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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?

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


Capitalization of Academic Degrees

Perhaps you’ve wondered if and when academic degrees (bachelor’s, master’s, etc.) should be capitalized.

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) recommends writing academic degrees in lower case except when directly preceding or following a name.

Examples:
Orlando is pursuing a bachelor of science in civil engineering.
He introduced Jennifer Miller, Master of Fine Arts.
He introduced Master of Fine Arts Jennifer Miller.

The Associated Press Stylebook (AP) recommends no capitals when referring to degrees in general terms (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, associate degree) but always capitalizing specific degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science), whether or not they directly precede or follow a name.

Examples:
Orlando is thinking about getting a Bachelor of Science degree.
Orlando is thinking about getting a master’s degree.
He introduced Orlando Cruz, Bachelor of Science.

My recommendation is to pick your resource and then be consistent.

Where there is agreement, however, is that abbreviations of academic degrees are to be capitalized. CMOS recommends omitting periods unless required for tradition or consistency (BA, BS, MA, MS, PhD), but AP prefers retaining the periods (B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., Ph.D.).

 

Pop Quiz

  1. The keynote speaker tonight will be Juris Doctor/juris doctor Michael Abercrombie.
  2. The textbook was authored by Azizah Bakar, Master of Science/master of science.
  3. Eleanor is finally reaching the end of her studies for her Doctorate in History/doctorate in history.
  4. After studying hard for so many years, I definitely feel that I’ve earned my MS/M.S. in biology.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. Juris Doctor
  2. Master of Science
  3. doctorate in history
  4. MS OR M.S.

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Posted on Sunday, March 29, 2009, at 6:16 pm


Capitalization of Governmental Words

When you write about or to a governmental agency, do you wonder when to capitalize? Here are some simple rules to help you.

Rule: When you use the complete names of departments, capitalize. You may also capitalize a shortened form of a department. Do not capitalize when these words are used as adjectives or generically.

Examples:
the United Nations General Assembly
the General Assembly
Congress
a congressional committee

Rule: Capitalize civil titles only when used with the name following or when addressing someone directly.

Examples:
Councilman James Harris
the councilman
James Harris, councilman
How are you voting, Councilman?
President Obama
the president

Rule: If you are working on government documents or you are representing a government agency, then you may capitalize words like City, County, and District when they stand alone.

Example: The County will implement the plan approved by the voters last June.

Rule: When you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize it.

Examples:
The District Water Plan allocates … The Plan calls for …
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken the case. The Bureau has sent out a bulletin to other federal departments to enlist their help in capturing the fugitive.

However, if you are not working on government documents or are not representing a government agency, do not capitalize generic or shortened terms.

Examples:
The county will implement the plan …
The plan calls for …
The bureau has sent out a bulletin

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Posted on Thursday, May 29, 2008, at 2:18 am


Capitalization After Colons

Have you run across the situation where one sentence ending with a colon is followed by another sentence? Do you capitalize the first word of that second sentence? Why would you use a colon between the two sentences rather than a period or a semicolon?

Rule for colons between sentences: Use a colon instead of a semicolon or a period between two sentences when the second sentence explains or illustrates something in the first sentence.

Capitalization rule with sentences after colons: If only one sentence follows the colon, it is often not necessary to capitalize the first word of the new sentence. If two or more sentences follow the colon, capitalize the first word of each sentence following.

Examples:
One of my favorite novels is by Kurt Vonnegut: his novel Slaughterhouse-Five is often funny yet packs an emotional punch.

Garlic is used generously in Italian dishes: It greatly enhances the flavor of pasta. Garlic also enhances the flavor of lasagna, one of my favorite dishes.
Now, should you capitalize the first word after a colon if it begins a list rather than a new sentence?

Rule: Do not capitalize the first word of a list after a colon.

Example: I like the following Italian dishes: pasta primavera, eggplant parmesan, and lasagna.

Pop Quiz
Add or remove capitalization as needed.
1. Please visit me at my newly remodeled store: Skylights and large glass windows have been added.
2. Please visit me at my newly remodeled store: skylights and large glass windows have been added. You will also find more inventory and friendly sales help.
3. I need the following items from the store: Bread, salt, and sugar.

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Please visit me at my newly remodeled store: skylights and large glass windows have been added.
2. Please visit me at my newly remodeled store: Skylights and large glass windows have been added. You will also find more inventory and friendly sales help.
3. I need the following items from the store: bread, salt, and sugar.

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Posted on Monday, September 10, 2007, at 6:46 pm


Capitalization of Job Titles

With capitalization of job titles, there are rules and then there is the “rule.” The rules are based on some precedent while the “rule” is based on ego. Let’s go over the rules that have precedent first.

Rule: 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.

Rule: Titles immediately following the name do not ordinarily require capitalization.
Examples:
Ms. Leong, chairperson, will join us at the meeting.
Ms. Leong, chair, will join us at the meeting.
Mr. Hanson, editorial adviser for The Independent Journal, helped draft the article.

Rule: When the appears in front of the job title, do not capitalize.
Examples:
Mr. Hanson, the editorial advisor, helped draft the article.
The chairperson, Sarah Leong, will join us at the meeting.
Mr. Cortez was the senior managing director of the Baskin Group.

Rule: Capitalize titles in signature lines.
Examples:
Sarah Leong, Chairperson
Craig Hanson, Editorial Advisor

Rule: Do not capitalize titles when used descriptively.
Example: Ms. Leong, who will chair the meeting, is always on time.

“Rule”: The “ego rule” is that you may have to ignore the above rules in real life. If someone in your office (as in your boss) wants his or her title capitalized in all situations, then do so. Generally, the higher in rank someone is in an organization, the more likely his or her title will be capitalized at all times.

 

Pop Quiz

1. Thank goodness for Finance Director, Sam Woo.
2. Sam Woo, our finance director, delivered our third-quarter projections.
3. Sam Woo, Finance Director, delivered our third-quarter projections.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

Only No. 3 should be changed: Sam Woo, finance director, delivered our third-quarter projections.

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Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007, at 12:14 am