Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stop capitalizing everyhing

I come across unnecessary capitalization in business writing all the time.

Often it involves corporate departments, e.g., Human Resources or Finance Department. Sometimes I see only one word capitalized: Finance department. Sometimes these words refer to a specific company's department; sometimes they refer to departments in general.

Sometimes the capitalization seems completely random: the Client or the Regulation.

Capital letters are speed bumps. They slow the eye as it scans across a sentence. So avoid them wherever possible.

Let's start with departments. Proper names, i.e., names of specific things or people, are capitalized. So I suppose "the GE Department of Human Resources" is technically correct. But is it necessary? Not really. The only time you should capitalize a corporate department is when it refers to a specific company's department, and then you want to get the name exactly correct. I would argue, however, that capitalization in that case isn't necessary for meaning.

Now for titles. When they come before a name, they should be capitalized. So: Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Office Joe Blow. But do you see how hard that is to swallow. Better: put the title after the name and don't capitalize it. Joe Blow, chairman of the board and chief executive officer. (Notice I left out "of directors" -- the meaning is clear in the context.)

There are some good capitalization tips at EssayInfo, but you'll notice they favor more capitalization than I do.

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