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When to Capitalize People’s Titles

When should you capitalize someone’s title? We get this question quite often so here are some rules and guidelines:

Guideline: Though there is no established rule on writing titles in the complimentary closing of a letter, we recommend capitalizing a person’s title when it follows the name on the address or signature line. However, you may also leave it in lowercase since titles are generally not capitalized when following a name in text. Choose a method and be consistent.

Examples:
Sincerely,
Margaret Haines, Chairperson

Sincerely,
Margaret Haines, chairperson


Rule: Capitalize the titles of high-ranking government officials when used with or before their names. Do not capitalize the civil title if it is used instead of the name.

Examples:
The president will address Congress.
All senators are expected to attend.
The governors, lieutenant governors, and attorneys general called for a special task force.
Governor Connelly, Lieutenant Governor Martinez, and Senators James and Hennessy will attend the meeting.


Rule: Capitalize a title when used as a direct address even when the person is not named.

Examples:
Will you be holding a press conference, Madame President?
Please give us your opinion of this latest development, Senator.
We need your response quickly, Mr. President.
We need your response quickly, President Obama.
Will you help me with my homework, Dad?

Posted on Thursday, October 14, 2010, at 10:35 am


177 Comments

177 Responses to “When to Capitalize People’s Titles”

  1. Marty says:

    Pardon, but whenever referring to the President of the United States, one always uses a capital. When has this changed?

    • Jane says:

      This blog follows the rules of The Chicago Manual of Style. According to Rule 8.1, “Proper nouns are usually capitalized, as are some of the terms derived from or associated with proper nouns. For the latter, Chicago’s preference is for sparing use of capitals–what is sometimes referred to as a “down” style. Although Brussels (the Belgian city) is capitalized, Chicago prefers brussels sprouts–which are not necessarily from Brussels (see 8.60). Likewise, President Obama is capitalized, but the president is not (see 8.18—32). (In certain nonacademic contexts–e.g., a press release–such terms as president may be capitalized.”)

      • Doug says:

        Hello,

        I am writing a business proposal and I need to refer to the title Personnel and Training Sergeant…”The personnel and Training Sergeant will oversee the project”.
        Or is it the Personnel and Training sergeant will oversee the project”.

        Can you please advise

        • Jane says:

          Our blog Capitalization of Job Titles states, “When the appears in front of the job title, do not capitalize.” Therefore, write “The personnel and training sergeant will oversee the project.”

          • Kerry says:

            Given what your response above says, would this be correct usage: Correctional Seargent will be in charge of disciplinary proccessing. The correctional sergent in charge of disciplinary proccessing will work a Monday through Friday schedule?

          • Jane says:

            Capitalization has a lot of gray areas. The rule of thumb is to lowercase job titles when not used with names. Therefore, I recommend not capitalizing correctional sergeant.

            Correctional sergeant will be in charge of disciplinary processing.
            The correctional sergeant in charge of disciplinary processing will work a Monday-through-Friday schedule.

  2. Deidra Lyngard says:

    Hi Jane:
    This is a perennial question around here: if you capitalize the names of departments, i.e., History Department, then how do you express the title of the department chair:

    Joe Smith, chair of the History Department or
    Joe Smith, chair of the history deparment

    This becomes even more problematic when you’re dealing with titles like head of school vs head of School.

    HELP!

    • Jane says:

      As long as chair, chairman, chairwoman, chairperson, head of school, etc. are all considered job titles, simply follow the two rules:

      Rule: Capitalize job titles immediately preceding the name when used as part of the name.

      Rule: Capitalize job titles immediately following the name when the word the does not appear in front of the job title.

      Therefore:
      Joe Smith, Chair of the History Department, will be speaking to . . .
      Joe Smith, the chair of the History Department, will be speaking to . . .
      Mary Jones, Head of School, is asking all parents to . . .
      Mary Jones, the head of school, is asking all parents to . . .

      • Jane says:

        Hi there
        I’m really stuck with what to capitalise or not in this paragraph! Can you help me please?? Thank you so much!

        General Sir Mike Jackson GCB CBE DSO is an Advisory Board member and served as UK Chief of the General Staff (CGS) from 2003-2006, the culmination of four and a half decades in the British Army. After a degree in Russian studies he joined the Intelligence Corps in 1963, transferring to the Parachute Regiment in 1970. He served as Commander in Chief, Land Command from 2000, Commander Kosovo Force in 1999, Commander NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps from 1997, and Director General Development and Doctrine at the MOD. His active service has included command at company and brigade level in Northern Ireland, and divisional command in Bosnia.

        • General Sir Mike Jackson GCB CBE DSO is an advisory board member and served as UK chief of the general staff (CGS) from 2003 to 2006, the culmination of four and a half decades in the British Army. After a degree in Russian studies he joined the Intelligence Corps in 1963, transferring to the Parachute Regiment in 1970. He served as commander in chief, land command, [note comma] from 2000 [from 2000 to when? Maybe it should be "in 2000"], commander Kosovo Force in 1999, commander NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps from 1997, and director general development and doctrine at the MOD. His active service has included command at company and brigade level in Northern Ireland, and divisional command in Bosnia.

  3. Kathryn Gardner says:

    What about this? “The president of our country lives in the White House.”

    • Jane says:

      There are two grammar rules which apply to your sentence. According to Rule 5 in the “Capitalization” section, “Capitalize the titles of high-ranking government officials when used before their names. Do not capitalize the civil title if it is used instead of the name.” Also, Rule 2 says, “Always capitalize a proper noun.” Since the word president is not used before a name, it is not capitalized. Because White House is a proper noun it should be capitalized. Therefore, “The president of our country lives in the White House.”

  4. Tom says:

    In a news release, is it John Smith, assistant FEMA admistrator for hurricanes- or – John Smith, Assistant FEMA Administartor for Huricanes
    also
    Joe Brown, U.S. Forest Service regional director – or – Joe Brown, U.S. Forest Service Regional Director

    • Jane says:

      I would recommend following this rule from my blog “Capitalization of Job Titles.”
      Capitalize job titles immediately following the name when the word the does not appear in front of the job title.

