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OASIS Writing Skills

Video Transcripts:
APA Formatting & Style: Capitalization

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APA Formatting & Style: Capitalization

Last updated 3/12/2020 

Video Length: 1:53

Visual: Screen opens to a background image with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo. The title Walden University Writing Center and tagline “Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears on the screen. The screen changes to show the series title “Formatting & Style” and the video title “Capitalization.” 

Audio: Guitar music 


Visual: Video changes to new slide titled, “Capitalization,” with rules listed: 

  • First word of a sentence 

  • Title case: Major words and words of four letters or more 

    • Headings and paper titles 

    • Source titles discussed within paragraphs (not the reference list) 

Audio: APA has guidance on capitalization that can help you decide what words to capitalize in your writing itself and the headings and titles you use in your writing.  

The first rule is one that follows English grammar, which is that we always capitalize the first word of a sentence. The second note about capitalization is that you’ll capitalize when using title case. Title case means we capitalize the major words and words of four or more letters. Title case applies to all headings and paper titles, as well as source titles you discuss within your paragraphs. However, title case does not apply to source titles in the reference list.  


Visual: The following appears on the screen as well: 

 Proper nouns:  

  • Queen Elizabeth and the queen 

  • Department of Psychology and a psychology course 

  • Chapter 2 and these chapters

Don’t capitalize models/theories 

  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs 

  • Einstein’s theory of relativity

Audio: APA also gives guidance about which words to consider proper nouns and thus capitalize. Generally, if you’re talking about a specific title of someone or something, you’ll capitalize it. So, we have “Queen Elizabeth” capitalized, but “the queen” lower case; similarly, “Department of Psychology” is capitalized when we’re talking about a specific department, but “psychology course” is lower case; finally, “Chapter 2” is capitalized when talking about a specific chapter, but “these chapters” is lower case.  

One common error for capitalization is that students will sometimes assume models or theories in their fields are proper nouns. In APA, these are not capitalized, and the only time we capitalize part of a model or theory name is when a person’s name is a part of it. So, we have “Maslow” capitalized, but “hierarchy of needs” is lower case; “Einstein” is capitalized, but “theory of relativity” is lower case.  

Now you’ve reviewed the most commonly used capitalization rules used in APA, and you’re ready to use these rules in your writing!  


Visual: The screen changes to an ending slide with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo. The email address appears on the screen.