Proper Nouns - Capitalization

AMA Manual of Style - Stacy L. Christiansen, Cheryl Iverson 2020

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns are words used as names for unique individuals, events, objects, or places.

10.3.1 Geographic Names.

Capitalize names of planets, cities, towns, counties, states, countries, continents, islands, airports, peninsulas, bodies of water, mountains and mountain ranges, streets, parks, forests, canyons, dams, and regions (current or historical).

Abu Dhabi International Airport

Mangyshlak Peninsula

Arctic Ocean

Millennium Park

the Bay Area

Mexico City

Bernard Street

Norfolk, Virginia

Central America

Parambikulam Tiger Reserve

Cook County

Ryukyu Islands

El Paso

Saudi Arabia

Grand Canyon

the Silk Route

Hoover Dam

the West Coast

Lake Placid

West Nile virus

Maat Mons [on the planet Venus]

Woods Hole

If a common noun that is part of a geographic name is capitalized in the singular, it is generally not capitalized in the plural.

Atlantic and Pacific oceans

Kennedy and Eisenhower expressways

Mississippi and Missouri rivers

Compass directions are not capitalized unless they are generally accepted terms for regions.

Walk east until you arrive at the lake.

There is no party like a West Coast party because a West Coast party does not stop.

His psychiatry practice is in northern Michigan.

In the Western World, cardiovascular disease is a major cause of mortality.

10.3.2 Sociocultural Designations.

Capitalize names of languages, nationalities, ethnicities, tribes, political parties, religions, and religious denominations. Do not capitalize political doctrines (conservative, progressive) or general forms of government (democracy, monarchy). Do not capitalize white or black as a designation of race.

African American

Latina women

Alaska Native

Native American

English language


Indian American community




of Italian heritage

10.3.3 Events, Awards, and Legislation.

Capitalize the names of historical and special events, historical periods, and awards (but not common nouns that may follow the names).

Civil War

Nobel Prize

Civil War era

Nobel Prize winner

Declaration of Helsinki

Special Olympics

Equal Rights Amendment

Title IX

Lasker Award

10.3.4 Eponyms and Words Derived From Proper Nouns.

With eponyms, capitalize the proper name but not the common noun that follows it (see 15.0, Eponyms).

Breslow thickness

Papanicolaou test

Down syndrome

Trendelenburg position

Most words derived from proper nouns are not capitalized. In general, follow the current edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary or Dorland’s or Stedman’s medical dictionary.

arabic numerals





petri dish

india ink

roman numerals

10.3.5 Proprietary Names.

Capitalize trademarks, proprietary names of drugs, and brand names of manufactured products and equipment. Do not capitalize generic names or descriptive terms. Do not include trademark and copyright symbols after proprietary and brand names (see, Use of Trademarked Names in Publication).

Each study patient was given 200 mg of diphenhydramine (Benadryl; McNeil Consumer Healthcare) as a sleep aid.

10.3.6 Organisms.

Capitalize the formal name of a genus when used in the singular, with or without a species name. Capitalize formal genus names but not traditional generic designations (eg, streptococci) or derived adjectives (streptococcal) (see, Collective Genus Terms). Do not capitalize the name of a species, variety, or subspecies. Do capitalize phylum, class, order, and family (see 14.14, Organisms and Pathogens). For capitalization of virus names, see 14.14.3, Virus Nomenclature.

10.3.7 Seasons, Deities, Holidays.

Do not capitalize the names of the seasons. Capitalize the names of specific deities and their manifestations.


Jesus Christ



God or Goddess (when used in a monotheistic sense)


the goddess Athena

spring winter

the Holy Spirit


Capitalize holidays and calendar events.


Mother’s Day


New Year’s Eve

Eid al-Fitr


Fourth of July


Good Friday

Rosh Hashanah



Labor Day

World AIDS Day

10.3.8 Tests.

The exact and complete titles of tests and subscales of tests should be capitalized. The word test is not usually capitalized except when it is part of the official name of the test. Always verify exact names of tests with the author or with reference sources.

Cox-Stewart trend test

McNemar test

Fisher exact test

Mini-Mental State Examination

McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

10.3.9 Official Names.

Capitalize the official titles of organizations, businesses, conferences, congresses, institutions, and government agencies. Do not capitalize the conjunctions, articles, or prepositions of 3 or fewer letters contained within these names. For names of institutions, do not capitalize the unless it is part of the official title.

Boka Restaurant Group

the International Subcommittee on Viral Nomenclature

Chicago Board of Education

Knox College

the Communist Party

MacArthur Foundation

Eighth International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication

Northwestern Memorial Hospital The Ohio State University

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Quaker Oats Corporation Society for Scholarly Publishing

House of Representatives

the US Navy

But: the board of trustees, the boards of health, a state representative, the federal government, the navy

In running text, a singular form that is capitalized as part of the official name is usually not capitalized in the plural.

She is chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Funding was received from the departments of pediatrics and neurology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

(See 2.3.3, Author Affiliations, for an example of capitalization of department titles in an affiliation.)

10.3.10 Titles and Degrees of Persons.

Capitalize a person’s title when it precedes the person’s name but not when it follows the name.

Program Chair Allison Hemmings is to be congratulated for our successful meeting.

Allison Hemmings was named program chair at the 2015 annual meeting.

Dr Colvin served as principal investigator.

Principal Investigator Douglas Colvin, MD, directed the SIPR trial.

Capitalize academic degrees when abbreviated but not when written out.

Sharita Evenson, MA

Sharita Evenson received her master’s degree from Vanderbilt University.