You’re writing a feature on the Summer Olympics or a blog post about the winter solstice. But — wait. Are seasons capitalized?
Many writers are uncertain whether the words winter, spring, summer and autumn begin with a capital letter. You’re not alone if you turn to Google to answer the question.
Let’s clear up the capitalization confusion once and for all. This guide delves into the reasoning behind the rules — and, yes, there’s logic to it! We also have plenty of examples to make sure you can capitalize with confidence when we’re done.
Why Do Writers Get Confused About Capitalizing Seasons?
It’s helpful to know why confusion arises around capitalizing the seasons and when you might be getting offtrack.
One theory, according to Merriam-Webster, is that we’re accustomed to capitalizing days of the week and months of the year. It’s natural to want to apply this rule to seasons. After all, seasons are another way to track the passage of time.
You can see why it might happen — Monday is a specific day, and it’s capitalized. November is a specific month, and it’s capitalized. Autumn is a specific season, and…well, no, it’s not capitalized.
Proper nouns get a capital letter, but general nouns — like spring, summer and fall — aren’t capped, with a few exceptions.
When Are Seasons Capitalized?
Since seasons are common nouns, they follow standard English grammar rules for capitalization. Hit that shift key to capitalize a season when it’s:
1. The First Word of a Sentence
- Winter boots are on sale to make way for our spring collection.
- Spring is my favorite season, followed closely by summer.
2. In the Title of a Movie, Book, Song or Play
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was filmed in the winter of 2019.
- My favorite Shakespearean play is The Winter’s Tale.
3. A Proper Noun
- I look forward to the St. Paul Winter Carnival each winter.
- Let’s meet in front of the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway.
Seasons Aren’t Capitalized in Most Cases
AP Style sums it up clearly: spring, summer, autumn and winter shouldn’t be capitalized unless part of a formal name or title. This includes derivatives of the nouns, such as summery. Bookmark this handy Instagram post for a great reminder when you write.
Let’s look at examples of this rule in action. In the following sentences, seasons aren’t capitalized because they’re general nouns and not proper names.
- I’m looking forward to skiing this winter.
- The Moon Festival takes place mid-autumn.
- It’s not summertime without ice cream.
Using Seasons as Attributive Nouns and Verbs
Seasons can also be used as attributive nouns, which are nouns that describe other nouns. They’re still not formal names, so hold off on the uppercase letter.
- Connecticut’s beautiful fall foliage attracts many visitors.
- The summer crop of strawberries is ready to be picked.
- Are there any winter carnivals in the state?
- My students are so restless; they must have spring fever.
Seasons are also used as verbs in some cases. But they’re still not proper nouns and shouldn’t be capitalized.
- They like to summer in the Hamptons and winter in Florida.
Common Capitalization Conundrums
No matter how well you know the rules for capitalizing common and proper nouns, the English language can still be perplexing. Let’s look at the most common mistakes people make when it comes to capitalizing seasons.
Equinox and Solstice
Summer solstice and autumn equinox sound like official names. They occur on specific dates, like Mother’s Day and Halloween. However, they aren’t holidays or proper nouns.
An equinox is a general noun describing the time of year the sun crosses the equator. A solstice occurs when the sun is the furthest north or south of the equator. Write these common nouns in lowercase when using them in sentences.
- The summer solstice takes place on June 21.
- The spring equinox occurs on March 20.
Standard capitalization rules kick in when these words are used in the names of events and titles of books.
- Vancouver’s Winter Solstice Lantern Festival is a family-friendly celebration.
- I just finished Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand.
Academic Semesters and Breaks
Most people are so happy for school breaks that the time off seems like an official holiday. Celebrate your leisure time, but resist the urge to capitalize it unless it’s part of a formal name or title.
- Hawaii is a popular destination for winter break.
- Come to Florida for the 2022 Spring Break Extravaganza!
When you refer generically to a fall or spring semester, you don’t need a capital. Capitalize a specific semester when it’s identified by year.
- I’m taking English in the fall semester.
- Is the editing course offered in Summer 2022?
Keep in mind that some academic institutions have their own internal style guides, so writers should follow their clients’ preferences. The University of Colorado, for example, doesn’t capitalize semester names.
Newsletters, magazines and journals often publish seasonally. Go ahead and capitalize when a season is used as the name of an issue, but not as a general description of an issue.
- Have you seen the fall issue of the magazine?
- I’m editing the Fall 2022 issue of the magazine.
The Olympic Games
This one is simple: if the words summer or winter directly precede the words Olympics or Games, capitalize both words.
- The next Winter Games take place in Beijing.
- He qualified for the Summer Olympics.
- She’s going to Paris next summer for the Summer Olympics.
There’s one last scenario to cover. You won’t come across personification often, but this isn’t a definitive guide if we don’t mention it.
Seasons may be personified in stories and poems for literary effect, which means they’re given human qualities. When you write about a season and assign human attributes, use a capital.
Capitalize on Your Career With Crowd Content
Ready to put what you’ve learned to work? Writers of all skill levels are needed to deliver dynamic copy to clients in a wide range of industries. Choose the projects you work on and how you use your time. Start your freelancing career and write with Crowd Content today.