More capitalization confusion

Maria Murnane

Maria Murnane

Best-selling Author of the Waverly Bryson Series, and 2015 International Book Award Winner

One of the most common capitalization errors I see is regarding family members, especially parents. Here’s a refresher on the rule:

If the “Mom/mom” or “Dad/dad” is replacing the name of the person, then capitalize it because it’s a proper noun. If it’s replacing the title of the person, leave it in lowercase.

For example, let’s say you’re speaking to your sister about your parents, whose names are Gloria and Dale:

  • You: “Do you think Mom and Dad are coming to the barbeque this weekend?” (CORRECT)
  • Your sister: “Yes, but they’ll be late because Mom’s company is having some’ event in the city.” (CORRECT)

In the above scenario, “Mom” and “Dad” are capitalized because they are replacing “Gloria” and “Dale,” which are proper nouns. If you and your sister were to refer to your parents by their first names, you could use “Gloria” and “Dale” in the above exchange.

Now let’s say that you’re chatting with your sister about her in-laws. We’ll pretend your sister’s husband is named Bob, and his parents’ names are Linda and Sal.

  • You: “What about Bob’s mom and dad? Are they coming to the barbeque? (CORRECT)
  • Your sister: “No, his mom hasn’t been feeling well, so I think they’re going to stay home.” (CORRECT)

In the above scenario, “mom” and “dad” are lowercase because they aren’t proper nouns. You couldn’t swap “Linda” and “Sal” for “mom” and “dad” there.

Here’s an example of a combination of the two scenarios:

  • You: “That’s too bad. I hope his mom feels better because I really wanted her to hear Mom tell that funny story about how she and Dad got stuck at the airport.”(CORRECT)
  • Your sister: “I’m sure she’ll be fine. Bob’s dad said it’s just a bad cold, but I agree that his mom will love the way Mom tells that story.” (CORRECT)

Do you see the difference? If you’re still confused, keep this sentence on hand for future reference: “Mom and Dad, you drive me crazy sometimes, but you are also the best mom and dad in the world!”



This blog post originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. 2018 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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