Capitalization errors are very common. I think most everyone understands the basics: capitalize proper nouns (New Orleans, Sarah), don’t capitalize common nouns (boy, girl, mountains, pencil), etc. but there are other areas where it’s not so obvious.

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One of those areas is direct address. When you are speaking directly to someone, that is called direct address. In dialogue, you capitalize nouns when the character speaks directly to that person. This is called a noun of direct address.

WRONG: “Did you get the mail, dad?”

RIGHT: “Did you get the mail, Dad?”

If you are not talking directly to that person but just referring to them by a common noun (dad, mom, grandpa, grandma, mama, sister), those get lowercase.

WRONG: I went with my Dad to the movies.

RIGHT: I went with my dad to the movies.

It gets tricky when there isn’t an article (my, the, a) in front of the noun. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s used in place of a name or you can substitute a name for it, cap it. This works especially well for family titles, like mom, dad, sis, brother, uncle, grandpa which I will talk about in another post.

“Did Dad get the mail?”

“Did Ethan get the mail?” (so Dad gets caps)

I went with my dad to the movies.

I went with my Ethan to the movies. (so no caps for dad)

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