Posted by: Jack Henry | May 25, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Degrees

If you’re getting a college degree, here’s a bit of information that won’t be on your finals but will still be good to know: how to write about your achievement.

The other day, I was editing some biographies and I had to search the Chicago Manual of Style for information on capitalization. None of the pages I read put it simply. Most of us work so hard for our degrees, we want to shout in all caps from the rooftop and say, “LOOK WHAT I DID! I’m a bachelor of arts!” Or is it, “I have a Master’s Degree?” Or maybe even, “I’m a Doctor of Philosophy, but you can call me Ph.D.”

When do you capitalize letters, when do you add apostrophes, and what are the rules, if any?

Thank goodness for Grammar Girl. Her timing was perfect, and she just published the easy rules, the details, and information on the confusion.

Here is the easy rule: bachelor’s degree is lowercase, singular, and possessive. More from Mignon Fogarty:

Think of it this way:

A bachelor isn’t just a single guy who maybe eats out a lot but is also any person who has earned a specific type of degree from a university or college….

Now think of the degree as the property of the bachelor, with the apostrophe-s indicating possession: It is a bachelor’s degree, the degree of one person with the initial level of achievement at the university.

Now, here it becomes a little confusing. You do capitalize the name when you are talking about the formal name of a specific degree.

  • Donnie has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. (Donnie has a bachelor’s degree.)
  • Jayne is a Master of Fine Arts. (Jayne has a master’s degree.)
  • Leticia is a Doctor of Dental Surgery. (Leticia has a doctor’s degree.)

I still have some trouble with this on some level, like a lot of title rules. When you’re trying to be safe, just remember the degree belongs to the person, so they have a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree. If you want the full article, see Grammar Girl’s article here!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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