      Therefore, John Smith, Assistant FEMA Administrator for Hurricanes and Joe Brown, U.S. Forest Service Regional Director would be correct.

  5. Dave McLeod says:

    Hi Jane,

    Just so I’m clear, I would write: ” As vice president of operations, John Doe is responsible for..” rather than “As Vice President of Operations, John Doe, is responsible for..?”

    Thanks.

  6. linda wojciechowski says:

    My daughter’s fourth-grade teacher insists that some proper names, such as Grandma or Dad, are not capitalized. For example, “Last week, grandma took us out for dinner.” Grandma is not capitalized, according to the teacher. In this example, isn’t Grandma considered a proper name, since it refers to a specific person?

    • Jane says:

      Yes, you are correct. When the word Grandma is used as a proper name it should be capitalized. “Last week Grandma took us out for dinner.” If you were to say, “Last week my grandma took us out for dinner,” then it would not be capitalized. The same goes for Dad, Mom, and Grandpa.

  7. Cassandra says:

    I have a question similar to Linda’s. Working in a law office, I get conflicting instruction on the capitalization of the word plaintiff. My belief is when the sentence is something like, “As you can see, the plaintiff has no evidence of…” it is lowercase. But in this sentence, “As you can see, Plaintiff has no evidence of…”, it is uppercase. Is that correct? Or is plaintiff always lowercase as some of my colleagues suggest?

    • Jane says:

      Your understanding of the grammar rules is correct, however, it is my understanding that there are specific rules for legal documents. I suggest consulting The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, published by the Harvard Law Review Association.

  8. Gary Levine says:

    Should we capitalize Boards and not independent directors, as follows? Thanks

    “The Boards and the independent directors hereby determine…”

    • Jane says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style says, “The full names of administrative bodies are capitalized. Adjectives derived from them are usually lowercased, as are many of the generic names for such bodies when used alone.” Therefore, “The boards and the independent directors hereby determine…”

  9. Shelley says:

    I have a question about place names:
    Yosemite National Park and Glacier National Park – these are all capitalized…but is it:
    Yosemite and Glacier National Parks or Yosemite and Glacier national parks?

  10. Kristen says:

    Hello,
    I was wondering if this capitalization is correct:
    “Mrs. Jane Doe is the Dean of Students.”

    or is it:
    “Mrs. Jane Doe is the dean of students.”
    Thanks!

  11. Daniel says:

    HI Jane,

    I found your entry and your subsequent responses most helpful! Thanks!

  12. Robert says:

    I am currently updating my resume. When I list my job experience, do I capitalize the titles of my positions held?

    Example: Assistant Principal, Carter High School, Houston, TX

    Also, under the objective, do I capitalize principal and high school in “Seeking a Principal position in a High School…” or “Seeking a principal position in a high school…?”

    Thank you! Love your website!

    • Jane says:

      In running text, Chicago Manual of Style lowercases titles but caps the names of departments: James Smith, director of Human Resources. On a résumé, business card, diploma, door plaque, or such, the title may be capped:
      Michelle Walker, Vice Principal, Fairview High School, New York, NY

      In your objective statement, since the words principal and high school are used generically, do not capitalize.
      Also, since the word principal has several different meanings, I recommend rewording to:
      Seeking a position as principal in a high school…

  13. hitokirihoshi says:

    what about titles with “former”?

    Former President George Bush or former President George Bush ?

    thank you very much!

    • Jane says:

      Unless the word former is at the beginning of a sentence, it should not be capitalized.

      • Cynthia says:

        According to Rule 8.20 in Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), when a title is used in apposition before a personal name–that is, not alone and as part of the name but as an equivalent to it, usually preceded by “the” or by a modifier–it is considered not a title but rather a descriptive phrase and is therefore lowercased.

        e.g., the empress Elizabeth of Austria (but Empress Elizabeth of Austria); former president Carter; former presidents Reagan and Ford; the then secretary of state Colin Powell

        • Jane says:

          Our response of March 15, 2012, only addressed the word former because reference books do not agree on whether to capitalize president. As you noted, CMOS would not capitalize it while the Associated Press Stylebook would (12th edition, p. 214). In these sorts of cases, I recommend that you simply be consistent.

  14. Virginia says:

    Do baby boomers, generation xers, and millennials get capitalized or remain lower cased?
    The baby boomers are reaching retirement age. OR The Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age.
    The generation xers/gen xers job hop. OR The Generation Xers/Gen Xers job hop.
    The millenials work long hours. The Millennials work long hours.

    What I do to one, I want to do to all as I am sometimes using all of them in the same sentence.
    Thanx

    • Jane says:

      Two of the most reputable reference books,The Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook, recommend that terms denoting generations are best lowercased. CMOS, however, recommends that the single letter X, Y, Z, etc. should be capitalized. Therefore, baby boomers, generation Xers, millennials.

  15. Shams says:

    Jane, thanks for all the good counsel.

    So, in “Jack Jackson, President of CEI, will address the senate,” “president” is properly capitalized?

  16. Monique says:

    Hello, Jane.

    I am translating documents (speeches) from French to English. The rules for capitalization are very different between the two languages. I would like to know if it is necessary to capitalize the generic titles at the beginning of a speech when used in the opening address, such as:

    Representatives of the Ministry of Education, university presidents, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends: We are gathered here today to…

    or

    Representatives of the Ministry of Education, University Presidents, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Friends: We are gathered here today to…

    Thank you for your help.

    • Jane says:

      Generic titles are not capitalized in English unless they are being used as a direct address. Honorific titles and respectful forms of address (except sir and ma’am) are capitalized in any context.

  17. Leslie says:

    Mayor John Doe is speaking and says, “as mayor, I will…”
    Do I capitalize mayor in this sentence since the word ‘the’ does not precede the job title?

  18. Allison says:

    When you do not know (or cannot remember) someone’s name, but wish to refer to that person with that person’s title, is the title capitalized?

    For instance: Bill Summers, the artist, taught me….

    The Artist I met taught me….

    If I refer to my dad as “Dad”, that becomes his name, so it is capitalized, right? Does that apply to someone like, the artist above?

