Writing Guides

   

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.

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.

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