Need help submitting your writing to literary journals or book publishers/literary agents? Click here! →

When To Capitalize The Common Noun Names Of Family Relatives

When To Capitalize The Common Noun Names Of Family Relatives

Capitalizing can be tricky, especially when family’s involved. Of course, all first and last names should be capitalized—that’s a no-brainer. But, like any family, throw in some aunts, dads, cousins, and possessive nouns, and suddenly things get a bit more complicated.

When should you use lowercase?

If the common noun name is preceded by a possessive pronoun.

Example: She’s going to have a talk with her mother.

Example: His father likes playing BINGO.

Similarly, when using terms of endearment, lowercase the nicknames.

Example: I’m jealous of his relationship with his mom (mama, momma, etc.).

Example: My dad (pop, papa, etc.) is the best!

When do you capitalize the common noun name?

If the common noun is used as a substitute for the person’s name.

Example: She’s going to have a talk with Mother (Mom, Mama, Momma, etc).

Example: He likes playing BINGO with Father (Dad, Pop, Papa, etc).

Or, if the common noun is used as a title.

Example: I’m so excited about Cousin Jill’s bridal shower!

Example: They attended Grandma Bryan’s funeral.

By following these basic capitalization guidelines, you can rest assured that no one in your common noun family will feel slighted or improperly identified. And hopefully, all your family get-togethers will be drama- and mistake-free.

Photo by Daniel Y. Go

penQUESTION: Which other grammatical rules do you struggle with?

2 Responses to When To Capitalize The Common Noun Names Of Family Relatives

  1. It seems to me that when using phrases like this…

    “Come back here, son.”

    …the ‘son’ is used as a term of endearment, such as ‘honey’ or ‘dear’. And in those cases, you don’t capitalize.

    Mom and Dad are different, in the they can be used like this:

    “Mom is going to the store today, do you need anything?”

    But you’d never see something like this:

    “Son has a baseball game this afternoon.”

    Just as you’d never see something like this:

    “Dear has a baseball game this afternoon.”

    That leads me to conclude that ‘son’ is more like ‘dear’ than it is like ‘Mom’.

  2. Isn’t it odd that the guideline (I hesitate to say “rule”) doesn’t seem to apply in reality (as opposed to in theory) to “son” and “daughter” in the same way as “Mom” and “Dad?” I’ve seen this question over and over, and the consensus seems to be that “Come back here, son” is correct, even though “son” is clearly a substitute for a proper name (“Billy,” perhaps). Compounding that situation, it’s seldom that one uses “daughter” in the same way (at least in current usage). If one follows CMoS, one should rightly say “Come back here, Son” in that case — but how many times is that actually done?

    Interesting stuff, no?

Leave a reply

Learn More
Live Chat Software


This page was chock-full of great info...
and there's so much more here to help you meet your publishing goals!

Be sure to sign up for our FREE guides as you enter each site.

For advice, marketing ideas, and step-by-step guidance through the self-publishing process!

Featuring smart ways to boost your online presence, build your author website, or improve your existing website.

For everything you need to know about writing, preparing, and targeting submissions to literary agents and editors!

Free Publishing Leads and Tips

Our e-publication, Submit Write Now!, will be delivered weekly to your inbox.

Join the 50,000+ writers who receive:

  • FREE submission tips
  • Hot publishing leads
  • Calls to submit
  • And much more!

Close this popup

Sign up Today!

BONUS: Receive a free copy of formatting guidelines—our gift to you!

We promise not to share your information.