Do You Capitalize “Language Arts”? When & When Not To


do you capitalize language arts

A word or phrase is capitalized when it’s a proper noun, or it has a name that gives it identity or sets it apart from its kind within its category. For example, “language” is a common noun and, therefore, not capitalized. But “Mandarin” is a proper noun or name of a language and, thus, not written in lowercase.

The phrase “language arts” is capitalized as it usually denotes a field of study. Nouns denoting actual languages get capitalized, too, such as French and German. Capitalization of words indicates “significance”. It goes without saying that a subject or field of study is important to concerned pupils.  

Kindly note, “language arts” is not a proper noun. It’s usage in specific contexts, however, lends it the “proper noun” status. Continue reading to learn more about “language arts”, the rules surrounding its capitalization in sentences, and more.

language art work abstract

Language Arts – Definition 

Language arts is a field that studies and improves upon the art of language. The primary divisions are language and literature, where “language” could refer to specific languages and linguistics. Language arts pedagogy primarily comprises a combination of writing (composition), reading, listening, and speaking. Language arts, in schools, is taught alongside social studies, science, and mathematics.

Language arts is, however, much more than just teaching the fundamentals of literacy. It entails bringing a language’s grammatical elements together to generate meaning. Plot development, elements of characterization, metaphors, similes, inferential meanings, etc., facilitate a lot more complete understanding of any kind of literature.

Building skills pertaining to language arts is, therefore, necessary for students. Bringing together language arts ideas for learners at the kindergarten level can help kids improve and work on reading, spelling, comprehension, text writing, and vocabulary.

Broad Categories 

Language arts is broadly divided into four elements, which are reading, composition, speaking, and listening.

grammarly

Reading 

Reading is knowing how to traverse printed or written words, characters, or sentences and understand their meanings. It entails going over a range of non-print and print texts that help you comprehend the material being read. 

Composition 

“Composition” is combining distinct elements or parts to a single form. In language arts, a composition could mean any of the following: 

  • The act or art of composing a novel, poem, speech, or any other literary work.
  • A short essay or a brief literary piece on a given subject or theme (particularly in prose) is usually analytic, interpretative, or speculative.

Compositions could also include expository essays, narrative essays, technical writing essays, persuasive essays, books, research essays, etc.

Speaking 

“Speaking” or speech is another key component of language arts. Live delivery and oration are usually key elements of language arts courses. The component could include speeches, dramatic interpretation, oral interpretation of poems, etc. Speech is an essential part of language arts as it helps develop linguistic skills and enhance persuasion concepts.

Listening 

Listening could be looked at as the foundation for developing the skills mentioned above. It is essentially the act of comprehending spoken language, and it’s usually paired with speech. 

The above components of language arts basically signify how languages occur and work. Everything relating to listening, speech, reading, and writing is part of a language arts program. 

language word highlighted in dictionary

Over the years, academicians have tried breaking down the broad objective of communicating ideas via language into specific skills to work upon. Most language arts courses, therefore, include the following skills/topics: 

  • Alphabets
  • Phonics
  • Rhyming words
  • Handwriting
  • Sentence structure
  • Punctuation
  • Vocabulary
  • Public speaking
  • Proofreading
  • Spelling
  • Reference skills (using a dictionary, alphabetizing, etc.)
  • Word study (synonyms, homonyms, suffixes, prefixes)
  • Capitalization, etc.

Most conventional language arts programs focus on those skills as individual subjects (usually fifteen or more). Breaking down the major topics into subtopics helps with learning and makes the process a lot more interesting.

Capitalization Rules for “Language Arts” 

As mentioned above, “language arts” are capitalized when they denote the name of a subject or course. They also get capitalized if they are part of a proper noun or name of an event, such as “Language Arts Award”.

The phrase “language arts” is partially capitalized when it’s a common noun but is placed at the beginning of a sentence. For example:

  • Language arts are primarily divided into language and literature.