    When reading the web-site, I see that Rule 3 almost applies to what I need, but not quite. Can you clarify, please.
    Rule 3
    Capitalize a person’s title when it precedes the name. Do not capitalize when the title is acting as a description following the name.
    Examples:
    Chairperson Petrov
    Ms. Petrov, the chairperson of the company, will address us at noon.
    Any help you can offer would be much appreciated.

    • Jane says:

      Our blog “Capitalization of Job Titles” contains the rule “Capitalize job titles immediately following the name when the word the does not appear in front of the job title.” Since your example regarding the artist does not have a name and the word the appears in front of the job title, do not capitalize.

      When the word Dad is used as a proper name it should be capitalized

  19. Michael says:

    Captain. I am not sure how to capitalize. I was a Marine, so my inclination is that the title of EVERY officer is capitalized – joke.
    I assume Captain Jones is capitalized. What about the following examples: The captain is waiting. The captain just looked at him. Go see the captain. The captain was standing just out side the door. The captain sent me.

    Thanks for your help.

    • Jane says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style says, “As is the case with civil titles, military titles are routinely capitalized in the literature of the organization or government with which they are associated. Nonetheless, in formal academic prose, most such titles are capitalized only when used as part of a person’s name.” Therefore, your sentences with “captain” in lowercase are correct.

  20. Sona Krutka says:

    Should I capitalize the job titles such as vice president if the name of the company is in front of teh title, sam with the board?

    would I say the ISS Vice President or ISS boad or simply ISS vice president and ISS board?
    Thank you,

    Sona

    • Jane says:

      Our rules for capitalization of job titles are the same whether or not the name of the company or board is in front of the title. Rule 3 of capitalization states, “Capitalize a person’s title when it precedes the name. Do not capitalize when the title is acting as a description following the name.” Another rule in our “Capitalization of Job Titles” blog says, “Capitalize job titles immediately following the name when the word the does not appear in front of the job title.”
      Examples:
      Michael Baxter, ISS Vice President, will be the guest speaker.
      Michael Baxter, ISS Board, will be the guest speaker.
      ISS Vice President, Michael Baxter, will be the guest speaker.
      Michael Baxter, the ISS vice president, will be the guest speaker.
      Michael Baxter, the ISS board member, will be the guest speaker.

  21. Kathy says:

    We publish several catalogs for noncredit programs that include biographies of instructors. Many of these include gratuitous capitalization, which I ruthlessly decapitate. I’d like your comment on the capitalization of master gardener, meaning a credential based on a program of education and practice, used thusly: “Jane Jones has been an active Master Gardener since 2011.” Since I lowercase professor emeritus, I am inclined to lc, but I am getting an argument.

    • Jane says:

      Regarding academic degrees, The Chicago Manual of Style says, “Spelled-out terms, often capitalized in institutional settings (and on business cards and other promotional items), should be lowercased in normal prose.” It seems that your catalog may fall under the category of “promotional items,” which may explain why you are getting an argument.

  22. Alexandra says:

    Hello Jane,

    AREAA will meet members of congress. AREAA will meet members of Congress. Which sentence is correct? In one of your examples, “The president will address Congress,” the word is capitalized.

    Thank you!

    • Jane says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style recomends that the full names of legislative and deliberative bodies, departments, bureaus, and offices should be capitalized. The United States Congress, the US Congress, and Congress are all included in this list.

  23. Names of hospital departments says:

    Hi, Jane:
    Love your website. Its very helpful. I’m a nursing instructor and need some guidance. Should you capitalize the names of hospital departments. Are employees working in the Emergency Department or on the Maternity Ward for example? In another context, will the capitalization rule change: the patient was admitted to the emergency department. I want to capitalize this. It is the name of the place.
    And as a last note, how would you say this: The Attending is Dr. Smith. Is Attending capitalized? In another context, it would look like this: Dr. Smith is the Attending. I think your rule says if ‘the’ appears then it should read: Dr. Smith is the attending.

    Thanks for your help!

    • Jane says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style says, “The full names of institutions, groups, and companies and the names of their departments, and often the shortened forms of such names (e.g., the Art Institute), are capitalized. A the preceding a name, even when part of the official title, is lowercased in running text.” Therefore, the emergency department and the maternity ward are correct or Loyola Emergency Department, for example, if no the is used. Regarding attending, since the word the is present, do not capitalize.

  24. Colleen says:

    Jane –
    Thank you SO MUCH for your website! I use it often (I hate to admit just how often!)

    Please, can you give me guidance on capitalization in prayers? Specifically, I do know to capitalize all names of God, and pronouns such as He / His. Do you also capitalize You / Your, Thee, Thy, and Thine? I would think you might capitalize Your will, for example, but what about Your servant? And I’ve seen indications that it would actually be Your Will. Help!

    • Jane says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style (8.94) says, “Pronouns referring to God or Jesus are not capitalized.” (Note that they are lowercased in most English translations of the Bible.)

  25. Jon says:

    Hello Jane.
    Thank you.
    I am wondering about punctuation for people with multiple titles. I run conferences where many of the speakers have several roles, which are pertinent to the subject matter. Do I simply pick one? If I can use multiple titles, how do I separate?

    i.e. Joe Smith, President & CEO, Acme INC; Chair, Human Rights Org

    • Jane says:

      Separate the titles just as you have done, using a semicolon to separate units of a series when one or more of the units contain commas. Avoid using abbreviations in formal writing (but you may have to use them if you do not have room in the printed conference program).

      Joe Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, Acme Incorporated; Chairperson, Human Rights Organization

  26. Jen says:

    I’m writing a script with someone. Occasionally we will have one character (A) call another character (B) “sir” or “ma’am” or “son”. I believe IF they are acting as proper names the first letter should be capitalized. My co-writer thinks not. Here is an example:

    STATE TROOPER

    Have you been smoking marijuana, Son?

    My co-writer wouldn’t capitalize “son”, but I would.

    Who is correct?

    • Jane says:

      I agree with The Associated Press Stylebook and with your co-writer that these terms should not be capitalized.

      • Jen says:

        It’s puzzling because all those Hallmark birthday cards when speaking to “Dad” capitalize dad. I did think that I learned in school that if you are calling your father, dad, then it gets the same treatment as a name, hence you capitalize the “D”.

        Is this a different rule or does it still adhere to the same rule?

