Capitalize For Emphasis

If you capitalize all letters within an E-mail, you're likely to hear from your reader, "Stop shouting at me!" All caps are considered "shouting."

When you capitalize a word you are adding emphasis or importance, or otherwise highlighting the word. Be cautious about conveying the significance resulting from capitalizing a word. The points that follow outline when it's proper to capitalize words and when it's considered optional. (Note that you don't capitalize seasons [except in a title or if personified] or directionals. Compass points, when abbreviated, are capitalized.)

Here are ten common capitalization issues you're likely to run into in business writing.

1. Capitalize official titles of honor and respect when they precede personal names.

Princess Diana vs. Diana, the princess Ms. Mary Watkins

President Washington vs. Washington, the first president of the United States of America

2. Capitalizing job titles is generally not recommended by style guides, although many companies do so. If you do, be consistent. If a job title precedes the job holder's name, then capitalize it.

Chairman Frank Donahue vs. Frank Donahue, chairman of the committee

3. Capitalize the first, last, and all important words in a title. (Use italics to indicate a book, play, or movie title; place article titles within quotation marks.)

Jane K. Cleland is the author of Business Writing for Results. Have you seen A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum on Broadway?

4. Capitalize the name of all governmental agencies whether using the complete name or a shortened version of the name.

We can get the licensing requirements from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

After completing your tax forms, send them to the Internal Revenue Service.

5. Capitalize all academic degrees following a name (whether abbreviated or written out) and all academic and religious titles.

William Andres, Ph.D. Bishop Daniel Smyth

Alice Jones-Peterson, Certified Financial Planner Professor Al Walker Mohammed Aveki, M.D. Billy Peterson, CPA

6. Capitalize all trade names. You'll need to go to the source for this, and you should capitalize all words exactly as the organization does.

Cardmembers may qualify for our prestigious and exclusive program, the Preferred Members Club. We own a Xerox copier. Do you like Post-it Notes?

7. Capitalize all official building names, streets, planets, heavenly bodies, continents, regions of a country, cities, states, countries, landforms, bodies of water, and any public place.

Many companies have their headquarters in the Empire State

Building in New York City. Have you visited Central Park?

A trip down the Nile River would be invigorating; then we could proceed to Lake Victoria in our tour of Africa. Or would you prefer to go to the Far East? Mars is currently being studied; someday we'll understand the entire Milky Way. I took Route 95 all the way to Maine.

The World Wide Web makes researching health issues easier. (Note: the Web is considered a place, and thus it's proper to capitalize it.)

8. Capitalize names, nicknames, and family appellations.

The reunion will be organized by Aunt Agnes. Brent; my Little Cookie, Emily; Nana-Jasmine, Grandpa's new wife; and I will help with the cooking.

9. Capitalize the days of the week, months of the year, holidays, and holy days.

I'm surprised at how late Easter is this year. It's fun to pick apples in October; Tuesday or Wednesday is best because there are fewer people.

10. Capitalize historical periods, events, epithets, and documents.

It dates from the Regency. He fought in the Civil War.

One of history's great warriors was Alexander the Great. The United States of America was founded when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Business Correspondence

Business Correspondence

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