Writing Style – Capitalization With Occupations Versus Titles

I’d like to continue our previous BizWritingTip blog on capitalization with titles and occupations. When a word is a job description, use lower case. When it is a title, use upper case.

We need to hire another writer. (occupation – lower case)
I suggest you contact Professor Jones (title – upper case)

However, when a person’s name follows his or her title but is set off by commas, do not capitalize the title.

Examples (correct)
Our president, Lisa MacLellan, will speak at the conference.
President Lisa MacLellan will speak at the conference.

Here’s another exception to the rules for capitalization: When you are preparing formal minutes or bylaws, or when you are describing processes (i.e., procedures, work instructions, and flow charts), a person’s title is always capitalized.

The president will meet with our new client tomorrow. (regular style – lower case)
The ministers of Education and Health and Long-Term Care met with the premiers of Ontario and Quebec. (regular style – lower case)
The Treasurer’s report was received. (formal minutes – upper case)
The employee’s Manager must approve the application. (procedures manual – upper case)
Scheduler prepares the schedule for the Shipper. (work instruction – upper case).

In addition, some stylebooks recommend that the following titles always be capitalized when they follow a personal name or are used alone:

National Officials: the Prime Minister, Cabinet members (such as the Secretary of State, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the Attorney General), the heads of government agencies and bureaus (such as the Deputy Minister, or the Commissioner), the Chief Justice, the Ambassador, the Member of Parliament, the Governor General

Provincial Officials: the Premier, the Lieutenant-Governor

Royal Dignitaries: the Queen, the Duke, the Prince of Wales

International Figures: the Pope, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the President

By the way, some organizations choose to override the rules and capitalize all the job titles of their senior executives. They believe it shows respect. This style is not necessary. However, if it is what your organization wants, don’t fight it. Go with whomever pays your salary.