Section 3.7

Capitalization

Capitalize names of specific places, buildings, people, organizations, and so on. For example:

Marisa Stuckey

Brooklyn Bridge

Amalgamated Bank

If you are uncertain about whether to capitalize something, try looking it up in a dictionary. You will often find the information you need there.

In titles of reports, articles, etc., use initial capital letters for all major words. Also capitalize the first and last words of both the title and the subtitle, regardless of whether they are major words or not. Otherwise, do not capitalize the following:

  • articles (a, an, the)
  • coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet)
  • prepositions four letters or shorter (e.g., by, with, to, of)

The following titles illustrate standard capitalization practices:

Software Training for the Technophobic

Interviewing with Confidence: A Manager’s Guide to Hiring

Beware of the pervasive tendency towards overcapitalization in business documents. Professional titles are one area where unnecessary capitalization is rampant. Titles should generally not be capitalized if they appear after a person’s name. Even before someone’s name, only very official, formal titles are capitalized — for example, titles of senior politicians, academics, generals, and so on. This category does not usually include business titles.

In the seven sample sentences below, the titles in the first and last sentences are the only ones that require an initial capital letter.

I read that Mayor Jones would be attending the conference.

I read that Lisa Jones, the mayor of Smalltown, would be attending the conference.

We received a note from chairman of the board Roberta Weintraub.

We received a note from Roberta Weintraub, chairman of the board.

The report discusses research conducted by Thomas Ruddick, professor of sociology.

The report discusses research conducted by sociology professor Thomas Ruddick.

The report discusses research conducted by Professor Ruddick.

Now, suppose you were creating a conference brochure in which you listed various speakers. In that case, capitalization of professional titles would be both appropriate and desirable. For example:

Presenters

Lisa Jones
Mayor, Smalltown

Roberta Weintraub
Chairman of the Board
XYZ, Inc.

Dr. Thomas Ruddick
Professor of Sociology
Smalltown University