Many people would breeze through that sentence without a second glance. As grammar guardians, though, my fellow editors and I read it and wince.
Improper capitalization is one of the most common grammar mistakes we see at The Simons Group. For some reason, people love to hit the caps lock when it comes to certain words and phrases (although we almost never see the opposite problem, where writers lowercase words that should be capitalized).
In general, the only words you need to capitalize in a sentence are the first word and proper nouns, or nouns that denote a specific person, place or thing (Alexandra, France, Ford Motor Co.). Yet some argue that capitalization underscores a term’s importance, while others claim certain words and phrases just “look right” when they’re capitalized. The truth is, though, that willy-nilly capitalization makes your writing confusing — and writers who pepper their prose with uppercase words run the risk of sounding like a lost chapter from “The Canterbury Tales.”
Below are some of the most frequent marketing-related capitalization mix-ups. Master these, and you’ll be well on your way to keeping your caps where they belong.
This one seems to throw people off more than any other capitalization rule. If a job title appears before a person’s name, capitalize it. If it comes after the name or appears without the name, lowercase it.
RIGHT: Tastee Food Co. President Bob Roberts
RIGHT: Bob Roberts, president of Tastee Food Co.
WRONG: Bob Roberts, President of Tastee Food Co.
RIGHT: The vice president of operations for Tastee Food Co. says…
WRONG: The Vice President of Operations for Tastee Food Co. says…
These are generally lowercase, unless the name of the subject includes a proper noun, such as English.
RIGHT: Candy Kane studied biology and German literature in college.
WRONG: Candy Kane studied Biology and German Literature in college.
Whether they’re in the business of ceiling fans or sealing wax, many companies capitalize the type of product they sell in their marketing materials. Don’t. The exception? If you’re using a specific brand name.
RIGHT: Our chocolate chip cookies are out of this world.
RIGHT: Our Chocolate Meltaways will make you beg for more.
WRONG: Our Chocolate Chip Cookies are out of this world.
Departments and committees
If the group you’re talking about has a generic or widely used name, lowercase it. If it’s an uncommon name, capitalize it.
RIGHT: The board of directors is meeting tomorrow.
RIGHT: The Ministry of Silly Walks is meeting tomorrow.
WRONG: The Board of Directors is meeting tomorrow.
Have more capitalization conundrums? Let us know in the comments below.