        • Jane says:

          It is a different rule. Chicago Manual of Style’s rule 8.35 refers to this as a kinship name.

          “Kinship names are lowercased unless they immediately precede a personal name or are used alone, in place of a personal name.”
          Examples:
          Let’s write to Aunt Maud.

          Please, Dad, let’s go.

          • Keith Fraissinet says:

            If “Dad” and “Mom” are capitalized when used instead of a person’s name, what about other family names like “son” or “daughter”? i.e., “I love you, Dad.” “I love you, too, Son”?

          • Jane says:

            Chicago Manual of Style’s rule 8.35 refers to this as a kinship name. “Kinship names are lowercased unless they immediately precede a personal name or are used alone, in place of a personal name.” Therefore, capitalizing “Son” is correct in your sentence

  27. Tan says:

    I am attempting to submit a follow up letter to an interview and I can’t tell whether I should state the sentence as:

    . . . hope I am selected as a candidate for the next phase of the interview process.

    or

    . . . hope I am selected as a candidate for the next phase in the interviewing process.

    • Jane says:

      The term interview process is more commonly used than interviewing process. A better choice in your sentence might be hiring process.

      I hope I am selected as a candidate for the next phase of the hiring process. OR
      I hope I am selected as a candidate for the next phase of the interview process.

  28. Sherry says:

    I work for a church and am often asked to add a sentence to our bulletins such as the one that follows: “the flowers are presented by the Smith family.” Should the word “family” be capitalized after the surname?

    This has been bugging me and I’d like to print it correctly! Thanks so much.

  29. Bev Harrison says:

    I am proofreading a book and the word laird came up. Is this capitalized eg She sat in place of honor beside the laird. OR if you say the ‘laird of the McTavish clan’would it be capitalized?
    Thank you in advance for yor reply

  30. Bert says:

    I believe you are missing a rules of capitalization. The word “God” is capitalized as are references to God, as in “In the beginning the Word was God.” In fact I find some sources capitalize the preceding “The” as well, as in “In the beginning The Word was God.” Perhaps this could slip in under capitalizing titles but I feel it should rightly be more specific.

    • Jane says:

      Thank you for your suggestion. The Chicago Manual of Style’s rule (8.90) states, “Names of deities, whether in monotheistic or polytheistic religions, are capitalized.
      Allah
      Astarte
      Freyja
      God
      Itzamna
      Jehovah
      Mithra
      Satan (but the devil)
      Serapis
      Yahweh”

      Rules 8.91 and 8.92 go on to say, “Alternative or descriptive names for God as supreme being are capitalized.
      Adonai
      the Almighty
      the Deity
      the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit or the Paraclete
      the Lord
      Providence
      the Supreme Being
      the Trinity

      Words for transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense, especially when used in a religious context, are often capitalized.
      Good; Beauty; Truth; the One”

  31. Vicky Curran says:

    In a user manual that documents who is responsible for each procedure:
    The City Manager will . . .
    or
    The city manager will . . .
    Our recently-departed editor maintained that if a title was held by more than one person it was never capitalized. But if only one person held the title, (Senior Vice President of Customer Service) it was always capitalized. I can’t find this rule anywhere so far.

    • Jane says:

      Your ex-editor was referring to job titles that are used generically. The rule in our blog Capitalization of Job Titles states, “When the appears in front of the job title, do not capitalize.”

      • Ash says:

        What are the rules for capitalizing job titles when they are accompanied with the official department name (in a user manual)?

        The Minnesota Department of Public Safety probation officer and the Department of Justice office coordinator shall respond to inquiries within 24 hours.

        Would probation officer or office coordinator ever be capitalized?

        • Jane says:

          Our blog Capitalization of Job Titles says, ” “When the appears in front of the job title, do not capitalize.” Therefore, your sentence is correct as written.

  32. Ed says:

    A question. In the sentence “I was named Chair of ….” the Chair would be capitalized? And in “as chair, I…” chair would not be capitalized. Is that correct?

    • Jane says:

      The rules in our blog Capitalization of Job Titles read “Capitalize job titles immediately preceding the name when used as part of the name,” and ” Capitalize job titles immediately following the name when the word the does not appear in front of the job title.”

      Examples: We asked Chairperson Leong to join us at the meeting.
      Ms. Leong, Chairperson, will join us at the meeting.
      Ms. Leong, Chair, will join us at the meeting.

      Since your examples do not fall under these rules, do not capitalize the word chair.

  33. Sarah Grace says:

    From what I read above, I understand that since these titles become before the name that they are capitalized. Is this correct?

    Floyd Arts Community Member, Radford University Art Professor and Nationally-Known Artist, Liam Johnson, will discuss the objectives of the meeting.

    • Jane says:

      I believe that two of the titles in your sentence could fall under the grey area of “descriptive” titles rather than actual job titles. The Chicago Manual of Style‘s rule (8.29) says, “When preceding a name, generic titles that describe a person’s role or occupation—such as philosopher or historian—should be lowercased and treated as if in apposition.” Certainly Radford University Art Professor is a job title and should be capitalized. Floyd Arts community member and nationally-known artist sound more like descriptive titles. I recommend not capitalizing those terms. Of course, the ego rule described in our blog Capitalization of Job Titles could affect your decision.

      Regarding comma use, our Rule 1 of Commas says, “To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.” Therefore, use commas to separate all three titles. Also, the rule in our blog Commas with Appositives states, “When an appositive is essential to the meaning of the noun it belongs to, don’t use commas.” Therefore, you do not need commas before or after Liam Johnson.

      Floyd Arts community member, nationally known artist, and Radford University Art Professor Liam Johnson will discuss the objectives of the meeting.

  34. Allison Stein says:

    Which is correct:

    SGS’s director of accreditation or SGS’s Director of Accreditation

    • Jane says:

      The rules in our blog Capitalization of Job Titles state, “Capitalize job titles immediately preceding the name when used as part of the name.” and “Capitalize job titles immediately following the name when the word the does not appear in front of the job title.” Therefore, if the title is used in either of those instances, it should be capitalized.

      Examples:
      SGS’s Director of Accreditation, Jennifer Jackson, will be the keynote speaker.
      Jennifer Jackson, SGS’s Director of Accreditation, will be the keynote speaker.
      Jennifer Jackson is SGS’s director of accreditation.

  35. Tom Hoeber says:

    When wrinting the minutes of a meeting, should the title of a company official be capitalized when it follows a personal name?

    Example:

    The minutes were taken by Bryan Victorson, Secretary.

    The minutes were taken by Bryan Victorson, secretary.

    • Jane says:

      Our blog Capitalization of Job Titles states, ” Capitalize job titles immediately following the name when the word the does not appear in front of the job title.”
      The minutes were taken by Bryan Victorson, Secretary.

  36. Lori says:

    How about when writing dialogue? As in:

    “So what should we do?” asked the President.
    “I don’t know,” replied the Secretary of Defense.

    Should President and Secretary of Defense be capitalized?

    • Jane says:

      Our Rule 5 of Capitalization states, “Capitalize the titles of high-ranking government officials when used before their names. Do not capitalize the civil title if it is used instead of the name.

      Examples:
      The president will address Congress.
      All senators are expected to attend.
      The governors, lieutenant governors, and attorneys general called for a special task force.
      Governor Fortinbrass, Lieutenant Governor Poppins, Attorney General Dalloway, and Senators James and Twain will attend.”

      The same rule applies when writing dialogue.

      “So what should we do?” asked the president.
      “I don’t know,” replied the secretary of defense.

  37. Duane says:

    My question is this:

    If you go on Wikipedia and see the heading: how should it be capitalised?

    A good one is Focal character. That’s the grammar of it.

    For me, I would write it Focal Character, as it’s a adjective but referenced as a proper noun because technically it’s a name of something being explained.

    Am I correct?

    • Jane says:

      Wikipedia appears to follow the practice of capitalizing only the first word of the heading and any proper nouns that may be part of the heading. Focal character is not a proper noun. The word focal is an adjective describing the common noun character.

  38. neena manchanda says:

    Please guide me regarding the usage of capitals in this sentence -
    I visited the national park in Mumbai.
    Question:Will it be National Park or national park?

    • Jane says:

      Unless you specifically name the national park, do not capitalize it.

      I visited the national park in Mumbai.
      I visited Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai.

  39. Norma says:

    When ending a sentence with chair indicating a chairperson does it need to be capitalized. Such as

    If you should have any questions please contact the chair.

    • Jane says:

      Our blog Capitalization of Job Titles contains the rule “When the appears in front of the job title, do not capitalize.” Since the word the appears before the word chair, do not capitalize.

  40. Vicki says:

    What is the capitalization rule for the word “gentlemen” if you are using it to directly address a group of men in a dialogue? I know that the Chicago Manual of Style says the words “sir” and “ma’am” are not capitalized, and it seems to me that the rule for “gentlemen” and “ladies” would be the same (respectful forms of address). However, there is an example in CMS under 8.19 that is confusing to me. That rule states, “A title used alone, in place of a personal name, is capitalized only in such contexts as a toast or a formal introduction or when used in direct address.” One of the examples given is: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Prime Minister.” I believe “Prime Minister” is the example “of a title used alone, in place of a personal name. . .in such contexts as a . . .formal introduction”.

    Having said that, it is noted that in the example given, “Gentlemen” is also capitalized, and I would not think that it should be. Please explain whether “gentlemen” should be capitalized in the following example:

    “Please sit down, gentlemen,” said the vice president.

    Thank you for your assistance.

    • Jane says:

      Our rule 6 states, “Capitalize any title when used as a direct address.” Our blog When to Capitalize People’s Titles goes on to say, “Capitalize a title when used as a direct address even when the person is not named.”

      Chicago Manual of Style’s Rule 8.32 says, “Honorific titles and respectful forms of address are capitalized in any context.” The words sir and ma’am are listed as exceptions to this rule. Since the word gentlemen is not listed as an exception, it should be capitalized.

  41. Char Newcomb says:

    In my novel, a sister, speaking to her brother, will say something like “Where did you get that idea, kiddo?” Or “Hey, little brother, …”

    Kiddo or kiddo?
    Little Brother or little brother?

    And what about addressing royalty? “Yes, your grace.” “Yes, my lord.” Or should those titles always be capitalized?

    Your site is fabulous! Thank you for sharing the rules and providing some great examples.

    • Jane says:

      Words such as “kiddo” and “little brother” are often called terms of endearment or pet names. The following question and answer about the capitalization of these names can be found in the Q&A section of the Associated Press Stylebook:

      Q. Would you capitalize terms of endearment such as Sweetie, Pumpkin, etc.? What about calling someone “young man”? – from Anderson, Ind. on Wed, Feb 22, 2012

      A. Informal terms of address are lowercase. Same for young man.

      Therefore, do not capitalize these names.

      The Chicago Manual of Style’s Rule 8.32 says, “Honorific titles and respectful forms of address are capitalized in any context.” They do, however, list the following exceptions to the rule:

      sir, ma’am
      my lord, my lady

  42. Cindy says:

    When addressing an envelope to a family do you capitalize the word “family” or leave it lower-cased?

    i.e. ~
    The Larsen family or The Larsen Family

    • Jane says:

      Capitalize family in an address on an envelope, but not when used in a sentence.

      Examples:

      The Larsen Family
      114 Main Street
      Anytown, New York 10055

      We saw the Larsen family at church on Sunday.

  43. Daniel says:

    I love this blog. Thank you for this!

    Question: When a character in fiction is referred to solely by a title or honorific preceded by the definite article, should that be written in lowercase? And in translations of allegorical short stories or fairy tales should “The Princess” or “The King ” also be in lowercase?

    Examples:

    (I.) The family stood in awe of “the Lady.” The Lady was was refined. The Lady was the arbitress of taste. The Lady tempered all conversation, regulated all social events. In short, the Lady was a crashing bore. (Should “the lady” be lowercase?)

    (II.) The Colonel lived on an inadequate pension, but suited up each day in full regimentals and processed through town, touching his brim by way of salutation, or removing his hat and smiling expansively whenever the Widow Esther approached. (Should “the colonel” and “the widow” be lowercase?)

