when to capitalize mom and dad

You know them well and talk to them regularly. They raised you and made you breakfast, lunch, and dinner and taught you the power of contractions. But now you’re writing about them, and you’re not quite sure whether to capitalize mom and dad in your story or leave their names lowercased.

Well, there’s good news and better news.

Good News: You’re not the only one with this problem. A lot of people capitalize mom and dad when they shouldn’t. So don’t feel bad.

Better News: Learning when to capitalize or lowercase these words is easy. Once you learn it, it will stick with you forever. That means you’ll be better poised to write a book people want to read.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

When to Lowercase Mom, Dad, Etc.

Your mother is a person. Grammatically speaking, that makes her a noun. (Flashback to fourth grade and Schoolhouse Rock: A noun is a person, place, or thing.) What do we do with other nouns? Nothing much.

Consider the following nouns:

  • dog
  • brain
  • puddle
  • cast
  • store

None of them are capitalized. Why? Because they’re just nouns. Nothing about them deserves capitalization. Now, don’t get us wrong. we love dogs, brains, casts, puddles, and stores. They just don’t get capitalized.

You also shouldn’t capitalize mom or dad—not when used as a regular, boring noun. Need an example? Here are two.

Example 1: My mom is the best cook in the world.

Example 2: Have you seen Cheri’s dad?

If you look closely, you’ll notice something. In both examples, there is a modifier before mom and dad. It’s my mom or Cheri’s dad. That’s the secret!

Still feeling a little lost? It’ll make more sense in just a moment.

Better Capitalize Mom!

To clear things up, let’s talk about when to capitalize mom and dad. The general rule for capitalizing nouns is as follows:

You capitalize proper nouns.

That’s why Red Food Store is capitalized. Same with Samsung, Fender (guitars), and Chicago. These are proper nouns. How does this apply to mom and dad?

When mom and dad are proper nouns, you capitalize them. In other words, if you call your mother Mom, capitalize it. If you call your father Dad, capitalize it. If you call your little brother Stinkface, capitalize it. (We suggest kinder nicknames, but you get the idea.)

We’re Not Done Yet

Now that you know the rule, you’re probably ready to get back to writing. Just be careful! Don’t capitalize mom, dad, or grandma if you also use a modifier.

How can you make sure you’re handling your loved ones properly in your writing? Search your document for dad, mom, etc. If there’s a modifier, either lowercase the noun or remove the modifier. If there’s not a modifier, make sure mom/dad/grandma/grandpa is capitalized.

Incorrect: I took a pound of butter to my Grandmother, who was sickly.

Correct: I took a pound of butter to my grandmother, who was sickly.

Incorrect: I took a pound of butter to grandmother, who was sickly.

Correct: I took a pound of butter to Grandmother, who was sickly.

Make Mom and Dad Proud

Have a book up your sleeves that would make your parents proud? Stop sitting on it! Submit your manuscript to Argyle Fox Publishing to take the first step in your publishing journey.

And if you’re looking for that killer Schoolhouse Rock video, here it is: