Should “fiction” be capitalized?

Capitalization is one of the bears of grammar, and people get it wrong all the time.

So here’s a clear answer about fiction (and other nouns that are not proper):

Fiction should not be capitalized when it is used in a sentence, as it is a genre and therefore a noun. It is not a proper noun however, so it is not capitalized. Only proper nouns are capitalized when used in a sentence.

As you can see above, like most words (exception being brands that are not capitalized) it is capitalized when used at the beginning of a sentence.

Are any genres capitalized?

Genres are not proper nouns and therefore are not capitalized unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence.

For example, you would not be correct in writing “John likes Hip Hop” even though I really do enjoy the genre.

Instead, the correct writing is “John likes hip hop.”

What is capitalized?

Proper nouns are capitalized, such as religions or titles like President. However, you only capitalize “president” when it is a specific person’s title and not the generic use of the word.

For example, “President Joe Biden is visiting the president of Mexico next week.” You could also correctly write “President Joe Biden is visiting President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico next week.”

See the difference?

Here is a list of elements that should always be capitalized:

  • The first word in a sentence (unless it is a brand that is lowercase as a proper noun)
  • Names of people
  • Places
  • Companies and trademarks
  • Honorary and professional titles (such as Vice President) when referring to a specific person, but not as a generic
  • Familial relationships (Aunt Sally)
  • Most words in titles (Moby Dick, etc)
  • Days and months (Monday, January 3rd)
  • Holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah)
  • Time periods (the Middle Ages)
  • Countries
  • Acronyms
  • First words in a quote

As you can see, many of these are in fact proper nouns except for the first word in a sentence and the first word in a quote. So the “proper nouns with a few exceptions” rule holds true.

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