Upper and lower case

Use capital letters sparingly.

Proper names take initial caps:

  • Susan
  • Australia
  • the River Aire
  • Liberal Democrats
  • West Yorkshire Playhouse
  • Barclays Bank
  • Harrods
  • Nescafé

The days of the week and the names of months take initial caps.

Titles also take initial caps:

  • Mrs Smith
  • Sir Alex Ferguson
  • President Trump
  • Professor Stephen Hawking

Job descriptions, however, don’t take initial caps: The prime minister has resigned; Sarah Smith, the managing director, was not available for comment. But note: Stephen Hawking was the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University.

Initial caps for: the Queen, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the Dáil, the Church (ie the institution, not a building), the Post Office (ditto), the Government (British).

But lower case for non-British governments: the French government is in discussion with protesting lorry drivers.

Moreover, for British government departments and offices, parliament, acts, bills: Yesterday in parliament the home secretary introduced a new bill, the Criminal Justice Bill (upper-case for the title of the bill, not for the word itself).

Points of the compass – north, south, etc – don’t take initial caps: the sun rises in the east; north Londoners would rather swim the Channel than cross the Thames.

The exception is when the West is used to denote the developed, Judeo-Christian world as distinct from a geographical location: the West must recognise its responsibility for third-world poverty – and cap up, however, when part of the name of a county (West Sussex, East Riding of Yorkshire) or province (East Java, North Sulawesi, etc); note the
following: East End, West End (London), Middle East, Latin America, North America, South America.

Universities and colleges of further and higher education – caps for institution, lower case for departments, eg Leeds Beckett department of medieval and modern history, Oregon State University, Free University of Berlin, University of Worcester institute of humanities and creative arts, London College of Communication.

The words internet, net, web, website, world wide web, email, don’t take initial caps.


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