Capitalization rules can vary greatly from one language to the next and even, on some points, within the same language, so a certain amount of discretion applies. By the same token, however, it is best practice to ensure consistency within a given text. To this end, the UOC recommends the following general guidelines.
- At the start of a sentence
- What are the UOC's preferences regarding the capitalization of titles?
- When should I capitalize the names of people?
- When should I capitalize titles and offices?
- When should I capitalize the names of places?
- When should I capitalize the names of things?
- What about UOC-specific terminology?
Use a capital letter to indicate the start of a new sentence.
Likewise, capitalize the first letter of any quotation appearing in running text that is a complete sentence itself; otherwise, leave it in lowercase. Compare:
Schank writes that while learning objectives may “seem like a good idea for the basis of curriculum design,” they are actually “one of the main evils in the school system.”
Exceptionally, use a lowercase letter at the start of sentences, titles and headlines that begin with a brand name or other proper noun conventionally written with a lower-case first letter. Examples:
iPhone, therefore I am
Finally, unlike in Catalan, in English the first-person singular pronoun I is always capitalized. Example:
Capital letters are used to indicate the titles of books, magazines, newspapers, legal documents, plays, films, albums, songs, television shows, etc. As a general rule, the UOC prefers to use sentence case for such titles (i.e. to capitalize only the first word and any proper nouns appearing thereafter), unless the work or publication itself does otherwise. This is particularly true with regard to long descriptive titles. For example:
The New York Times
Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector
Exceptions would include the names of formal documents or titles of papers being submitted to journals whose guidelines state otherwise. Examples:
the Open Knowledge Action Plan
As a general rule, if the text you are working on is intended for the UOC's website (e.g. a press release, menu headings), use sentence case.
Remember, when referring to a specific part of a book, legal document, etc., in running text, only capitalize words such as part, section, chapter or article when they are actually part of the name of the section in question. Do not capitalize these words when they are used generically. Thus:
The board members shall be appointed as set forth in Article 7.3 below.
Capitalize the first letter of abbreviated courtesy titles (e.g. Mr, Ms, Dr, Prof.).
Capitalize all titles, abbreviated or otherwise, in direct addresses and when they precede a proper name. In contrast, lowercase both generic references to offices and titles that follow a proper name. Examples:
Later this month, Professor Puig will give a talk on the subject at the Athenaeum.
They met with the vice-president of the university to discuss the plan.
Josep A. Planell, president of the UOC, will speak at the conference.
Unlike in Catalan, titles forming part of a name are capitalized. Compare:
santa Teresa Saint Teresa
Capitalize all function words in the names of geographical features commonly considered proper nouns (specific mountains, oceans, rivers, etc.). Examples:
the Pacific Ocean
the River Ebro/the Ebro River
Note, however, that any subsequent references in the text to such features using only the common noun are not capitalized. Example:
Capitalize all function words in the names of geographical locations or administrative regions commonly considered proper nouns (countries, states, towns, etc.). Examples:
the Federal District of Mexico
Note: In order to facilitate comprehension by non-Catalan speakers, initial articles forming a part of Catalan place names should be capitalized in English, even when they appear in running text. Example:
Capitalize all function words in the names of historical, political and geopolitical regions. Examples:
the Middle East
the Pacific Rim
the Ottoman Empire
Note that this is not always the case in Catalan. Compare:
In English, all function words in local place names (specific roads, squares, parks, etc.) should be capitalized. Examples:
This stands in contrast to Catalan, in which such words tend to be lowercased when they form a part of a Catalan address appearing in running text. Compare:
The venue is on Passeig de la Reina Elisenda.
Capitalize all function words in the names of unique locations commonly considered proper nouns (specific buildings, monuments, venues, etc.). Examples:
the Eiffel Tower
Again, this is not always true in Catalan. Compare:
el palau de Buckingham / Buckingham Palace
Capitalize cultural and artistic schools and movements when they are derived from proper nouns. Examples:
a Romanesque church
In most other cases, they can be lowercased. Thus:
a neoclassical building
When in doubt, follow the guidelines given in the Oxford Dictionary.
