Posted by: Jack Henry | December 1, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Capitalization Rules

Good morning, friends.

Capitalization is one of the stickiest points we editors deal with. The most common problem we see is that people tend to capitalize any word they think is important in a sentence. For example, some folks always capitalize the term “credit union.” However, it should only be capitalized as part of the credit union’s name (for example, World’s Best Credit Union). Job titles are, understandably, another sticking point because you capitalize a job title that precedes the person’s name but not a title that follows a person’s name (see the very last bullet in the list below).

Most languages have strict rules about capitalization, and the rules in English may vary slightly depending on the style guide being used. Although some recent exceptions break conventional capitalization rules for Jack Henry Marketing and presentation material (for example using sentence case rather than title case for titles and headings, and using lowercase letters for our company logo: jack henry), we continue to follow these common rules in our professional writing and client correspondence:

  • Capitalize all names and other proper nouns (a proper noun is a name used for an individual person, place, or organization).
  • Capitalize the first letter of every sentence.
  • Capitalize most words in a title (you can use this Title Case Converter tool to check the capitalization of your titles):

o The first and last words

o All nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs

o Subordinating conjunctions (if, because, as, that, etc.)

o Prepositions that are five or more letters long (about, through, etc.)

o Prepositions that are the first or last word in a title

  • Capitalize days, months, holidays, and time zone abbreviations (ET, PT), but not seasons.
  • Capitalize department names (Accounting, Information Technology, etc.).
  • Capitalize letters in acronyms; however, when the acronym is spelled out, only capitalize the individual words if they are a part of a proper noun (FACTA represents a proper noun: Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act. However, APR stands for annual percentage rate, which is not a proper noun).
  • Capitalize the initial letters of items in a list, the initial letters of column headings, and the initial letters of keys on a keyboard (like Backspace).
  • Capitalize job titles before the person’s name but not after (President Joe Biden or Joe Biden, president of the United States).

And always remember, we do not capitalize a word just to make it stand out or to give it importance. We use italics for that, but we use italics sparingly to ensure that they don’t become meaningless.

And as long as we’re talking about capitalization, I have something to share. My friend, Jane G. enlightened me about the meaning and history of the words uppercase and lowercase, and I was intrigued, so I’m passing the information along.

Have you ever wondered why we call capital letters uppercase letters? The words uppercase and lowercase actually have to do with the trays, or cases, that stored letters used in letterpress printing. According to Wikipedia, “Traditionally, the capital letters were stored in a separate drawer, or case, placed above the case holding the other letters (this is why the capital letters are called ‘uppercase’ characters, and the minuscules are ‘lowercase’).”

Well, paint me green and call me a cucumber! Who knew? Thanks, Jane!

Here are some visuals to bring it all together:

Letterpress drawers

Antique letterpress printing cabinet

Pair of printer’s cases

Have a wonderful day!

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | jack henry™

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123

Pronouns she/her/hers

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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