When to capitalize titles

Lesson: when to capitalize civil, military, religious, and professional titles

Capitalizing a title depends on whether it comes before or after a person’s name or stands alone.

If the title comes before a name, capitalize it. Titles that are directly in front of names are, in effect, being used as part of the names and thus require the same capitalization.

Examples:

Once a comedian, he is now known as Senator Al Franken.
The church is home to Reverend James Boot.
The person in charge is Director Mary Fritz.

If the title comes after a name, lowercase it. Titles after names are not being used as part of the names and so do not require capitalization.

Examples:

Al Franken, senator from Minnesota, eats donuts.
The article was about James Boot, reverend for the local church.
Mary Fritz, director of marketing, makes a lot of money.

If the title stands alone, lowercase it. Likewise, because titles are not attached to names, they do not need to be capitalized.

Examples:

The senator is running for a second term.
The church is looking for a new reverend.
The director of marketing is Mary Fritz.

Remember: only capitalize a title if it comes directly before a name.

Quiz
Choose whether the title in italics should be capitalized. The answers are below.

1. The sergeant earned a medal.
2. The current leader is president Obama.
3. Janet Deetz is the chief executive officer.
4. Fred Turner, provost of the university, will give a speech.
5. Friday, bishop Frank Tots will visit.

Answers:
1. lowercase 2. capitalize 3. lowercase 4. lowercase 5. capitalize

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Happy birthday, Grammar Party!



Grammar Party turned two years old today. It has spent the last year like most small human children. There was lots of mess making, putting things in its mouth that didn’t belong, and random tantrums followed by crying jags. Along the way, it managed to write some posts about grammar. Here is a selection of the most popular posts from year 2:

Business jargon to avoid (so you don’t sound like a douche) 

Murder, fluther, cluster, and peep: fun collective nouns for animals

How English sounds to everyone else 

Squeezing blackheads out of kitty’s face

Blond vs. blonde

Hanged vs. hung

Number vs. amount

180? 360? Where are we again?

Capitalizing titles of works

Thanks in advance for the probably millions of birthday wishes Grammar Party will receive. It would like to thank each of you personally, but it is late for a confrontation with its mother–something about it not wanting to take a nap.