istock_000005198109xsmallWe can’t squeeze a comprehensive treatise on capitalization into one short blog, but we can put in a few words in favor of a lower case mindset.

I’ve found that many physicians are fussy about capital letters. So are many academics and business managers. They want ALL titles beginning with a capital letter, as in Joe Smith, Personnel Director; or Joe Smith, M.D., Chief Medical Officer.

This is fine IF you’re printing a list, writing PR copy for an organization, or printing a name on a book cover. In news or information for the general public, not so good. “Put ’em down” is the rule. For example:

Joe Smith has been the president of ABC Corporation for the past ten years.

If you leave the first “the” out of the above sentence, the rule changes.

Joe Smith has been President of ABC Corporation for the past ten years.

Why? Because “president” is a word describing a function; “President” is a title that goes with the company name. Tricky, sometimes. Worth it to try for lower case if you can justify it.

Proper names are always capitalized. No problem there.

But what about “dad,” “mom,” or “girlfriend?” The rule is that if you’re using a term as a name, put a capital letter at the start of each word. If you’re writing about a person, put it down. For example…

My mom was the most important person in my life.
“Hey, Mom!” I shouted as I ran in the front door.

Capital letters are helpful when they signal a proper name. Too many capital letters in a paragraph give the reader a headache. Why? Because it’s harder to read capitalized words than those in lower case. Aim for a “down style” in your writing, and it will be easier to read.

The first letter of the first word of a sentence is always capitalized. Not a problem for 99.5% of English writers.

By the way, when you’re telling someone what to write, it’s a good idea to say things like “upper case” when you want a capital letter, and “lower case” when you don’t.

And as I’ve said, when you can, “put it down.”

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