    (III.) The Emperor banished Sister Bright Jade from the realm. But the Emperor was cursed thereafter. (Should “the Emperor” be lowercase if the tale is entirely about him?)

    I’m also reminded of Nicholas Nikleby in which one of the child actors is humorously referred to as the Prodigy in multiple chapters.

    • Jane says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style’s rule 8.34 states,”In references to works of drama or fiction, epithets or generic titles used in place of names are normally capitalized.” Therefore, write the Princess, the King, the Lady, the Colonel, the Widow, the Emperor, and the Prodigy.

  44. Ted says:

    How does one capitalize and hyphenate “vice-president” in the list of officers on letterhead?
    Which is it:
    Vice-President
    Vice-president
    Vice President
    Vice president

  45. Bonnie says:

    Can you please address the use of commas in titles for business card use, i.e. our VP requests in the line under his name that I remove the comma between Vice President and Business Development, so it is simply Vice President Business Development rather than Vice President. Business Development. Is this a new or acceptable style for business cards? I cannot find a source to address this format question. And when I apply this format to other titles, it seems more obviously wrong, i.e. Director Recruiting instead of Director, Recruiting. Thanks for this helpful website.

  46. Bonnie says:

    Correction: …so it is simply Vice President Business Development rather than Vice President, Business Development.

    • Jane says:

      Although I have not been able to find any coverage of business cards in the leading style manuals, perhaps I can draw upon the principle of consistency as well as the “ego rule” mentioned in my blog, Capitalization of Job Titles. I have commonly seen such titles in the form “Vice President of Business Development.” A comma could be considered a replacement for the word of. My preference would be “Vice President of Business Development” or “Vice President, Business Development.” However, our ego rule generally applied says that you may have to ignore some rules in real life. If someone in your office (as in your boss) wants his or her title written in a certain way, then do so. For consistency, however, it would be best if your company decided on a format and stuck to it.

  47. Rose says:

    Do you capitalize Ron Goodman, The Treasure of Senior Class for a high school student?

    • Jane says:

      When the word the appears in front of a title, do not capitalize. Senior class should not be capitalized unless a specific senior class is named, making it a proper noun.

      Ron Goodman, the treasurer of senior class
      Ron Goodman, Treasurer of Washington High Senior Class of 2013

  48. Judy Stone says:

    Which is the correct form when addressing royalty in writing: “Yes, my King.” or “Yes, My King.” Your site is a font of information, and I hope you can help.

    • Jane says:

      After performing an internet search for “how to address royalty in writing,” I have concluded that this is an area of specialized expertise about which I am not qualified to give advice. What I did find in common on a couple sites was the recommendation to use “Your Majesty.”

  49. Crystal says:

    Iam having trouble in this sentence Do you think he will be our next Vice President? Why is vice president capitalized?

  50. adam strange says:

    I’m writing a screenplay where one of the character’s names is the number 251. What would you do in this situation? What should I do when the name 251 is at the beginning of the sentence? I know this kind of encompasses the rules with numbers but there is no where to as a question on that page.

    • Jane says:

      There are no grammar rules for numbers as names. Our Rule 16 of Writing Numbers states, “Write out a number if it begins a sentence.” That does not seem like a good idea if the number is a character’s name since that would essentially be changing the “spelling” of the name. Since you are the author of the screenplay, you can set your own rule and be consistent. For instance, how does this person pronounce his/her name? Is it two hundred fifty-one or two five one? At the beginning of a sentence, you can decide whether to write the name out in either of these two ways or as 251. Just be consistent throughout the screenplay.

  51. John says:

    Im writing a paper about Governor Bobby Jindal & I am not sure if I need to capitalize “This is the governors last term and ……….
    Thanks in advance. PS I’m thinking that it should be lower case but I am just not sure.

    • Jane says:

      Our Rule 5 of Capitalization states, “Capitalize the titles of high-ranking government officials when used before their names. Do not capitalize the civil title if it is used instead of the name.” Therefore, do not capitalize “the governor’s last term . . .”

  52. Summer says:

    As Principal-in-Charge of the chemical engineering portion of this project, Bill will ultimately…

    Would you capialize “Principal-in-Charge”?

  53. Ana says:

    In a press release, when writing John Doe has been promoted to Executive Vice President – is that title initial capped or not?

    • Jane says:

      Since the job title is not used as part of a name or as a direct address, it would not usually be capitalized. The Chicago Manual of Style does, however, note in their Rule 8.1 that “In certain nonacademic contexts—e.g., a press release—such terms as president may be capitalized.”

  54. Victoria says:

    I cannot find a source for this question about the capitalization of titles in direct discourse. “Thank you, detective” or “Will I survive, doctor?” We would capitalize in these case: “Hello, Senator,” and “Yes, General.” But what about the first two instances here?

    Thanks! I’m glad I found this site.

    • Jane says:

      Our Rule 6 of Capitalization states, “Capitalize any title when used as a direct address.”

      Example:
      Will you take my temperature, Doctor?

      Therefore, write the following:
      Thank you, Detective.
      Will I survive, Doctor?

  55. Debbie says:

    I am a court reporter and looked at Rule 6 of Capitalization: “Capitalize any title when used as a direct address.” (nominative of address) — Well, I have an issue in dialogue Q&A — using Ma’am instead of witness/deponent’s name — e.g. “Do you know the difference between a guess and an estimate, Ma’am?” (My belief “Ma’am” is used instead of her name – in this case, Ms. Flores – and it is therefore a noun of address throughout, and should be initial capitalized on direct address. These are go-arounds between my proofer and myself, the reporter?? What say you, Ms. Jane?

    • Jane says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style’s Rule 8.32, dealing with honorific titles and respectful forms of address, specifically states that the words sir and ma’am are lowercased. Since these words are primarily used as a direct address, I would follow Chicago‘s rule.

  56. Maria says:

    I am writing in an essay in which I want to use the following phrase:

    “Under the Presidency of Barack Obama”
    or
    “Under the Presidency of President Barack Obama”

    Which one is the correct way to make the statement and capitalize it?

  57. Luke says:

    I just wanted to point out that the capitalization of days of the week and months was not included on the website. As a Canadian who uses French as well, which doesn’t capitalize such words, I second-guessed my intuition that we do indeed capitalize such words in English. If I am not the only one, then others might find it important to have this rule included.

