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Are Seasons Capitalized? The Bizarre Answer…

There are some questions about the English language which have a correct answer that is so illogical and weird that it actually makes me angry. The response to the question, “Are seasons capitalized?” is exactly such an instance.

First, some background about my credentials. My name is Lillie, and I’ve been an English teacher for 18 years — and am an artist, too. I delight in helping explain language concepts through my hand-drawn illustrations to help you remember such lessons as, “No one or noone?” and the ever-challenging ELA classroom favorite, types of irony.

Are seasons capitalized?
Do you capitalize seasons?

Which English Words are Capitalized?

Before getting to the question of seasons, specifically, let’s review the general rules for which words in the English language are capitalized.

1. The first letter of a sentence is always capitalized. For example, “Look at that exciting capital ‘L’ at the start of this sentence!”

2. First letters of words in titles are capitalized (except in some title styles where short words like “of” or “and” remain lower case). For example, I wrote a recent article called, “How to Spell Attendance.”

3. Proper nouns (names of an individual, specific person, place, or thing) are always capitalized. For example, the woman in my article about how to spell “misspelled” is named “Miss Pell,” which is capitalized because it’s the name of an individual, specific person.

Is spring capitalized
The season “spring” is not capitalized (except for a few exceptions).

So, Are Seasons Capitalized?

Seems simple, right? If seasons are proper nouns, they should be capitalized, according to rule #3 above. But here’s why these are commonly confused words: Seasons are NOT proper nouns — seasons are common nouns, meaning they do not get capital first letters unless they’re at the start of a sentence (or a few other instances that we will discuss)!

Yes, that’s right: You do not capitalize the seasons spring, summer, autumn (or fall), and winter. There is also no capitalization for the longer versions: summertime, wintertime, and springtime.

Whaaaa?! Remember how I said this is an English rule that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and causes me great anger? Do you feel the rage and shock, yourself, now? Are you as flummoxed and flabbergasted to learn this rule as I was???

I mean, why the heck are seasons common nouns, and thus lower case, even though other calendar-related words like the days of the week (ex: Tuesday), months of the year (ex: February), and holidays (ex: New Year’s Eve) are proper nouns, and thus capitalized? My guess is it’s because seasons are considered too broad and non-specific to catapult outside of the realm of common noun; proper nouns need to refer to something very specific. Even so… argh.

(Note: As we saw in our “Fiction vs. Nonfiction” article, the names of genres (like “fiction”) are — like seasons — not proper nouns… even though it seems like they should be. For that reason, genres are not capitalized, either, unless they encounter the exceptions we’re about to go over…

Is autumn capitalized
The name Autumn is capitalized, but the season is not.

Exceptions to Lower-Case Seasons

Now that we know seasons are not capitalized, it’s time to make things even more complicated — because sometimes they actually are! Ah, good old English… there’s always an exception (or five) to the rule. Here are the instances in which seasons DO get a capital first letter.

1. Opening Sentences.

If the season name comes at the start of a sentence, it’s capitalized. For example, “Spring is better than winter for wearing short-sleeved dresses.”

2. Names.

If a person (or animal) is named for a season, their name is a proper noun, so should be capitalized. For example, the workout program “21 Day Fix” is by a trainer named Autumn Calabrese.

3. Personification.

Here’s a confusing twist on #2: If the season itself is personified (a type of figurative language in which a non-human thing is given human characteristics), it should be capitalized, because it then acts as a name, and thus is suddenly a proper noun. For example: “This storm shows the anger of Winter in all her glory, as she whips the creations of humans with wind to show her discontent with how they’ve harmed her home.”

4. Titles.

Going back to our classic capitalization rules, if the season name is part of a title, it should be capitalized. For example, if there is a song called, “The Dance of Spring,” there’s that capital “S” winking at you.

5. Proper Noun Parts.

Finally, if the season is part of a proper noun (the name of a specific person, place, or thing) it should be capitalized. For example, “The Summer Olympics” is the title of a specific event, so slap a big “S” onto the season.

Video: Season Name Capitalization

This video shows a time-lapse of my drawing process for this capitalization lesson.

So, Do You Capitalize Seasons?

Now you know the surprising answer to the question, “Are seasons capitalized?” Because spring, summer, autumn (or fall), and winter are common nouns, not proper nouns, they are written with lower case letters and thus NOT capitalized… unless they fall into the category of the five exceptions explained above!

I hope this article and my illustrations have been helpful. Which English lessons would you like this teacher-artist to explain next? Do share!