Capitalization

Avoid unnecessary capitalization. Use capital letters to begin proper nouns, sentences, headings and the important words in publication titles. Proper nouns are the particular names of people, places and things. Excessive capitalization for other purposes distracts the reader and hinders reading. Do not capitalize the first letter of a word (or words in a phrase) simply to highlight it or to express its importance.

Check this or another style manual for capitalization of a particular word or type of word. If not listed there, check your dictionary. And if still in doubt, lowercase.

Except for acronyms and some abbreviations, avoid capitalizing all the letters in a word, sentence, heading, headline or phrase--including brand names, logos and trademarks. If necessary for emphasis, try other typographical uses, such as boldfacing, italics,color,type sizeand different butcomplementary typefaces. Also see headlines, headings; underlining.

Capitalization of abbreviations and acronyms varies. For guidance, see abbreviations and acronyms, entries in this style guide for specific words and terms, and your dictionary. Although the abbreviation or acronym is capitalized for some common or generic nouns and terms, lowercase the spelled-out form; for example, see environmental impact statement.

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Capitalize the first word of every sentence, heading and headline, including quoted statements and direct questions. Even if a person, business or organization begins its name with a lowercase letter, capitalize the first letter of the name at the beginning of sentences, headings and headlines: Gary de Shazo won the design award. De Shazo expressed appreciation for the support of his colleagues.

Capitalize proper nouns that specifically name a person, place or thing, unless a person, business or organization requests a lowercase first letter. If a name begins with a lowercase letter, capitalize the first letter of the name at the beginning of sentences and headlines.

Capitalize common nouns such as party, river and street when they are an integral part of the full name for a person, place or thing: Ballinger Street, Rheinard River, Democratic Party, Puget Sound. Lowercase these common nouns when they stand alone in later references: the party, the river, the street, the sound.

Lowercase common noun elements of names in all plural uses: Democratic and Republican parties, Ackley and Messer streets, 154th and 156th avenues southeast. But don't lowercase the common nouns when the form is not plural: She can catch the bus on Third or Fifth Avenue.

Capitalize the proper names of nationalities, peoples, races, tribes and so on: African American, American Indians, Arab, Asian, Jewish, Latino, Muckleshoot, Tulalip, Puyallup. Lowercase black, white, red and so on.

Many organizations adopt specific capitalization guidelines for their governing boards, facilities, job titles and descriptions, organizational structure, and programs, projects and plans. It's efficient to develop styles consistent with a standard, readily available, published reference source.

  • committees On first reference, spell out and capitalize the full name of committees: the Neighborhood Action Committee. Refer to the committee (preferred) or abbreviate on later references (all caps, no periods): NAC. Lowercase committee when it stands alone: The committee voted to endorse the recommendation. See subcommittee, task force.
  • facilities Lowercase facilities when the name describes only what the facility does: parking lot, substation. Capitalize proper nouns that are part of the facility's name: Southgate parking lot. See facility. When using part of a facility's name, capitalize only the proper noun. Lowercase the common nouns when shortening the name: Sunset Maintenance Center, the maintenance center, the center.
  • job titles and descriptions Consistency is key. Capitalize official job titles when used immediately before a name as part of a name: Finance Department Director Virginia Schwieterman, Accounting Manager Billie Burke, Budget Planner Mary Munchkin, Computer Technician George Bailey, Media Specialist Tim Wright. Lowercase titles when used alone or when set off descriptively from a name by commas, often after a name; when applicable, capitalize only the names of departments, divisions and other groups: Virginia Schwieterman, Finance Department director; Billie Burke, manager of the Accounting Division; Billie Burke, accounting manager; Mary Munchkin, budget planner; George Bailey, computer technician; Tim Wright, media specialist.
  • organizational structure Capitalize the official (proper) names of all organization departments, divisions, sections, offices, units and groups: the Englehart Department of Finance, Accounting Division, Customer Services Section, Property Tax Information Office, Marketing Unit, Documentation Group. Use the whole name on first reference.

    For later references, shortened versions of organizational names - without the common nouns department, division, section and so on - are acceptable. Capitalize the "proper" name part of full names when using only that part of the name and dropping the common noun: Finance, Accounting, Customer Services. Don't capitalize those words, however, when describing the general role or work of a group. Also, lowercase the "common" (or generic) name part of the full name when using only that part of the name: the department, the division, the section. Be sure the context makes clear the organizational unit the common name is mentioning. See cities and towns, county, governmental bodies, office.

  • programs, projects and plans Capitalize the full name of official programs, projects or plans. Otherwise, avoid capitalizing them. Always lowercase program, project or plan when the word stands alone or when using only part of the formal name.

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