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Punctuation and Capitalization

Learn more about English rules of capitalization and punctuation to help you become a more confident writer.

Capitalization in academic versus business writing

Confusion around what should be capitalized often comes from differing expectations for business writing versus academic writing. For example, in a business writing, a person's job description is often capitalized: Dorothy Li, Director of Communications. However, according to English grammar rules for capitalization, the only job titles that should be capitalized are those that appear in front of a person's name and are therefore actual titles, versus simply being a description (American Psychological Association, 2020, p. 166): Prime Minister Trudeau.

To further illustrate the difference, consider that it's unlikely Dorothy Li would be addressed by a colleague only by her job description: "Excuse me, director of communications...". However, when the job description becomes a title, the individual is likely to be addressed or identified by his or her title: "Prime Minister, welcome to this event."

The difference between a title and a description also determines how to refer to a specific department or course. For example, School of Leadership Studies is capitalized because the title of the school is a proper noun. If, however, an author referred generally to schools of leadership, the words should be in lower-case because they provide a description, not a title. Similarly, the name of a specific course should be capitalized because it's the proper name of the course: Foundations of Strategic Leadership. However, if an author used the phrase an introductory leadership course, it is unnecessary to capitalize any of the words because they're used to describe a course, not provide the title of a specific course. 

Reference

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000