Notes on Haiku Capitalization
and Punctuation

This brief guide was written in August of 2014 for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s Haiku Invitational website. The site attracts many people who are new to haiku and who might benefit from understanding basic issues relating to capitalization and punctuation in haiku poetry. See also “Punctuation in Haiku.”     +

How do you capitalize and punctuate your haiku? What you choose to do is just that—a choice. Your preferences become part of your style, and there’s generally no right or wrong way to do it. Nevertheless, here are some points to consider:

If haiku is like a finger pointing to the moon, you don’t want any jewels on the finger to distract readers from seeing the moon. By considering and standardizing your capitalization and punctuation with the preceding thoughts in mind, you can help each of your haiku point to the moon as directly as possible without any distracting “jewels.”

Note: If you type your haiku in software such as Microsoft Word, the software automatically capitalizes the first word of each new line or sentence. To turn off this default setting, type a lowercased word and then a space (this will automatically capitalize the first word at the start of a new paragraph). Hover your mouse over the first letter that Word capitalized until you see AutoCorrect Options for the change it made. Click the downward-facing arrow, and then click “Stop Auto-capitalizing First Letter of Sentences” (or an option similar to that). Make the choice to be in control of your capitalization and punctuation in haiku.

Another Note: The word “haiku” is both plural and singular, so there’s no need to say “haikus.” Also, the word is not a proper noun, so there’s no need to capitalize it, either. For those who are well established in the English-language haiku community, seeing any use of “haikus” or unnecessary capitalization is an immediate sign that someone is probably a neophyte at this poetry or perhaps unconnected to the English-language haiku community.

One More Note: Haiku are not snapshots frozen in time, but rather, they flow into other moments and meditations. To represent this quality, I have omitted a capital at the beginning and a period at the end for each haiku [Ive translated]. Indicating a beginning and an end would feel unfaithful to what I believe makes haiku a distinct and wonderful poetic form. The meanings of haiku are also meant to be open-ended.—Aya Kusch, Cats in Spring Rain: A Celebration of Feline Charm in Japanese Art and Haiku, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2022, page 9