Is it Correct to Capitalize the Names of the Seasons?
For most content writers, capitalization is one of the most straightforward tasks to accomplish. After all, we learned at a young age that proper nouns, including people, places, things, and ideas, are always capitalized. Common nouns, those basic words that tell us who, what, where, when, and why, aren't supposed to be capitalized. Easy peasy, right?
As with many circumstances concerning the language (common noun) we call English (proper noun), there are some exceptions to the rule that can trip up even the best content writers.
One of those exceptions is whether you capitalize seasons or not.
Do you capitalize seasons? Should summer be capitalized, for example? Many assume that, yes, you should capitalize seasons. After all, we capitalize the months of the year and the days of the week, don't we? Well, yes, we do, but the odd fact is that no capitalization is necessary when it comes to the four seasons. Indeed, it's incorrect to capitalize seasons. (With, of course, a few notable exceptions. Isn't English grand?) Below we'll take a closer look at this capitalization conundrum.
The Difference between Proper Nouns and Common Nouns
As a content writer, it behooves you to know the difference between a proper noun and a common noun. Most of us learn about these things at a relatively young age, it's true, but with the state of schools these days, it never hurts to refresh the old memory banks.
In most cases, nouns refer to a person, a place, a thing of some kind, and also an idea. (A religion like Christianity, for example, is an idea and thus a noun. It's also a proper noun.)
The change from a common, everyday noun to a proper noun occurs when a name is given to the person, place, thing, or idea. For example;
Common noun = man, woman, child, teacher, pastor
Proper noun = Henry, Mary, Henry Jr., Mrs. McGillicutty, Pastor Johnson
Common noun = school, city, town, library, restaurant
Proper noun = Rydell High School, New York City, Tuckerton, New Jersey, New York Public Library, Applebees
Common noun = phone, flower, car, computer
Proper noun = iPhone 11, Hybiscus, Nissan Cube, iMac Mini
Common noun = religion, art
Proper noun = Christianity, Pointilism
Do You Capitalize Seasons in Content Writing?
We mentioned earlier (and so did your English teacher many times) that proper nouns are always capitalized. Names like Greg, Leo, and Becky are thus always capitalized, as are places like Washington, DC, Lima, Peru, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. From Monday through Sunday, the days of the week are also capitalized, as are the months of the year. Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism are also capitalized as they are religious ideas and thus proper nouns.
When the question "should seasons be capitalized" comes up, many writers can get slightly confused. After all, aren't spring, summer, autumn (fall), and winter proper nouns, also? In fact, they are not proper nouns but common nouns for some odd reason. Because of that, they are rarely capitalized. (At the beginning of a sentence, they would be, however.)
One easy way to remember if you capitalize seasons is to remember several other terms that denote a clearly defined duration of time. Those terms include morning, afternoon, and night, which are common nouns and thus never capitalized. In short, if you ask, "should seasons be capitalized," the answer would almost always be that, no, you don't capitalize seasons.
Now, sure, you can argue whether you should capitalize seasons until you're blue in the face. After all, spring, summer, fall, autumn, and winter seem to be the proper nouns for their particular season. However, they are not considered proper nouns for some reason that, surprisingly, no source we found could or would explain.
Are the Seasons Capitalized for Any Reason?
Although they are considered common nouns, writers can occasionally turn the seasons into proper nouns under the correct usage. Is summer capitalized under these circumstances? Yes, it can be. For example, if you're writing about the Summer Solstice, the onset of summer and the longest day of the year, the word summer is capitalized. The same holds true for the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter. Is the word "winter" capitalized when used this way? Indeed it is, as Winter Solstice is a proper noun.
Should Seasons be Capitalized at the Beginning of a Sentence?
Like all words, spring, summer, fall, autumn, and winter should always be capitalized when they are the first word in a sentence. This grammatic rule is well-known, of course, but always worth repeating. All words are capitalized when placed at the front end of any sentence, whether a proper noun or a common noun. For example:
• Geese fly south for the winter.
• Winter usually sees a lot of snow on the ground.
• Boys typically play rougher than girls.
• Summer is the hottest season of the year.
• Babies tend to cry a lot.
• Spring is a time of renewal in most parts of the world.
• Cars use fossil fuels which adds to the problem of climate change.
• Fall is when leaves change to spectacular colors.
All of the words at the beginning of these example sentences are common nouns, but they're capitalized since they start the sentence. Notice, however, that if they are anything but the first word, that capitalization falls away. For example:
• The geese...
• During winter...
• Some boys...
• In summer...
• Most babies...
• Come spring...
• Classic cars...
• Every fall...
Once relegated to anything but the first word, these nouns, including the seasons, are never capitalized. Again, this is a commonly known grammatic rule that holds true in English and, for that matter, many other languages.
Should You Capitalize Seasons if they are Personified?
An interesting thing happens when you personify a season's name; it becomes a proper noun. Personification is when an inanimate or non-human object is given human characteristics and behaviors. It's a type of metaphor and quite common among writers, usually reserved for animals but also for objects like cars, plants, and even the time of day. Should summer be capitalized when it's been personified? Yes, it can be, as in this example:
• The warm winds of Summer pressed on his shoulder like an old friend.
Here's a personification example where winter should be capitalized:
• The icy breath and steely gaze of Winter chilled his body to the core.
Another example of the personification of a season is this one where spring should be capitalized:
• He was swept up in the sweet embrace of Spring and the promise of renewal and rebirth.
Lastly, fall should be capitalized when personified, as we see in this lovely example:
• As if touched by a magician's deft hand, Fall's leaves change from dull green to a rainbow of spectacular colors.
Are the Seasons Capitalized if they're Used in a Place Name?
Another example of where seasons should be capitalized is when they are used in the name of a place. This usage, of course, turns them into proper nouns. Also, the seasons are capitalized if used in the name of an event, play, television show, movie, etc. Here are a few excellent examples:
• We went to the Fall Harvest Festival, and it was fantastic!
• "A Winter's Tale" is one of my favorite Queen songs.
• I live in Fall River, Massachusetts, where the fall leaves are spectacular. (Notice the capitalization of the first but not the second "fall."
• The horror movie I Know What You Did Last Summer was released at the end of summer in 1997. (Another dual example!)
• There's a town in Saskatchewan, Canada, called Winter.
• We are going to visit Spring Lake, Michigan, next summer and see our aunt and uncle.
• The Lion in Winter is a classic movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole.
• You Are My Spring is a popular TV program in South Korea.
• Our high school rescheduled its Spring Fling because a hurricane was forecast to hit the town.
• The 1996 Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta, Georgia.
As you can see, in all of these examples, the seasons are capitalized. Again, the reason is that, as part of the name of their particular show, town, movie, song, etc., they were turned into proper nouns. (English is rather magical that way, isn't it?)
Are Seasons Capitalized? Usually Not, But Occasionally They Are
As we've seen today, the season, including winter, spring, summer, and fall (and autumn, too), usually aren't capitalized because they're common nouns. However, as with many rules in the English language, you will occasionally capitalize all four seasons if they're used in a certain way.
As a content writer, it's your duty to know if and when the seasons should be capitalized and use that capitalization properly. After all, your readers are counting on you to provide a grammatically-correct version of all four seasons. In short, knowing the rules is essential so that your work always shines like the sun in summer!
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