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Nuts & Bolts: When to Capitalize a Relationship

January 6, 2023

Nuts & Bolts – When to Capitalize a Relationship

Here is a guideline to clear up confusion on cover designs and particularly inside verses.  When to capitalize the first letter of a relationship like Mom, Dad, Granny, etc.?
The relationship is capitalized when the relationship is being used in place of a name.  To test the usage, try putting a name (like Mindy) in place of the relationship and see if it works.  If so, then a capital is required.  

Some examples:
Happy birthday to my mom – correct
Happy birthday to my Mom – incorrect
Test: Happy birthday to my Mindy – NO, so a lowercase is required 
Happy birthday, Mom – correct
Happy birthday, mom – incorrect 
Test: Happy birthday, Mindy – YES, so an uppercase is required
You’re the best mom – correct
You’re the best Mom – incorrect
Test: You’re the best Mindy – NO, so a lowercase is required
Tricky!  No matter the usage, if the relationship is the first word in a sentence then it must be capitalized, as in:
Mom, you’re the best 

As for capitalization in a phrase, like on the cover design of a card GCU prefers it to follow the guidelines of title capitalization like the following:
With Deepest Sympathy on the Loss of your Brother.
BUT we also allow: 
With deepest sympathy on the loss of your brother.
What  is NOT permitted is a combination of both versions above like (upper and lower):
With Deepest Sympathy on the loss of your Brother.

See this correct Father’s Day example by Stephanie Laird:


This holds true for all phrases even without a relationship in it like:
Happy Holidays to your Family Across the Miles 
There are of course allowances for creative usage of capitalization and font styles which can also be achieved with bold and italic. These styles that different from the traditional rules will be discretionarily reviewed by the review team.  

See permitted caps for artistic emphasis in YOU by Renee Clark:



The difference is made in the details!



GCU Community Manager


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