
3. Lydia became a mother/Mother at twenty.
4. Im sorry son/Son, but were not going to have a campfire tonight.
5. Some fathers/Fathers build a campfire every night.


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Wordplay

I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I can't put it down.

We're taking a class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there's no pop quiz.

Did you hear the Energizer bunny was arrested? He was charged with battery.

What does a clock do when it's hungry? It goes back four seconds.


Pop Quiz Answers

1. Wed travel all day to eat a meal prepared by our aunt/Aunt Ella.
2. When I saw the letter from mother/Mother, I knew it contained only good news.
3. Lydia became a mother/Mother at twenty.
4. Im sorry son/Son, but were not going to have a campfire tonight.
5. Some fathers/Fathers build a campfire every night.


68 One-Minute English Usage Videos

English In A Snap: 68 One-Minute English Usage Videos FREE 

Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.


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