9 posts categorized "Capitalization"

February 15, 2017

How to Format Scientific Names of Animals

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

When an animal name is part of a journal article title, it is conventional to provide the animal’s scientific name (genus and species). Genus is always capitalized and species is not. Notice that the scientific names are also italicized (see examples on p. 105 of the APA Publication Manual).

For example, see the following articles from APA Journals:

Journal of Comparative Psychology article: Dogs (Canis familiaris) Account for Body Orientation but Not Visual Barriers When Responding to Pointing Gestures Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition: Control of Working Memory in Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca mulatta)

This convention of including the scientific name in the paper’s title is not an APA Style guideline specified in the manual; however, it is an accepted norm of scientific research. (If you have any questions about whether to include the scientific name in your paper or manuscript, ask your teacher, advisor, or editor.)

So, if you cite an article that includes a genus and species in the title, how should the title appear in your reference list? Keep the italics and capitalization of the animal’s scientific name exactly as they appear in the original title:

MacLean, E. L., Krupenye, C., & Hare, B. (2014). Dogs (Canis familiaris) account for body orientation but not visual barriers when responding to pointing gestures. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 128, 285–297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0035742
Tu, H.-W., & Hampton, R. R. (2014). Control of working memory in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 40, 467–476. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xan0000030

February 20, 2014

How to Cite a Psychological Test in APA Style

Timothy McAdoo
by Timothy McAdoo

A reference to a psychological test (also called a measure, scale, survey, quiz, or instrument) follows the usual who-when-what-where format.


Here’s an example of a test you might have retrieved directly from a website:

Purring, A. (2012). Charisma and Tenacity Survey [Measurement instrument].
     Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/tests/measures/instruments/surveys

A test's name is a proper noun, so be sure to capitalize it in the reference.

In other cases, you may actually be citing the database record rather than the test. If you found a record for the test in a database, you can cite it, whether or not the record contains a link to the test itself:

Barks, H., & Howls, I. (2013). Directions of Generosity [Database record].
     Retrieved from The McAdoo Database of Fictional Titles. http://dx.doi.org

how to cite psychological tests in APA Style: http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2014/02/how-to-cite-a-psychological-test-in-apa-style.htmlOr, perhaps you’ve used a test that is not available online. Not to worry, the format varies only in the "where" element. Use the first example above as your template, but replace “Retrieved from http://...” with the location and publisher (e.g., Petland, MD: E & K Press).

Using Acronyms

Although some tests are better known by their acronyms than by their full titles, the acronym is not included in the reference.* Rather, introduce the acronym at the first use in the body of the paper, as shown in the examples below.

In-Text Citations

In the body of your paper, be careful to write the name exactly as it appears in your reference. And here again, capitalize the test name, because it is a proper noun. However, capitalize the word survey (or instrument, quiz, etc.) only if it’s part of the test’s name:

“In this study, we used Purring’s (2012) Charisma and Tenacity Survey (CATS) rather than Barks and Howls’s (2013) Directions of Generosity survey.”

The abbreviation need not be introduced if the test name is mentioned only once. However, if the test name appears frequently in the paper (i.e., generally three or more times), define it the first time, and use the abbreviation consistently thereafter. Note also that the test names are not italicized when used in the text. 

Finally, although you don’t need to include the author and date every time you mention the test by name, do include the author–date citation if you quote directly from the test or paraphrase it in any way.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve passed my test! Give yourself an A+.


*The exception is the rare case where the acronym is the only official name of the test (i.e., an official spelled-out title no longer exists, which is an uncommon occurrence; the most famous example is the SAT, which no longer has a spelled-out name).

December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year - 2014

November 07, 2013

Is It Sometimes Okay to Begin a Sentence With a Lowercase Letter?




by Tyler Krupa

A basic grammar rule is that the first word in a complete sentence should be capitalized. But do you know how to proceed when a name that begins with a lowercase letter begins a sentence? Or whether it is okay to begin a sentence with a lowercase statistical term (e.g., t test or p value)?

Although the two examples listed above seem to be exceptions to the rule that the first word in a sentence should be capitalized, this is not the case. Note that per APA Style, the first word in a complete sentence should always be capitalized.

So what should you do when you come across the above examples in your writing? Getting it right is simple as long as you remember the following two guidelines (see sections 4.14 and 4.30 in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual):

1. If a name that begins with a lowercase letter begins a sentence, then it should be capitalized.

2. Do not begin a sentence with a lowercase statistical term (e.g., t test or p value), a lowercase abbreviation (e.g., lb), or a symbol that stands alone (e.g., α).

To help illustrate the first guideline, let’s look at the following example:


Van Morrison and Smith (2012) interviewed 100 participants . . .


van Morrison and Smith (2012) interviewed 100 participants . . .

