Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The 5 Items You Should Actually Capitalize

I know You might Think the Capitalization in this Sentence is a Little Off, but I can Tell you that I See sentences Just Like this every Single Day.

I believe the cause of most of this unnecessary capitalization stems from the fact that a lot of content creators use capitalization for emphasis when they are writing. But that doesn’t mean those content creators are correct. In fact, I would argue littering a piece with all that erroneous capitalization actually draws emphasis away from its overall message.

Before you capitalize a word, ask yourself why you are capitalizing it. Is the word at the beginning of a sentence? Then go right ahead and capitalize that word.

Is the word a proper noun? If it truly is, then go ahead and capitalize the word or words that make up that proper noun. If you are uncertain if something is a proper noun or not, you can conduct a Google search with the word or words both capitalized and not capitalized, and you’ll most likely quickly find your answer.

Is the word part of a headline or subhead? If so, and it is not one of the words that should not be capitalized in title case, then capitalize that word. A quick search on ‘title capitalization’ should yield some great tools that can help guide you with proper title case. 

And, of course, don’t forget to capitalize the pronoun ‘I’ and the days of the week, months, and holidays.

But if a word is none of these five things – at the beginning of a sentence, a proper noun, part of a headline or subhead, I, or one of the date-related items we capitalize – then it should not be capitalized. It really is that simple.

In addition to capitalizing for emphasis, another common error content creators make is to capitalize concepts like ‘business analysis’ or services like ‘report editing for enterprises’. Many of these same content creators will also capitalize industries like finance, education, and manufacturing, as well as business areas like human resources, sales, or marketing. But, none of these things need to be capitalized.

Before you capitalize any of these terms, consider whether they should really be capitalized, or if they are simply a company term, an industry term, or just a term you wish to call out in your content. Do not capitalize that word, or group of words, unless they fall under one of the five capitalization rules above.

Remember, you have tools like making words bold or italicized to create emphasis – or putting the words inside a sentence separator like this – but do not capitalize these words just to give them emphasis or to call out your company or industry terms.

Content creators should try hard not to break these capitalization rules. But, if you must break the rules and capitalize words that you really shouldn’t, at least capitalize consistently. If you capitalize Marketing as a concept or a department in the first sentence of a paragraph, then you should capitalize it as a concept or department in the fourth sentence of the paragraph, and when used throughout the rest of your article or document.

Content creators should also be mindful that if they capitalize subheads, table content, figure content, or any other items in an article or document, those items should be capitalized consistently. Special care should also be given to using consistent title case as well. Create a list of title case words that should be capitalized and apply it consistently as well. You can do a Google search to find these terms and also customize it for your particular style, company, and industry.

By simply applying capitalization consistently and only in the five necessary instances above, you can declutter your pieces and save your editorial staff hours of unnecessary de-capitalization.

Photo by Tom Eversley via ISO Republic 

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