For my British and Australian readers, yes, the title of this article could also read, mum and dad.
Despite the spelling difference, the punctuation rules defining when to capitalize the words are the same.
So when do you capitalize mom and dad, or mum and dad?
The answer is that when the word is a proper noun, you need to use a capital letter.
When is a word a proper noun?
Common nouns never take a capital letter. But proper nouns, which are usually names, places, days, and nationalities, always do.
Words such as John, Mary, Thursday, and French all need a capital letter.
With family names based on relationships, you need to decide if you are using a word as a name or a common noun.
In other words, you need to put on your grammar thinking cap to make the right decision.
But fortunately, there is an easy way to get it right every time.
When are mom, dad, or grandma names?
When you use any of these words or other family titles, take a moment to think if you can replace them with a real name.
Hey Mom, can you buy me some chewing gum when you go shopping?
How was your day at work, Dad?
Oh, Grandma called in while you were out.
In these three sentences, you can replace Mom, Dad, and Grandma with a name. Perhaps Lucy, Steve, and Mildred.
Mom Lucy, can you buy me some chewing gum when you go shopping?
How was your day at work,
Grandma Mildred called in while you were out.
When are family titles common nouns?
It is easy to tell when not to use a capital letter. If the word uses a possessive pronoun or an article before it, it is a common noun.
I am sure I saw your dad today at the hardware store.
My mom always calls me on Sunday morning.
Do you know if your uncle can come to the wedding?
Oh boy, I am really looking forward to being a dad!
So you’re an uncle now. How does it feel?
In these three sentences, it is impossible to replace the titles with a name. They are all common nouns and do not use a capital letter.
I am sure I saw your
Steve dad today at the hardware store.
Mildred mom always calls me on Sunday morning.
Do you know if your
Joe uncle can come to the wedding?
Oh boy, I am really looking forward to being a
So you’re an
Andrew uncle now. How does it feel?
Parts of speech are the secret
If you are new to writing, understanding grammar use can be challenging at first.
But a good tip is to refresh your knowledge of the basic parts of speech. When you can quickly identify these, it will help you improve your writing accuracy.
In this case, with words such as mom and dad, understanding the difference in the types of nouns will help you.
If you are in doubt, however, you should use a reliable grammar checker to help you make the best decisions.
I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business.
Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.
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