When it comes to capitalization, many people are unsure whether to capitalize the phrase “high school” or not. Although it may seem like a simple matter, there can be some confusion surrounding the capitalization of this phrase, especially for those who are not well-versed in English grammar.
In this article, we will discuss the rules for capitalizing the phrase ‘high school’ and explore the capitalization rules for related terms.
Capitalization of “High School”
In general, you should not capitalize the phrase “high school” when using it as a common noun in a sentence. It should only be capitalized when referring to a specific school, such as “Townsend Harris High School,” where it functions as a proper noun. It is also appropriate to capitalize the phrase when it is used as a headline or formal title.
- He has many friends in high school.
- He graduated from high school in 2002.
- He graduated from Fairmont High School in 2002.
Capitalization of School Subjects
You should not capitalize educational subjects such as philosophy, algebra, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and geology. The only subjects that should be capitalized in a sentence are languages such as Spanish and French. You can also capitalize a specific school subject like Mathematics 101 or History of the French Revolution.
Here are some examples:
- I’m taking chemistry and biology this semester.
- She struggled with Physics 301 last year.
- His favorite subjects are English and psychology.
Capitalization of “High School Diploma”
Like fellowships and degrees, you should not capitalize “high school diploma” in sentences where it is used as a description. The only time “high school diploma” should be capitalized is when it is used as a title, such as on alumni directories, business cards, diplomas, and resumes.
Capitalization of High School Years
High school years, such as senior, junior, sophomore, and freshman, should not be capitalized. The only time you should capitalize high school years is when you are referring to organized bodies or titles.
- He is in the Senior Class.
- Monica is a member of the Francis Lewis High School Class of 2013.
Capitalization of “High School Students”
The phrase “high school students” should not be capitalized when used in a generic sentence. It should only be capitalized when used in a title, headline, or when referring to specific schools, parks, references, buildings, businesses, etc.
- Brentwood High School Students Handbook.
Capitalization of High School Years
You should not capitalize high school years, such as freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. The only time you should capitalize high school years is when used in a title or when referring to organized entities.
Here’s an example:
- Bill and Angela are members of the Dobie High School Class of 1999.
Capitalization of “Junior High School”
“Junior high school” should only be capitalized when referring to a specific school, such as “He used to teach music at United Junior High School.” However, if you are using the phrase in a generic sense, it should be lowercase. Example: “Sara said she enjoyed junior high school the most.”
Capitalization of “High School Graduation”
In general terms, “high school graduation” is not capitalized. The only time it should be capitalized is when used as a title, for example, on graduation invitations.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith invite you to the
High School Graduation
of their daughter Jane
on Saturday, June 12, 2021
Capitalization of “High School” in AP Style
In AP style, you should capitalize “high school” only if it is part of a proper noun.
- El Camino Real Charter High School
- Warren Central High School
- Lockport Township High School East
- Public School 5
In these cases, you are referring to a specific high school as part of its name. However, if you are referring to high school in general, as a common noun, it does not need to be capitalized.
Capitalization of “High School Teacher”
If you use the phrase “high school teacher” in a generic sentence, you should not capitalize it. However, you can capitalize it when used as a job title before a person’s name, e.g., “High School Teacher Lewis.” It should not be capitalized if the phrase comes after a person’s name.
Capitalization of “Catholic High School”
The phrase “catholic high school” is capitalized when used to refer to the title or name of an institution.
Examples in a sentence:
- Mary has been attending St. Dominic Catholic High School.
- I’d like my kids to join Parkersburg Catholic High School, one of the best in the state.
Capitalization of “High School Student”
The phrase “high school student” should not be capitalized when used in a generic sentence. However, you can capitalize this phrase when used as a title or headline.
Here’s an example of a title in a news article:
- Chief suspect in the murder of Colorado High School Student arrested.
Capitalization of “High School Football”
In general, “high school football” is not capitalized when used in a sentence. For example: “It took a lot of practice for Alfred to get into the high school football team.” However, the phrase can be capitalized if used as part of a headline or title.
Here’s an example:
- September High School Football Schedule.
Capitalization of “High School English Teacher”
If you are referring to someone who teaches English at a high school, you should not capitalize “high school” or “high school English” because they are not proper nouns. You can only capitalize the phrase if they teach a specific course known as “High School English.”
Capitalization of High School Grades
The capitalization of high school grades depends on the context and grade levels. Typically, grades are capitalized when the word “grade” comes before the grade level, such as “Grade 7.” You can also capitalize the grade level when used in a headline or title. However, grade names like sophomore and senior should not be capitalized.
The Rules of Capitalization
Here are the general rules of capitalization:
- Capitalize proper nouns and names.
- Start sentences with capital letters.
- Capitalize the first word of a quote.
- Capitalize holidays, months, and days (do not capitalize seasons).
- Capitalize most words in a title.
- Capitalize nationalities, countries, cities, and languages.
- Capitalize events and time periods. Example: “In the Middle Ages, child mortality rates were high because healthcare wasn’t advanced.”
- Do not capitalize words that come after a colon. Exceptions include proper names and complete sentences.
Watch the video below for a further explanation of capitalization in grammar:
Related Questions about Capitalization
Is “Highschool” One Word?
No, “high school” is two words and should not be written as one word. The phrase consists of the adjective “high,” indicating the secondary school level, and the common noun “school” for the educational institution. “High school” is usually treated as a noun, and writing it as one word is incorrect.
Is “Senior Class President” Capitalized?
“Senior class president” is not capitalized when used in a generic sentence, such as “I was in a meeting with the senior class president.” You only need to capitalize the phrase if it precedes an individual’s name, like “Senior Class President Andy Robertson always ensures students are well-treated.”
Does “High School” Need a Hyphen?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “high school” is an unhyphenated noun phrase and does not require a hyphen, even when used as an adjective. Some people may include a hyphen in this phrase, but the unhyphenated version is more common and acceptable. The only reason you might use a hyphen is if the sentence could be misinterpreted. However, since the phrase “high school” is widely recognized, the use of a hyphen is generally unnecessary.
Is “Middle School” Capitalized?
The phrase “middle school” does not need to be capitalized when used in a generic sentence, such as “I went to middle school with that guy.” However, you should capitalize “middle school” if it is part of a proper noun. For example, “I miss the good times at City High Middle School.”
Should “Elementary School” be Capitalized?
“Elementary school” does not need to be capitalized when used in general terms, such as “Both their kids are in elementary school.” You should only capitalize it when used in a title or headline. Additionally, you should capitalize the phrase when it refers to a specific school, such as “Little Harbor Elementary School.”
Is “Freshman” Capitalized?
The word “freshman” is not capitalized. This also applies to other words like “junior,” “senior,” and “sophomore” when used to classify students. However, if you are referring to specific grades, you should capitalize when the grade comes before the numerical number, such as “Grade 8.”
Is “University” Capitalized?
The word “university” is not capitalized when used in general terms, such as “Many university students go to that restaurant.” You should capitalize the word when referring to a particular university, such as “My daughter wants to do an engineering course at the University of Michigan.”