If the same phrase were part of a proper noun or a name of a course, the above sentence would be written as: 

  • Language Arts 101 is primarily divided into language and literature.

Generally, when a noun is immediately followed by numerals, it is capitalized – and “language arts” is no exception to that rule. Also, if “language arts” is used immediately after a colon (:) in a sentence, the word “language” is capitalized. The second term in the phrase “arts” will be lowercase, except if “language arts” in that context is a proper noun. 

Not to mention, if “language arts” is part of a title or headline, it is capitalized. But if the title or headline is in sentence case, the phrase “language arts” will be in lowercase too. And if “language arts” is at the beginning of the title, the word “language” alone will be capitalized.

“Language Arts” as an Acronym 

If “language arts” is the name of a subject or title, it may get acronymized as “LA”. “English language arts” can be contracted as “ELA”. 

Generally, a phrase or set of words is not capitalized just because they are immediately followed by their acronyms – for example, acute renal failure (ARF) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Acronyms are usually capitalized to indicate they are shortened variants of a set of words, and not because the words forming them are capitalized. 

However, if the words or phrase followed by an acronym is a proper noun, the specific term will be capitalized. In other words, if “language arts” is a title or subject name and it has its acronym to go with, it will be capitalized because it is a proper noun in the given context.

Using “Language Arts” with Adjoining Words 

Another capitalization rule about “language arts” that may confuse some is when the phrase is used with another term – for instance, as a course title. The basic rule is to capitalize department titles and specific courses. But when the word is referred to generally, it should not be capitalized. 

When referring to the phrase “English language arts”, the noun “English”, of course, is capitalized as it’s a proper noun or name of a specific language. However, “language arts” in the phrase is not capitalized because, as mentioned above, it’s a general noun. 

The confusion here is mainly because the two individual terms “English” and “language arts” can be used as specific course names and also in general speech. 

If the phrase “English language arts” denotes a specific course, you may capitalize the phrase in its entirety. For example: 

  • Her class schedule comprised of U.S. History, English Language Arts, and Mathematics.

All three fields or subject names are capitalized above because they denote course titles. If those were referred to generally, they would not be capitalized. For example: 

  • In high school, she studied U.S. history, English language arts, and mathematics.

The same terms could assume different meanings based on their contexts, and their capitalization or lack of it is an indication of that context.

School Subject Names and Capitalization Rules 

School subject names are usually capitalized if they are proper names. However, it could be a tad confusing to ascertain which subject names are proper nouns and which ones are general nouns.

When a school subject name is being talked about generally, you need not capitalize it. For instance, subjects such as chemistry, physics, math, etc. are not capitalized. But if the subject is the name of a particular language or is a proper noun, it should not be written in lowercase. In other words, Spanish, German, French, etc. are proper nouns and must be capitalized.

When talking about a particular course or class, such as Math 100 or Chemistry 241, capitalize them. Course titles such as Childhood Psychology and History of the Russian Revolution are also capitalized.

art word in dictionary

Example Sentences with School Subject/Course Names 

The following is a list of sentences with names of school subjects or courses to help you understand when they get capitalized in sentences and when they are left in their lower letter case:

  • I am taking math this semester.
  • She never really liked chemistry and biology.
  • She decided on taking a couple of psychology classes in her senior year.
  • He studied philosophy in college.
  • They studied Mandarin together three years on a trot.
  • She is considering taking German next year.
  • He loves geometry.
  • He challenged himself by taking Chemistry 301.
  • During her first year, she took Math 101, Philosophy of Language, and Educational Psychology.

Conclusion 

Capitalization is a major topic in English grammar, which is a broad field of study in itself. In this article, a few aspects of capitalization rules have been glazed over in relation to “language arts”, and those can be applied to other general nouns as well.

To conclude, “language arts” is a general noun. But because it’s invariably used to refer to specific courses or programs, it invariably gets the capitalization treatment, or it’s viewed as a proper noun in those scenarios.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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