Word Won't Capitalize Some Sentences

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 19, 2016)

12

Dwight described a problem he was having with his documents. It seems that when a sentence ends with the word "you," Word doesn't capitalize the first letter of the following sentence. Word behaves similarly if the sentence ends with a number.

Even though it may seem like these problems are related (the first word of a new sentence won't automatically capitalize), they are separate problems. The first issue, where a sentence ending in "you" doesn't trigger capitalization of the next sentence, has to do with AutoCorrect's exclude file. Follow these steps:

  1. Choose AutoCorrect from the Tools menu. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box with the AutoCorrect tab selected. (See Figure 1.)
  2. Figure 1. The AutoCorrect dialog box.

  3. Click on the Exceptions button. Word displays the AutoCorrect Exceptions dialog box.
  4. Make sure the First Letter tab is selected. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The AutoCorrect Exceptions dialog box.

  6. Scroll through the list of exceptions until you find "you." Select this exception.
  7. Click Delete. The exception is removed.
  8. Close all the open dialog boxes.

The items in the exceptions list indicate the words or abbreviations after which Word won't automatically capitalize the next word. Abbreviations (such as Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.) are the normal fare for this list, but sometimes other words also get included.

How? Take a look back at the AutoCorrect Exceptions dialog box. At the bottom is a check box labeled Automatically Add Words to List. If this is selected, then AutoCorrect watches (to a limited extent) how you type and tries to adjust itself to what it perceives as your needs. If you are typing along and Word makes an AutoCorrect correction, and you immediately backspace and type over the correction, Word figures that you don't want it to make those corrections any more in the future. To ensure this, it adds the last word of the sentence, with its ending punctuation, to the AutoCorrect exceptions list. This is probably how "you." got added to the list. If you don't want Word to second-guess your editing in the future, then clear the Automatically Add Words to List check box.

The issue related to sentences ending in numbers is a different story. In Word 97, AutoCorrect would automatically capitalize words after a digit followed by a period. This drew complaints from some quarters, as it meant that the first word of virtually all numbered lists was automatically capitalized. Grammarians complained, and rightly pointed out that this shouldn't happen.

Of course, turning off capitalization following the digit/period combination meant that any sentences that ended the same way would also not result in the following word being capitalized. Again the grammarians stepped in and pointed out that it is improper English for words to end with a digit/period combination. (If a sentence cannot be restructured so it doesn't end with digit/period, the number should always be spelled out, thereby eliminating the digit/period combination.)

Microsoft made the change, and beginning with Word 2000 AutoCorrect no longer capitalized words following a digit/period combination.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (238) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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Comments for this tip:

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What is three minus 1?

2017-03-05 14:36:26

Christine Madsen

I was annoyed by the problems that Jennifer and Linda Takagi describe, so I wrote a macro to handle it.

Sub ChangeCurrentSentenceToInitCap()
'
'Finds last period and then uppercases first letter of next word.
'Ends by moving to the end of the line.

Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = "."
.Replacement.Text = ""
.Forward = False
.Wrap = wdFindAsk
.Format = False
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = False
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
.Execute
End With
Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdWord, count:=1
Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdCharacter, count:=1, Extend:=wdExtend
Selection.Range.Case = wdUpperCase
Selection.EndKey Unit:=wdLine
End Sub

You can find tips on this site as to how to add this macro to Normal.dot and assign it to a key. For example, I assigned it to Alt-Z, just because that's convenient for me. Your choice may vary. It might also work for the digit at the end of a sentence; I didn't test that.

chris


2017-03-04 07:07:52

Phely

Thank you so much. Now I know why Microsoft Word kept doing such things.


2017-01-12 11:28:47

Jennifer

I'm a legal transcriptionist. I have to type Q. and then start a sentence. I also have to type A. and then answer with another sentence.

I can't figure out how to fix this. Any suggestions for this problem would be appreciated.

Thank you for your excellent site!


2016-11-16 12:05:47

Simone from Italy

Thank you, that was very helpful. My exceptions tab had a long list of complete words, knowing why this happens (and how to fix it and prevent it) makes my writing work less frustrating.


2016-11-15 07:35:54

John

Similar problem" my newly downloaded Word 365 version won't capitalize the first word in a sentence if it is preceded by a quote (") very bad for a writer. also, if the first word is deleted it doesn't auto capitalize the replacement.


2016-06-22 00:25:04

Linda Takagi

I am a medical transcriptionist. My prob is that whenever I use an AutoCorrect entry to begin a sentence the first letter of the entry will not capitalize even if I hold down the shift key, i.e. "The patient" comes out as "the patient" and I have to go back to capitalize the t. Same with headings in my reports. For example:
LABORATORY DATA: comes out lABORATORY DATA: It is incredibly annoying and pretty much eliminates the time-saving element of AutoCorrect! I have totally cleared out "Exceptions" list, the "Cap 1st letter of sentences" box is checked. I am baffled - so is my IT department.


2016-04-14 09:33:01

Lew

I have had this issue continue to grow in my documents. When I went to the "Exceptions", I found a large number of complete words. This accounted for the number of corrections I would have to make in my writings (VERY frustrating).
Thanks!


2015-11-11 20:58:09

Omer

Hi Really need the capitalization of first letter after a digit/period. Have you got something on this?


2015-08-19 11:04:58

Amy

Thanks for this article (two years later). I tried to find solutions in the past, but could not find anything specific to my complaint until now. I found that "THe" and "SHe" stopped auto-correcting the typo, and this resolved the problem! I find that a lot of my sentences are not auto-capping, so I'm going to watch for words that may trigger this.


2014-09-13 09:42:05

Sheryl

sent previous message without asking to notify me of comments. Thanks.


2014-09-13 09:40:57

Sheryl

I, too, am a medical transcriptionist and the client/hospital requires first word after numbers in a number list using a period, ie

1. The patient will ...
2. An MRI has been ...

It would be helpful to know how to correct this limitation.


2014-06-12 09:34:19

TerriTypes

I work in medical transcription and this has long been an issue with my field. We NEED the first word capped after a number and period have ended the sentence prior, regardless of grammatical standards. Example: "The patient had a hemoglobin of 6.9. she was seen in the ER." The word "she" should be capped as it begins a new sentence, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to make this happen. Any help would be greatly appreciated ;)


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