Posted by: Jack Henry | March 28, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Capitalization

I know, we’ve talked about what to capitalize and what not to capitalize countless times before, but reminders can be helpful. The original version of this article is lengthy, so I decided to cut out the things you are less likely to run into here, such as animal names. You are welcome to see the original article here: A Capitalization Cheat Sheet.

Academic degrees: Lowercase—“bachelor’s degree”; capitalize entirety of most abbreviations (with a few exceptions, including PhD and DLitt)

Academic disciplines: Capitalize only proper names—“Asian studies” (except as part of a full name of an entity (“the School of Business,” “the Department of Philosophy,” “the Commission on the Liberal Arts,” etc.)

Acronyms and initialisms: Capitalize most abbreviations of proper names—NATO, FBI [KC – When in doubt, check your style guide.]

Brand names and trademarks: Follow capitalization as used by the brand owner, but ignore logo format—for example, the brand names Lego and Time (the magazine) are treated as all-caps in the respective company logos; companies discourage genericization of trademarks such as kleenex and xerox, but writers have no obligation to honor such usage as “Kleenex Brand Facial Tissue”

Compass points: Generally lowercase, but capitalize in geopolitical contexts—“the Pacific Northwest,” “customs prevalent in the East”)

File formats: The Chicago Manual of Style recommends capitalizing names of formats, but do so only in such usage as “I made a GIF from the video,” and lowercase (and precede with a dot) in references to files such as “The latest version of Microsoft Word uses the file extension .docx”

Geographical names: Capitalize in proper names, but lowercase in generic usage—“the Mississippi River,” but “the river”; check style guides for variations such as “the Pacific coast”/“the West Coast”; lowercase metaphorical and nonliteral use of proper names—“manila envelope,” “They set out to create a utopia”

Key commands: Capitalize words denoting switch, keyboard, and command functions—“the Pause button,” “the Command key,” “the Save command,” etc.

Organizational entities: Capitalize in proper names, but lowercase in generic usage—“the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” but “the bureau”—and “the federal government”); lowercase generic versions of entity names—“the company,” “the museum,” “the committee,” etc.; lowercase the preceding entities’ names (unless house style allows exceptions)

Seasons: Lowercase—winter, spring, summer, fall

Titles of compositions: Capitalize key words—“Pride and Prejudice” (check a style guide for specifics)

Titles of jobs and offices: Capitalize key words before the name (except when modified) and lowercase after the name or in isolation—“Director of Marketing John Smith,” “Pastor Jane Jones” (but “former director of marketing John Smith,” “John Smith, director of marketing,” and “the director of marketing,” as well as “the pastor”); capitalize in direct address (“As you were, Sergeant”) or in formal written contexts or in a ceremonial or promotional list [KC – This is a rule that we often ignore, particularly when we have clients participating in presentations. Most people are proud of their titles and don’t care about capitalization rules, so
we always capitalize their titles.]

English mastiff [Partially capitalized since England is a place]

golden retriever [Not capitalized since “golden” is an adjective, and “retriever” is a common noun]

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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