Weekly Excerpt From: GRAMMAR FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE RULES by Kathleen A. Watson

[This chapter seemed appropriate for this special day!]

Honor Parents, But do it Right

Every spring, we’re bookended by holidays that honor parenthood: Mother’s Day, which is the second Sunday in May, and Father’s Day, which is the third Sunday in June.

Some people, wanting to show respect for parents, always capitalize any form of mom or dad.

Regardless of our desire to demonstrate that we respect and cherish our parents, there are times to capitalize and times to use lowercase. Here is a simple guideline to help you choose:

If a parent’s name could replace your mom or dad
in your phrasing, use capitals. If not, use lowercase:

  • I told Mom (Jean) I’d be home by midnight.
  • I told my mom (my Jean) I’d be home by midnight.

In the second example, you of course would not say, “I told my Jean I’d be home by midnight.”

Here are two more examples:

  • Dad (Frank) is going to coach the soccer team.
  • My dad (My Frank) is going to coach the soccer team.

Again, you wouldn’t say, “My Frank is going to coach the soccer team.”

Expressing gratitude and honoring your mom and dad is always appropriate and appreciated, regardless of the time of year.

Killer Tip: For grandparents, aunts and uncles, follow these examples:

  • My grandma and grandpa just arrived.
  • Grandma and Grandpa just arrived. (You could substitute their names.)
  • Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Jim just arrived. (Capitalize these terms when they are used as a title before a name.)
  • His aunt and uncle live nearby.
  • Aunt Becky and Uncle Josh live nearby. (Aunt and Uncle here are titles.)

Writing and grammar expert Kathleen Watson, fondly known as The Ruthless Editor, has nearly three decades of experience in both corporate and academic worlds. She has taught business people how to fine-tune their communication style, college students how to strengthen their writing, and Ph.D. candidates how to polish their dissertations. Kathy also has experience as a fiction and nonfiction book copy editor, working with a mix of new and experienced authors.

In addition to writing her own book on grammar, she blogs at RuthlessEditor.com, sharing weekly tips on how to write to get the job you want, earn the promotion you’ve worked hard for, and artfully explain your best ideas.

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