Capitalization

Casing in general

Use sentence case

  • Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading.
  • Capitalize any proper nouns and certain other types of words.
  • Use lowercase for everything else.

Exception: Use title case and ampersand for site navigation, e.g., Education & Training 

When using title case, lowercase all articles (a, the), prepositions (to, at, in, with), and coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or).

Guideline: Don't capitalize "the" in the middle of sentences as part of an entity name unless it's actually part of the name.

Examples:

  • Van Gogh was removed from his post at the University of Minnesota.
  • Accused of sleeping at his desk, Van Gogh is no longer head of the Department of Otolaryngology, Head, and Neck Surgery.
  • He was excited to see The Beatles perform at The Ohio State University.

Guideline: The University of Minnesota has specific rules, such as treatment for campuses. Reference these on the University of Minnesota Style Guide.

Acronyms

Guideline: Spell out all acronyms on first instance on a page.

Example: Academic Health Center (AHC)

Guideline: Spell out University of Minnesota on first instance on a page. After that, you can shorten to:

  • the University
  • UMN
  • U of M
  • refer to in context, such "here at Minnesota"

Places

Guideline: Capitalize words that are political divisions or geographic regions, as they are proper nouns. Do not capitalize words that only indicate direction, such as north, south, east, west.

Examples:

  • Greater Minnesota
  • south Minneapolis
  • Hennepin County
  • the North Shore

Department and unit names

Guideline: Capitalize when referring to a unit’s full name, e.g., Center for Spirituality and Healing. When referencing a center, college, department, or other unit name, do not capitalize.

Examples:

  • The Center for Stuff is conducting research.
  • Research at the center is good.

Guideline: Spell out on first instance and when it will be clarifying, such as when there are multiple groups referred to in a sentence.

Why? People can arrive at any page of your website from anywhere and don't know what our acronyms mean.

After that, instead of an acronym we recommend using shorthand descriptors.

Examples:

    • the center
    • us
    • we
    • our programs
    • global health areas
    • the center's global health programs
    • students in our program
    • at our institute
    • the center director and staff

Preference is to use words vs. acronyms, unless the acronym is how the unit is known.

Why? This will strike a more personable tone with your audience, and help make your content relatable. Acronyms can be hard to remember and jarring to read in a sentence.

Having the full name once higher up on the page helps with search, but you don't need to use the full name many times in one paragraph or one page.

Tip: Read your content out loud. Sound okay? Like a real person might speak? If yes, use it. If not, edit.

Job and official titles

Guideline: Generally speaking, when an official title comes right before the name, it is capitalized; when it follows the name, it is not capitalized.

Examples:

  • Assistant Professor Albert Einstein is the host.
  • Albert Einstein is assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.
  • Albert Einstein, assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Exception: If the person holds a named title, such as an endowed chair or Regents Professor, the title is capitalized no matter where it falls in the sentence.

Example: 

  • David Sutherland holds the John S. Najarian Surgical Chair in Clinical Transplantation.

Exception: Do not capitalize titles that are in place of proper names.

Examples:

  • The University of Minnesota president spoke at Coffman Union.
  • Did you hear that President Washington spoke at Coffman Union?
  • The assistant director of editorial style recommends using proper punctuation.
  • Assistant Director William Shakespeare recommends using proper punctuation.
  • William Shakespeare, assistant director, recommends using proper punctuation.

Titles of works

Guideline: Italicize titles and subtitles of:

  • Published books, monographs, pamphlets, brochures, periodicals (magazines, newsletters, journals, etc.)
  • Newspapers (entire titles), newspaper sections published separately
  • Proceedings of conferences
  • Collections of poems, plays, essays, short stories
  • Long poems published separately
  • Plays, motion pictures
  • Operas, long musical compositions and their descriptive or traditional titles
  • Albums or CDs
  • Works of art
  • Legal cases (except the v.) and shortened second references to cases.

Guideline: Use quotation marks around the titles of:

  • Articles in periodicals and newspapers
  • Parts and chapters of books
  • Short stories and essays included in books
  • Short poems
  • Dissertations, theses, manuscripts, reports, unpublished lectures, speeches, and papers
  • Radio and television programs (a useful way to handle titles of individual programs with a television series is "Yard 'n' Garden: The Larch")
  • Songs, short musical compositions
  • Substantive titles of conferences
  • Official titles of art exhibits.

Examples:

  • Alexander Fleming authored "How I Discovered Penicillin," a complete look at how keeping a messy lab can lead to innovation.
  • Robert Frost’s poem “A Brook in the City” was among his more popular works.

Guideline: Do not italicize or use quotation marks around:

  • University course titles; capitalize initial letters of major words
  • Titles of sections of books
  • Titles of book series and editions; do not capitalize generic terms (series, edition) when they are not parts of titles
  • Parts of poems, plays; do not capitalize them
  • Names of depositories, archives, manuscript collections
  • Names of musical compositions composed of music form, number, key
  • Traditional or descriptive names of art works
  • Descriptive titles of art exhibits and conferences
  • Titles of regular newspaper columns
  • Specific wording of short signs, notices, mottoes, inscriptions.

Example:

  • The popular newspaper column Dear Abby was founded by Pauline Phillips, then later taken over by her daughter Jeanne Phillips.