Below is from a document I saw the other day.

Announcement regarding Online Compliance Training Seminar

In order to cope with the recent increase in the social demand on compliance matters, we have decided to hold an Online Compliance Training Seminar to enhance awareness of our employees concerning the matter.

In this example, the word "Online Compliance Training Seminar" is used as a proper noun, and each letter of the words are capitalized accordingly, but I had a odd feeling on that when I read this sentence because it looked just a common noun to me, and I thought "we have decided to hold an online compliance training seminar to enhance awareness......" was better. I have no idea, however, if it is correct or not.

Can you make a common noun a proper noun by simply capitalizing the first letter of each word? Or is there any rules?

  • 1
    It's the other way around. If it's a proper noun, we capitalize it.
    – Kreiri
    Jan 2, 2021 at 10:27
  • I agree, but in my example there's no supplemental information regarding the online compliance training seminar, so I thought that readers of this document cannot figure out if it is really a proper noun without any explanation, and this is the reason for my question.
    – Takashi
    Jan 2, 2021 at 22:16

2 Answers 2


Capitalising a common noun doesn't 'make' a proper noun as such... if you spell 'cat' with a capital letter it doesn't make a cat named 'Cat' spring into existence. But, if a noun is proper then it should be capitalised. The creation of the name comes first, the capitalisation follows.

For example, if you name your child after a 'moon unit' then obviously their name will be capitalised - 'Moon Unit' - because that has now become a proper noun.

Likewise, if you have a business that sells water filters (two common nouns that make a common compound noun) and you call it 'Water Filters Inc' then that should be capitalised because it is the name of your business.

  • 1
    I fully agree. Basically, your explanation as well as Michael's, cactustictacs's, and Kreiri's are all same, and I have no objection. As you explained, if a noun is proper, then it should be capitalized, but in my example, I felt the compound word was a kind of too general to take it as a proper noun without any supporting information, so in other words, my question can be rephrased as "Can you introduce, in a sentence, a proper noun that just looks a general common noun without any explanatory information in advance?"
    – Takashi
    Jan 2, 2021 at 22:48

You make a common noun into a proper noun by employing it as a proper noun.

  • My little cat is the star of a film called My Little Cat.
  • I saw a dead dog in a hole, which led me to write my poem, Dead Dog in a Hole.
  • The course about the ecology of arid zones is called The Ecology of Arid Zones.

Note that titles do not capitalise prepositions, articles, and conjunctions unless they are the first or last word.

  • Yeah I agree with this, it's the usage that makes something a proper noun. In this case the fact they're capitalising the words (especially in the body text) implies that's the name of the event - even if it's not an official name, they want people to think of it that way. It's also common for people to do this On The Internet <- by capitalising those words, I'm implying being "on the internet" is a thing, a state of mind, a particular space people occupy, something specific of note. It's an informal thing, but you might see it! Jan 2, 2021 at 15:50
  • The Internet, treated as a proper noun, is consistently spelled with an initial capital letter by organizations such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and the W3C. Technical authors still also use the uncapitalized form in singular and plural (internets) forms to describe the interconnection of multiple individual networks.The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the global network is usually "the internet", but most of the American historical sources it cites use the capitalized form. Jan 2, 2021 at 15:59
  • I'm talking about capitalising a (seemingly arbitrary) phrase like On The Internet or A Bad Thing, to give it the sense of a specific concept, as a whole. Jan 2, 2021 at 16:02
  • @Michael: I fully understand your explanation. Unlike the examples you wrote, however, the quote in my post does not give any supporting information regarding how the compound noun makes a proper noun, so it looked too sudden to me and I can't take it as a proper noun.
    – Takashi
    Jan 2, 2021 at 22:25
  • @ cactustictacs: For me, the compound noun (Online Compliance Training Seminar) sounded too general, and I couldn't take it as the name of an event, and that's why I asked whether or not we can make any common noun (or any compound noun) into a proper noun by simply capitalizing the first letter of each word as long as the speaker (or writer) would like to treat it as a proper noun. Without any supplemental information, how can readers know if it is really a proper noun? This is the point of my question.
    – Takashi
    Jan 2, 2021 at 22:35

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