    • Jane says:

      You are right, this is not mentioned on the website. However, your timing is just right. We are preparing a new edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation and will be revising the website accordingly. Capitalization of days of the week and the names of months will be included in the new edition.

  58. Ben says:

    I am updating a policy. The sentence says “If the oxygen level falls below 150 inches, the Administrator on Call will be notified.” Is this correct?

    • Jane says:

      Since the job title “administrator on call” is not used as part of a name or as a direct address, do not capitalize.
      “If the oxygen level falls below 150 inches, the administrator on call will be notified.”

  59. NKC says:

    Being a forefront player in the interior industry in Bangalore, we decorate the surroundings of Offices/Houses which exemplifies creativity in every sense of the word and create ambience that is impressive and inspiring to all.
    or
    Being a forefront player in the interior industry in Bangalore, It decorates the surroundings of Offices/Houses which exemplifies creativity in every sense of the word and create ambience that is impressive and inspiring to all.
    Which one is correct? (After Bangalore, it/we)
    Sir, kindly elaborate it.

    • Jane says:

      Use the word as rather than being to introduce your sentence. Also, instead of “a forefront player,” you need to use the plural noun “forefront players” to agree with the pronoun we. The verbs must all agree with the word we, therefore write decorate, exemplify, and create. There is no need to capitalize the words offices or houses, add commas after houses and word, and insert the article an in front of the word ambience.

  60. Joy says:

    Thanks for your great advice! Looking for guidance on when to capitalize titles of certified professionals. For example, one may go through a certification process to become a CPST, which stands for Child Passenger Safety Technician, or a CPSTI, which stands for Child Passenger Safety Instructor. If you aren’t using the title with a person’s name, should Instructor and Technician be capitlaized? For example,

    “CPS Technicians and Instructors put their knowledge to work through a variety of community based activities.”

    And

    “In order to become a CPS Technician, you’ll need to pass the CPS Certification Course.”

    • Jane says:

      If you are not using the title with a person’s name, the term should not be capitalized. I assume that “CPS Certification Course” is the official name of the course and therefore should be capitalized.

      CPS technicians and instructors put their knowledge to work through a variety of community based activities.
      In order to become a CPS technician, you’ll need to pass the CPS Certification Course.

  61. Brian says:

    Williams, Inc. was founded in 1991 by my father, David Williams (Chairman of the Board).

    *Does “father” need to be capitalized in this instance?

    • Jane says:

      Rule 2 in our blog Kinship Names: To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize? says, “Do not capitalize a kinship name when it is not part of the personal name but is a word describing the personal name. This usually occurs when the kinship name is preceded by articles such as the, a, or an; or possessive pronouns such as his, her, my, our, or their.” Therefore, write “Williams, Inc. was founded in 1991 by my father, David Williams (chairman of the board).” Titles are customarily lowercase except directly in front of a name.

  62. wjewelr says:

    Should the following titles in the sentences below be capitalized? BTW – there is no period since the sentences are bulleted.

    The account executive and the subject matter expert will provided the proposed facility and proposed solution (if the solution has not been determined, the kickoff call may need to be delayed)
    Or
    The Account Executive and the Subject Matter Expert will provided the proposed facility and proposed solution (if the solution has not been determined, the kickoff call may need to be delayed)
    Or
    The Proposal Manager and the Account Executive will identify a win strategy to incorporate throughout the proposal response

    Thanks!

    • Jane says:

      Titles should only be capitalized if they precede a proper name when used as part of the name. Some authorities also capitalize titles if they immediately follow the name without the word “the.” However, the Associated Press Stylebook does not recommend capitals in that case.

  63. DC says:

    I’ve a few examples that are troubling me – have I dealt with them correctly?

    - Physician Su was promoted to the position of Deputy Manager of the hospital’s Administrative Department.

    - It was even predicted that he might one day become Deputy Director of Human Resources.

    - They discussed the issue at the annual meeting of the hospital’s permanent committee.

    - From 7:30 to 9:30am he had breakfast and meetings with important guests such as the hotel director or manager, the head of the local construction department, the head of the local real estate department, the vice director of the town’s trust fund and so on.

    -

    • Jane says:

      Capitalization has a lot of gray areas. The rule of thumb is to lowercase job titles when not used with names. Therefore, we recommend not capitalizing deputy manager or deputy director of human resources. (This rule is often overlooked in promotional materials.) We also suggest lowercase for the generic-sounding administrative department, since all hospitals have administrative departments. Your third sentence is correct. In your last sentence, we’d put a space after 9:30 and a comma after am. The phrase “and so on” seems a little informal. You may want to reword with etc. and place a comma after the word fund.

      Physician Su was promoted to the position of deputy manager of the hospital’s administrative department.
      It was even predicted that he might one day become deputy director of human resources.
      From 7:30 to 9:30 am, he had breakfast and meetings with important guests such as the hotel director or manager, the head of the local construction department, the head of the local real estate department, the vice director of the town’s trust fund, etc.

  64. mea says:

    In the sentence, “I talked to FBI agents Brown and Smith yesterday.”, should “agents” be capitalized?

    • Jane says:

      This is a close call, but we see agent as a job description, not a title, so we recommend lowercase in your sentence. However, in a sentence like We saw agent Smith, we could see some writers opting for a capital A.

  65. Allison says:

    When I say John Doe, Secretary pro tem, of the organization. Is “pro tem” capitalized?

  66. Bridget says:

    I know that when referring to a family member in a sentence such as “My husband went to town,” the word “husband” is a common noun and is therefore not capitalized.

    However, what if a wife in a work of fiction directly addresses her husband in this fashion, “My lord husband …”, should it be as I wrote it, or, since the wife is speaking directly to the husband, should it be, “My Lord Husband” or “My lord Husband”? And obviously, “my” is capped here because it starts the sentence, but if the phrase is in the middle of a sentence, would “my” ever be capped?

    Thank you for clarifying these gray areas.

    Bridget

    • Jane says:

      This is a gray area indeed. Would you have similar problems with “my dear husband”? If “my lord husband” is used as a direct address, some writers may well use capitals, but many would not.