In the example above, even though the usual presentation of the surname van Morrison begins with a lowercase v, it is correct to capitalize the first letter of the surname when the name begins a sentence. However, note that if the surname van Morrison is used later in the sentence or in references/citations, then the lowercase v is retained (e.g., At the conclusion of the participant interviews, van Morrison and Smith . . .). For more information on how to correctly capitalize author names, see the following post to our blog.

Now let’s look at an example that illustrates the second guideline:


We used t tests to determine . . .


t tests were used to determine . . .


t Tests were used to determine . . .


T tests were used to determine . . .

Note that in the example above, it is not okay to capitalize the statistical term at the beginning of the sentence because doing so changes the meaning of the statistic. Therefore, in instances such as these, it is necessary to recast the sentence. However, note that it is okay to begin a sentence with a capitalized statistical term (e.g., F tests indicated that . . .). For more information on how to format statistics in your paper, see the following post to our blog.

We hope these examples clear up this point of possible uncertainty. Still have questions? Leave us a comment.

March 09, 2012

Title Case and Sentence Case Capitalization in APA Style

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

APA Style has two capitalization methods that are used in different contexts throughout a paper: title case and sentence case (see Publication Manual section 4.15). APA’s title case refers to a capitalization style in which most words are capitalized, and sentence case refers to a capitalization style in which most words are lowercased. In both cases, proper nouns and certain other types of words are always capitalized. Below are guidelines for when and how to use each case in an APA Style paper.

Title Case

Title case is used to capitalize the following types of titles and headings in APA Style:

Here are directions for implementing APA’s title case:

  1. Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading;
  2. Capitalize all “major” words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns) in the title/heading, including the second part of hyphenated major words (e.g., Self-Report not Self-report); and
  3. Capitalize all words of four letters or more.

This boils down to using lowercase only for “minor” words of three letters or fewer, namely, for conjunctions (words like and, or, nor, and but), articles (the words a, an, and the), and prepositions (words like as, at, by, for, in, of, on, per, and to), as long as they aren’t the first word in a title or subtitle. You can see examples of title case in our post on reference titles.

Sentence Case

Sentence case, on the other hand, is a capitalization style that mainly uses lowercase letters. Sentence case is used in a few different contexts in APA Style, including for the following:

Here are directions for implementing sentence case in APA Style in these two contexts:

  1. Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading;
  2. Capitalize any proper nouns and certain other types of words; and
  3. Use lowercase for everything else.

Additionally, as you might suspect given its name, sentence case is used in regular sentences in the text of a paper. In a typical sentence, the first word is always capitalized, and the first word after a colon is also capitalized when what follows the colon is an independent clause.

You can see examples of sentence case in our reference titles post

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March 01, 2012

How to Capitalize and Format Reference Titles in APA Style

Chelsea blog 2 by Chelsea Lee

APA Style has special formatting rules for the titles of the sources you use in your paper, such as the titles of books, articles, book chapters, reports, and webpages. The different formats that might be applied are capitalization (see Publication Manual, section 4.15), italics (see section 4.21), and quotation marks (see section 4.07), and they are used in different combinations for different kinds of sources in different contexts.

The formatting of the titles of sources you use in your paper depends on two factors: (a) the independence of the source (stands alone vs. part of a greater whole) and (b) the location of the title (in the text of the paper vs. in the reference list entry). The table below provides formatting directions and examples:

Independence of source


Reference list





Stands alone

(e.g., book, e-book, report [technical, government, etc.], dissertation, thesis, film, video, television series, podcast, YouTube video, artwork, map, music album, unpublished manuscript)

Italic, title case

Gone With the Wind

Italic, sentence case

Gone with the wind

Part of a greater whole

(e.g., journal article, book chapter, e-book chapter, newspaper article, magazine article, blog post, television episode, webisode, webpage, tweet, Facebook update, encyclopedia entry, Wikipedia entry, dictionary entry, song)

Inside double quotation marks, title case

“Longitudinal Impact of Parental and Adolescent Personality on Parenting”

Not inside any quotation marks, sentence case

Longitudinal impact of parental and adolescent personality on parenting

More on Italics Versus Nonitalics

As you can see in the table above, the titles of works that stand alone (such as a book or a report) are italicized in both the text and the reference list. In contrast, the titles of works that are part of a greater whole (such as an article, which is part of a journal, or a book chapter, which is part of a book) are not italicized in either place, and only in the text are they put inside quotation marks. If you are having difficulty determining whether something stands alone (such as a webpage that may or may not be part of a greater website), choose not to italicize.

