Honor Parents, But Do It Right

Happy parentsEvery spring, we’re bookended by holidays that honor parenthood: Mother’s Day was May 12 this year, and Father’s Day is coming up June 21.

Some people, wanting to show respect for parents, always capitalize any form of mom or dad.

Regardless of our desire to demonstrate that we respect and cherish our parents, there are times to capitalize and times to use lower case. Here is a simple guideline:

If a parent’s name could logically be substituted for mom or dad in your phrasing, use capitals. If not, use lower case.

I told Mom I’d be home by midnight.
I told Jean I’d be home by midnight.

I told my Jean I’d be home by midnight.
I told my mom I’d be home by midnight.

If Dad wants me to practice driving, I’m ready to go.
If Frank wants me to practice driving, I’m ready to go.

If my Frank wants me to practice driving, I’m ready to go.
If my dad wants me to practice driving, I’m ready to go.

I hope everyone expresses appreciation to parents not just on these special holidays, but throughout the year. Conveying gratitude to your mom and dad is a message that always is appropriate and appreciated.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

October 2016 addition:
This guideline applies to other relatives as well:

My grandma and grandpa just arrived.
Grandma and Grandpa just arrived. (You could substitute their names.)
Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Jim just arrived. (Capitalize these terms when they are used as a title before a name.)
His aunt and uncle live nearby.
Aunt Becky and Uncle Josh live nearby. (Aunt and Uncle here are titles.)

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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