writing rules

Could you hear my eye rolling all the way from your office? You probably did. Followed by a sigh and maybe a grunt. (I’m not very subtle sometimes.) I’m sorry, but some days, I just can’t take it anymore.

When marketing and communications team members send out copy for a content review, we’re trying to make sure we have the messaging and facts correct. But somehow, capitalization appears to be what’s on everyone’s minds. And it’s always people’s titles. Or worse, their roles. As in:

  • Smith, a Doctor with ABC Hospital System

No, no, no. Just no.

It’s easy to ignore these capitalization requests. But then, when the final piece comes out, there’s an uproar because of Mr. or Ms. Important Person and some discussion as to whether we should start making exceptions for certain people. I argue no. I also argue that this conversation is a waste of time and energy. But it comes up all the time. So, in the interest of saving time, communicators, if you agree with me and need to advance the cause in your own office, feel free to crib any part of this post.

In a nutshell, here’s why I’m not giving in on the capitalization of titles.

  1. AP style. The Associated Press is the default style guide for most publications and organizations. And if we’re going to be sending out a communication to media, we want to use AP style. We also want to keep things easy in-house, and AP style is a communications industry standard. There is little reason to reinvent the wheel. We cap titles before a name, not after, and we never cap a role.
  2. Consistency. I can’t cap your job title without capitalizing everyone else’s. And I’m just not gonna do that.
  3. It doesn’t look good. Have you tried to read copy with too many things capitalized? It’s just … ugh. Capitalization is meant to indicate proper names and start sentences. Let’s not cause people to pause on a job role.
  4. No one is that important. Typically the desire for capitalization is taken as a sign that someone thinks they’re uber-important. And, well, nobody is. Not doctors, not engineers, not chief executive officers.