Unlike in Catalan, in English the names of ethnicities, religions and the members thereof are capitalized. Examples:
Capitalize the names of geological periods but not words like period, era or epoch themselves. Examples:
Capitalize all function words in the names of government programmes, laws, documents, etc. Examples:
the Personal Data Protection Act
the Catalan Energy and Climate Change Plan 2012-2020
Capitalize all function words in the names of holidays. Examples:
Capitalize all function words in the names of institutions, bodies, organizations, etc., unless they are being used generically. Examples:
the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce
but Financial support was provided by several Catalan ministries.
Do not capitalize means of transport unless they are being used as proper nouns. Examples:
The red line is the oldest line of the Barcelona Metro.
Unlike in Catalan, in English nationalities, demonyms and languages are capitalized. Examples:
Use demonyms (words used to denote the inhabitants of a particular place) only if they are already common in English (e.g. Parisians, Londoners). Do not invent translated equivalents of ones that are not (e.g. barcelonins, sabadellencs, madrileños). When in doubt, use generic phrases with words such as residents, natives or people. For example:
Residents of Arenys became the first Catalans to vote on the now-familiar question.
Capitalize the names of planets and other specific celestial bodies (e.g. Mercury, Pluto), but do not capitalize earth unless specifically referring to the name of the planet. In such cases, the article theis often omitted. Examples:
He noted that Earth is the third planet from the sun.
Note: The words sun and moon are not generally capitalized. An exception may be (but is not always) made in technical texts when they are explicitly being used as proper nouns, particularly when they appear in conjunction with the proper names of other celestial bodies. Examples:
Capitalize the official names of political parties and movements and of the formal adherents thereof, but, in general, do not capitalize the names of political ideologies, schools of thought, etc., or the generic adjectives derived therefrom. Exceptions may be made in texts that include both official names and general schools of thought, capitalizing all references for the sake of consistency. However, when in doubt, err on the side of lowercase to prevent the unsightly effect of superfluous capitalization. Examples:
At the end of the war, the communist government nationalized all Tokaj vineyards.
Capitalize the names of prehistoric and historical periods and events. Examples:
the Middle Ages
In contrast, more modern periods and events are often lowercased. In such cases, follow common usage, taking care to ensure consistency throughout the text. Examples:
the digital age
Capitalize proper names when they are used as adjectives (e.g. Bunsen burner), but not when they are used as common nouns (e.g. a kelvin).
The capitalization of words derived from proper nouns varies (e.g. a Freudian slip, a caesarean section, a boycott); in such cases, consult a reliable dictionary. The UOC recommends the Oxford Dictionary for BrE and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for AmE.
Unlike in Catalan, in English the names of the months and the days of the week are capitalized. Examples:
However, as in Catalan, the names of the seasons are not capitalized. Examples:
autumn (BrE) / fall (AmE)
Capitalize trade names unless they have come to be used as common nouns. Examples:
The word state deserves special mention. As a general rule, it is not capitalized. However, common exceptions include when it is used as part of a formal designation (e.g. EU Member State), when it is used to designate a defined group of countries (e.g. the Gulf States), and when it is used to refer to the government of a country in political theory and legal texts (i.e. the State).
Use title case (i.e. capitalize the first and last word and all function words in between) for the names and titles of:
In contrast, use sentence case (i.e. capitalize only the first word and any proper nouns thereafter) for the titles of papers and official or institutional reports or documents. Example:
E-government and public services: a case study of the inter-administrative portal CAT365
Finally, do not capitalize generic references to words such as bachelor's or master's. For example:
Likewise, do not capitalize the names of disciplines when referring to them generically. Example:
This same logic can be applied to references to titles and ranks. Capitalize them when they refer to a specific person and could theoretically be replaced by that person's name without affecting the sentence's grammatical accuracy or meaning. Lowercase them when they are generic references to the office or position itself. Thus:
The Vice President for Strategic Planning and Research described the new project to attendees.