Should I capitalize that?

Every decent style guide in America has a fully developed chapter on capitalization and the rules are pretty straightforward. Instead of covering hundreds of rules in depth here, I’d like to share three questions about capitalization that came up during a recent webinar on grammar. I’ll answer the questions and then summarize my answers with one principle.

  • Should I capitalize every word in my complimentary closing: “Sincerely Yours” or “Sincerely yours”?

I believe in the statement: “When in doubt, don’t.” Fortunately, The Gregg Reference Manual backs me up in section 1346: Capitalize only the first word of the closing.

  • We use ALL CAPS for the name of our company in our complimentary closing. Should we?

You can do whatever you want with your company name! I could type The Text Doctor or THE TEXT DOCTOR. We get to make up the rules here for once.

  • What about capitalization in bulleted items in slides?

Best practices call for capitalizing only the first letter of the first word in the bullet point (of course, you should always capitalize proper nouns).

OK, now that one principle that I promised: Always prefer downstyle: Capitalize only the first letter of the first word of a heading or a bullet point unless there are proper nouns within each. This contrasts with upstyle, which Capitalizes Every Word of Four or More Letters. Upstyle is hard for the reader, whose eyes are going up and down across the line, and it’s hard for the writer, who has to keep using the shift key (and count letters in words).

Hard to break your capitalization habit? Yes, but console yourself with the knowledge that downstyle is more readable and is much easier for you to type.

2 Responses to Should I capitalize that?

  1. So many of my clients over capitalize. The author of the Outlander series set in the eighteenth century (Diana Gabaldon) included letters in one the books in which every noun, whether proper or not, was capitalized. She is a thorough researcher, so I think our tendency to over-capitalize is a throw-back to earlier times.

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