At Proofed, a common problem we see in students’ writing is incorrect or inconsistent capitalisation of terminology. As such, we have put together this quick guide to capitalising terms in academic work.
What to Capitalise
As well as the first letter of the first word in a sentence, make sure to capitalise the following terms in your writing:
- People’s names (e.g. Florence, David, Musa, Fatima)
- People’s roles or titles when referring to a specific person (e.g. Queen Elizabeth II and Professor Davies, since these are specific people, but ‘a queen of England’ and ‘a professor of neuroscience’)
- Names of places, cities, towns, locations, and the people/languages from them (e.g. America, Chicago, Italy, Italian)
- Organisations, companies, institutions, etc. (e.g. Catholicism)
- Products and brand names (e.g. Colgate, but not ‘toothpaste’)
- Special dates and periods (e.g. Christmas Eve, the Bronze Age)
- Key historical events (e.g. World War II, the Boston Tea Party)
- Names of laws and official documents (e.g. the Bill of Rights)
- Certain religious terms (e.g. the Lord, Allah, the Holy Trinity, God)
- Names of ships or aircraft (e.g. the Enola Gay, HMS Ark Royal)
In addition, certain words in titles and subtitles are usually capitalised. This will depend on the style of title used, but you should always capitalise the first letters of titles, subtitles, and proper nouns. Many style guides also recommend citing ‘major words’ (e.g. nouns, verbs, pronouns) and using lower case for other terms (e.g. prepositions and articles). For more on capitalising titles, see our post on the topic.
When No Capitalisation Is Required
You should also take care that capital letters are not used where they are unnecessary. For example, if you are referring to more than one proper noun that requires capitalisation:
- Lake Tahoe and Lake Huron; lakes Tahoe and Huron (loss of capital ‘L’ because term becomes generic)
- Warwick University and Oxford University; Warwick and Oxford universities (loss of capital ‘U’)
You can capitalise other terms and phrases, but you must apply your judgement to determine whether or not this is necessary. Regardless, the style adopted must be applied consistently throughout your work.
If you are worried about any aspect of your essay or dissertation, including the referencing, grammar, or how to present it on the page, why not send it to the experts? We will even proofread a 500-word sample for free, so you can see what a big difference our service can make to your academic writing!