  67. Mekenzie says:

    “The art teacher complemented the students on the good job they did dyeing their T-shirts.”

    or

    “The Art teacher complemented the students on the good job they did dyeing their T-shirts.”

    • Jane says:

      Since the job title is not used as part of a person’s name, do not capitalize. Also, the word complimented is not spelled correctly.

      The art teacher complimented the students on the good job they did dyeing their T-shirts.

  68. Kajmere says:

    Would you capitalize “clan” such as Masrur of the Fanalis Clan? Or Masrur of the Fanalis clan?

  69. Douglas Pearce says:

    Dear Jane,
    During dialogue,where no name is invoked should the title captain be capitalized or not?

    Example: “Yes, Captain.”
    or
    “Yes, captain.”
    Thanks.

  70. Patricia Howell says:

    Please let me know which is the correct way to sign the title as acting president of a local college:
    1. John Doe, acting President;
    2. John Doe, Acting President;
    3. John Doe, President (Acting);
    4. John Doe, President (acting).
    Thank you for your help, your lessons are valuable.

    • Jane says:

      There are several guidelines and rules to consider in responding to your question. We recently revised our blog “When to Capitalize People’s Titles” to reflect that titles may be either capitalized or lowercased in the complimentary close of a letter. However, when considering the “acting” portion of the signature line you are considering, our Grammar Rules for Capitalization section advises that occupations or job descriptions are not the same as titles and should not be capitalized. Finally, our blog “Capitalization of Job Titles” alerts us to the “ego rule” where, if someone in your office (as in your boss) wants his or her title capitalized in all situations, then do so. Therefore, you have three options (whether you place “acting” or “Acting” in parentheses after the name or not is up to you):

      acting President
      Acting President
      acting president

  71. Shirat says:

    Valuable read as always. Love your blog.

    I do some editorial work for digital marketers and keep coming across use of capitals when it comes to their titles. An example would be:

    The next ORIAN Workshop is quickly approaching and if you’ve received this email, you are eligible to attend! As you already know, the ORIAN Membership is designed to take you from Digital Marketer to Digital Brand Expert.

    Question: In this case would you capitalize: “workshop”, “membership”, “digital marketer”, and “digital brand expert”?

    Appreciate any tips. Thank you!

    • We are glad you find our blog valuable. We do not recommend capitalizing any of those terms. It is common for companies to use capital letters for their various job titles and departments, but that doesn’t mean you have to.

  72. Cathy says:

    I sit on a bylaws and policy committee for an organization to which I belong and we are in the process of reviewing both documents. We have had some lively discussions about capitalization of titles.

    An example would be: The elected officers of the FCBR shall be: a President, President-Elect, Treasurer and a Secretary. The governing body of the FCBR shall be a Board of Directors consisting of the President, President-Elect, Treasurer, Secretary, the Immediate Past President and seven (7) elected REALTOR® Members of the FCBR.

    If you could give me an example of how the sentence should be structured so I could take it back to the committee, I would appreciate it. Thank you for your help.

    • The elected officers of the FCBR shall be: a president, president-elect, treasurer, and secretary. The governing body of the FCBR shall be a board of directors consisting of the president, president-elect, treasurer, secretary, the immediate past president, and seven (7) elected REALTOR® members of the FCBR.

  73. wes says:

    Hi, Thank you for this post. I’m writing an article about the mayor of our county. At the beginning I refer to him by name. Throughout the article do I capitalize his title if I’m using it instead of his name?

    “This article is about Mayor John Doe. The Mayor (or mayor?) was born in 1947. He went to school locally. The Mayor (or mayor?) was a good sport while I was interviewing him….”

    Thanks!

  74. Meg says:

    Hello,

    I have a similar question to the previous one, only this time it’s about whether to capitalize the word “park” after naming a specific park earlier in the document.

    “Visitors come to Grand Canyon National Park for many reasons, including to enjoy the beautiful Colorado River. The Park recently released a study about the health of the river, which found that…”

    Is park capitalized in the 2nd sentence? Would your answer be the same if “the Park” was a couple of sentences later?

    Thanks!

    • Capitalization is fraught with gray areas. If you are working on government documents or representing a government agency, our blog Capitalization of Governmental Words says, “When you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize it.” Therefore, the author has some leeway in government work. However, we generally tend to side with the AP Stylebook and would recommend not capitalizing in this instance. Not to get too technical here, but is it really “the park” or even “Grand Canyon National Park” that issued the report, or should it be the National Park Service that issued the report?

  75. Kris says:

    When writing dialogue, and a character addresses another using a term of endearment such as Hey beautiful, or using any other term to address them, other than their proper name, should that term be capitalized?

  76. Scooter says:

    I know to lowercase occupations before full names, but what if the occupation comes before just a surname?

    Examples:
    Director Spielberg
    Owner Smith
    Coach Sykes
    Professor Ames

    • If the title and name are used as a direct address, it should be capitalized. The word owner sounds more like a description rather than a job title or occupation. We cannot imagine addressing someone as “Owner Smith.” Similarly, “Director Spielberg” is not a form of address we’re likely to see either. Examples:

      Do we have a game on Saturday, Coach Sykes?
      When is the research paper due, Professor Ames?

      Our blog Capitalization of Job Titles says, “Capitalize job titles immediately preceding the name when used as part of the name.
      Example: We asked Chairperson Leong to join us at the meeting.”

  77. John says:

    in the case of the classification. for example, assume there were different classifications of druids, call them levels or ranks if you will. so one class if purifier druids; another class is necrotic druids; another class is defiler druids…

    my question is this: is the word ‘druid’ supposed to be capitalized; or, is the word denoting the druid’s classification supposed to be capitalized? or… weird thought, should they both be capitalized?

    P.S. this question is in relation to a fantasy novel series that i am writing.

    Thank you for your time; it is much appreciated.

  78. Senna says:

    If using the word “child” as a title of endearment, can it not be capitalized in the middle or end of the sentence? ["Come here, Child."] It does follow the same placement and function as “dear” or “sweetie” when used in that manner. It replaces the name of the child, and the child is being addressed with it. This has sparked some debate between another writer and I.

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