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When Should You Capitalize Words?

Pride capitals, common nouns, and proper nouns.

By
Rob Reinalda, Writing for
Episode #184

Job Titles and Job Descriptions

One business conundrum is figuring out when to capitalize job titles and job descriptions. Here's the rule: If the title is an actual title—not just a job description—and it comes before the person’s name, it should generally be uppercase, as in, “Executive Vice President Xavier Gloopnox IV.” In that case, “Executive Vice President” is capitalized because it is a job title before the name.

If the title come after the name, though, make it lowercase. In that case, it’s an appositive phrase serving as an identifier. [We talked about appositives in Episode 141.] For a general job description, use lowercase, regardless of whether it comes before or after a name. In the following example, “company spokesman” is just a description, not a title, so it is lowercase.

Fritter Frenzy company spokesman Leopold Handlebar delivered the news.

When in doubt, or whenever you encounter someone with a lengthy official job title, give the person’s name first, then follow with the title, lowercase. For example: Bartholomew Z. Bartholomew, 2nd assistant vice president for sales, northeast region, for Amalgamated Malaria Inc. His name and the company name are uppercase, but the rest of the words, such as “assistant vice president for sales,” are lowercase. It’s often best to simplify when possible. Better still might be to call him “a sales executive,” especially if you’re writing for an audio presentation, such as a podcast. Ahem.

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About the Author

Rob Reinalda, Writing for Grammar Girl

Rob Reinalda, winner of ACES' 2019 Robinson Prize for excellence in editing, is the founder and principal of Word Czar Media. As executive editor for Ragan Communications, he writes its popular Brighter Writer column.

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