Word Won't Capitalize Some Sentences

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 19, 2016)

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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