Using Capitals

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 18th, 2008 at 1:17 PM

Random capitals drive me mad. Some documents look as though the capitals goblin has sprinkled a sack full of them liberally but randomly all over the copy. The effect is copy that makes your eyes dance all over the page which means it’s going to be difficult to read. So, let’s catch that goblin and put a stop to his evil doings!

Capitals are used:

Quite often you see the Company, or the Customer. This isn’t necessary because they are not names.Compass directions take capitals only when they are a recognised geographical or political region ie when they form a title. Examples are:

Examples of non-capitalised compass directions are:

It gets tricky when it’s not absolutely clear if you are writing about area from a directional point of view or it is a definite territory. An example would be the North West of England or north-west of England. But whichever you chose, be consistent throughout the copy.

Ranks and titles

When it comes to ranks and titles they are capitalised only when used in conjunction with a name. So you would write President Bush but the president.

Incidentally, when referring to our own prime minister, it should be the prime minister, Mr Blair not Prime Minister Blair, but that’s touching on a whole other area.

When referring to office holders without their name, the title is in lower case for example: the chancellor of the exchequer, the foreign secretary, the chairman (of whatever company).

There are, of course, a few exceptions with titles particularly if they would look odd in lower case eg: Black Rod, Master of the Roles and God.

However, no matter how God-like your managing director considers themselves, their title is lower case unless used before their name eg Managing Director Elaine Swift (ooo that sounds good!).

Departments too, such as marketing department, are lower case.

Dates and seasons

Days, months, festivals and holidays are all capitalised :

The seasons however are lower case.

That’s just a brief look at some of the instances you are likely to come across in business. For more in-depth guides The Oxford Guide to Style and The Economist Style Guide are both excellent.

By the way, word of warning – good old Microsoft spell-checker totally disagrees with everything I’ve said!

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

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