Capitalizing Job Titles

Should I Capitalize Job Titles?

 
The rule that determines whether the first letter of a job title — such as professor, doctor, or mayor — should be capitalized is this: You should capitalize the first letter of a job title only when the job title is followed by the name of the person to whom the job title refers. Otherwise, the job title should be in all lowercase letters.1

To illustrate this rule, here are some examples:

Correct: “The police chief was unavailable for an interview.”

Incorrect: “The Police Chief was unavailable for an interview.”

Correct: “Police Chief Richard Saunders was unavailable for an interview.”

Incorrect: “Police chief Richard Saunders was unavailable for an interview.”

However, if the person’s name is set off in any way — by commas, for instance — from the job title, then the job title should not be capitalized.

Correct: “The police chief, Richard Saunders, was unavailable for an interview.”

Incorrect: “The Police Chief, Richard Saunders, was unavailable for an interview.

As a final note, some people wonder if very important job titles — such as president or pope — are exceptions which should always be capitalized. These are not special cases; they follow the same rule as other job titles.

Correct: “The U.S. president has made some questionable decisions lately.”

Incorrect: “The U.S. President has made some questionable decisions lately.”


1Of course, the first letter of a job title should be capitalized in instances in which any word’s first letter would be capitalized — if it begins a sentence, for instance.


 
Jake Magnum, author of the Magnum Proofreading Tips blog, is dedicated to helping writers perfect their work. In addition to giving free advice on his blog, Jake helps writers by offering very affordable proofreading services at magnumproofreading.com.

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