More on Capitalization: Title Case Versus Sentence Case

APA Style uses two kinds of capitalization to format reference titles, which are also mentioned in the table above: title case and sentence case. APA’s title case refers to a capitalization style in which most words are capitalized, and sentence case refers to a capitalization style in which most words are lowercased. In both cases, proper nouns and certain other types of words are always capitalized. Here are more detailed directions for implementing title case and sentence case.

Text Examples

As shown in the table above, title case is used for the titles of references when they appear in the text of an APA Style paper. Here are some examples of titles written in title case (of an article and a book, respectively), as they might appear in a sentence in the text of a paper:

The article “Psychological Distress, Acculturation, and Mental Health-Seeking Attitudes Among People of African Descent in the United States: A Preliminary Investigation” (Obasi & Leong, 2009) makes an important contribution to the mental health and acculturation literature. 
Students read stories of visual agnosia in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (Sacks, 1985). 

Reference List Entry Examples

In contrast, sentence case is used for titles of references when they appear in reference list entries. See how the book and article titles look when capitalized in sentence case in these example reference list entries:

Obasi, E. M., & Leong, F. T. L. (2009). Psychological distress, acculturation, and mental health-seeking attitudes among people of African descent in the United States: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 227–238. doi:10.1037/a0014865
Sacks, O. (1985). The man who mistook his wife for a hat and other clinical tales. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

We hope this helps you understand how to capitalize and format reference titles in APA Style. 

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February 23, 2012

How to Capitalize Author Names in APA Style

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Dear Style Experts,

I am citing an article by an author whose name begins with a lowercase letter. How should I write her name in my paper? Should I capitalize it if it comes at the beginning of a sentence? What about capitalizing it in the reference list entry? Thanks for your help!

— Olivia in Ottawa 

Dear Olivia,

As discussed in our post about the capitalization of specific words, author names are capitalized in APA Style because they are proper nouns. For most author names this poses no difficulty, because most names begin with capital letters anyway. However, some names begin with lowercase letters, such as lowercase prefixes like de, d’, van, or von.

Thus, a more specific guideline is that when writing author names, your first goal should be to write the name as the author him- or herself has presented it in scholarly work. (On a related note, if an author writes under a pseudonym, cite whatever name is used by the source.) Capitalize and spell the name just as you see it in the byline of the article you’re citing. If it starts with a lowercase letter, keep that presentation.

Here are two examples of how an author name beginning with a lowercase letter keeps that presentation when written within a sentence:

  • To examine the impact of parental and adolescent personality on parenting, de Haan, Deković, and Prinzie (2012) employed a longitudinal methodology.
  • Parental and adolescent personality have significant effects on parenting (de Haan, Deković, & Prinzie, 2012).

Keep the author’s original capitalization even in reference list entries:

de Haan, A. D., Deković, M., & Prinzie, P. (2012). Longitudinal impact of parental and adolescent personality on parenting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 189–199. doi:10.1037/a0025254

However, capitalize the name if it (a) begins a sentence or (b) is the first word after a colon when what follows the colon is an independent clause:

  • De Haan, Deković, and Prinzie (2012) studied the impact of parental and adolescent personality on parenting.
  • Recently, researchers have explored the impact of personality on parenting: De Haan, Deković, and Prinzie (2012) used longitudinal analyses to untangle the effects.

You can read more about this method of capitalization in the Publication Manual in section 4.14 (p. 101). We also have advice in another blog post if you are having trouble determining who the author is to begin with.

Finally, be aware that some publishers apply idiosyncratic formatting to author names in the byline, such as using all capital letters to write full names or surnames. This is a stylistic choice on the part of the publisher as a way to set the byline and not something that you need to reproduce in your APA Style paper. So if you see an author’s name capitalized as “Thomas J. SMITH” in the byline of an article, you should write the name as “Smith” when citing it in your paper. If the byline capitalization obscures the regular capitalization an author would use, look for the author name in the text or elsewhere to see how it is normally formatted.

With these guidelines, you should be able to capitalize author names in any context of an APA Style paper.


More Posts on Capitalization

February 16, 2012

Do I Capitalize This Word?

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Dear Style Experts,

I am writing a paper in APA Style, and I have a question about the capitalization of a specific word. Can you tell me how to capitalize it? Also, I need to know what the proper APA Style spelling of the word is. Thanks for your help!

— Wally in Washington, DC

Dear Wally, 

Your first stop in answering questions about the capitalization or spelling of a specific word in an APA Style paper should be the dictionary. APA uses Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (2005) as its standard reference for capitalization and spelling, along with the APA Dictionary of Psychology for psychology-related terms. Along with the guidance provided in the Publication Manual (see pp. 101–104 for capitalization rules), follow the capitalization and spelling you see in those dictionaries for words in your APA Style paper. If more than one option for capitalization and spelling is provided, use the first entry.

Now, you might wonder, why is it helpful to look up a word in a dictionary if you want to know how to capitalize it and not just how to spell it? Well, it’s helpful because the dictionary tells you whether a word is a proper noun (i.e., a specific person, place, or thing), and proper nouns are capitalized in English and therefore in APA Style (see Publication Manual sections 4.16 and 4.18). Their opposite, regular or “common” nouns (which refer to general persons, places, or things), are lowercase in English and thus in APA Style as well.

What to Capitalize

Here are some examples of different types of (capitalized) proper nouns, along with some (lowercased) regular or common noun corollaries:

Noun type

Proper noun example

Common noun example

Author or person

Freud, Skinner, von Neumann

the author, the investigator, the mathematician

Company,  institution, or agency

American Psychological Association, University of Washington, Department of Sociology

the association, a university, a sociology department


Advil, Xerox, Prozac (brand names)

ibuprofen, photocopy, fluoxetine (generic names)

Test or inventory

Beck Depression Inventory, Child Behavior Checklist

a depression inventory, a behavior checklist

Website or database

PsycINFO, Facebook, Survey Monkey, Internet

a database, a social media page, a website, online

Periodical (journal, magazine, newspaper)

Journal of Counseling Psychology, Time, The Washington Post

a psychology journal, a magazine, a newspaper

Software, program, or app

SPSS, Mplus, Davis’s Drug Guide for iPhone

statistical software, a computer program, a mobile app drug guide

Legal materials (statutes, acts, codes, bills, regulations, constitutions, etc.; see also PM Appendix 7.1 and the Legal Bluebook) 

Americans With Disabilities Act, FDA Prescription Drug Advertising Rule, U.S. Constitution

antidiscrimination laws, drug advertising legislation, a constitution 


Along with the proper nouns listed in the table above, you should also always capitalize:

  • the first word of a sentence,
  • the first word after a colon when what follows the colon is an independent clause,
  • factor names in a factor analysis (see section 4.20),
  • most nouns when they are followed by numerals or letters (e.g., Table 1, Figure 2, Panel A; see section 4.17), and
  • words in an interaction when there is a multiplication sign between them (e.g., Age x Sex effect; see section 4.20).

What Not to Capitalize

This section provides some examples of what not to capitalize—especially the types of words that writers tend to capitalize by mistake. Note that proper nouns (such as personal names) within these terms usually retain their capitalization.

Noun type



five-factor personality model, associative learning model

Theory or philosophy

behaviorism, psychoanalytic theory, Freudian theory

Therapy or technique

client-centered therapy, cognitive behavior therapy


object permanence, confirmation bias, correlation


major depressive disorder, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder


null hypothesis, experimental hypothesis

Condition or group in an experiment

control group, experimental group, no-information group

Variable (for factors in a factor analysis, see above)

the age variable, the effect of gender

Statistical procedure or test 

analysis of variance, t test, standard deviation

Academic subject/discipline

social psychology, nursing, English, Spanish,  business

Law (scientific; for legal, see above table)

law of symmetry, Newton’s three laws of motion

Again, the dictionary corroborates this style of capitalization, so if you have questions, start there.

Parting Thoughts

Capitalization is a big topic, and this post covers only some of the basics. For more on the capitalization of specific words in APA Style, including copious specifics, exceptions, and examples, see the Publication Manual (pp. 101–104). In future posts, we will cover capitalization in author names, source titles, the reference list, abbreviations, and more. If there is an area of capitalization that you would like to hear more about, please leave us a note in the comments section.


More Posts on Capitalization


June 30, 2011

Capitalization After Colons


by David Becker

One basic rule of APA Style is to capitalize the first word after the colon in a title. For example, in the movie title Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, the is capitalized because it is placed directly after the colon. The same would be true for titles in a reference list where only the first word, proper nouns, and the first word after a colon or an em dash should be capitalized. Here’s an example:

Braucher, D. (1998). Darth Vader vs. Superman: Aggression and intimacy in two preadolescent boys' groups. Journal of Child & Adolescent Group Therapy, 8(3), 115–134. doi:10.1023/A:1022936202071

The first word directly after a colon that begins an independent clause should also be capitalized. For example, one would write, “There is a valuable lesson to be learned in The Princess Bride: One should never get involved in a land war in Asia.” However, if the sentence were reworked to say, “The Princess Bride teaches us the most famous of the classic blunders: getting involved in a land war in Asia,” then getting is not capitalized because the clause directly after the colon cannot stand on its own as an independent clause.

Occasionally, a numbered or bulleted list follows a colon. The same basic rules described above apply to these situations. To learn more, read our previous blog posts about numbered lists and bulleted lists. You can also read more about proper capitalization after colons in section 4.05 on page 90 and sections 4.14 and 4.15 on page 101 of the Publication Manual (6th ed.).

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