Capitalisation Rules in Business English – Intermediate

Posted on November 26, 2015

Capitalisation (or capitalization, for those using American spelling) can take a bit of getting used to. Across different languages that use the Roman alphabet there are different rules for using capital letters, so with this in mind be sure to use the correct rules in English.

German speakers take note, not all English nouns should have capital letters; and French and Spanish speakers should pay attention to differences in capitalisation for nationalities. In this blog post we give you some rules and guidelines that will help you avoid common mistakes. The examples we give are sentences we see in our business English classes at companies around London, and accordingly, the kind of sentences you may find useful in your professional English writing.

Capital letters in proper nouns

Proper nouns (those which identify an individual person, animal, place or thing) should start with capital letters.

Following this rule, you should capitalise names of particular people, animals, and companies or organisations.

Our new colleague is called David.
I used to have a dog called Rover.
She works for Virgin.
It’s part of European Union regulations.

General nouns

You may have noticed above that if you are speaking generally, we don’t capitalise the words:

She worked at an insurance company before here.

Capital letters in geographical proper nouns

You must also use capitals for particular geographical names:

  • The Gherkin is a famous modern building.
  • I have worked on Fleet Street in London for 5 years.
  • Our office party was a cruise along the Thames.
  • We used to have a view of Mount Vesuvius from our office.
  • We recycle in order to protect planet Earth.

Geographical common nouns

Notice the difference; these are general nouns so we don’t use capital letters:

  • Look at that beautiful building.
  • What street is that?
  • Working in cities can be exciting!
  • We enjoyed the river cruise.
  • Have you considered hiking in the mountains as an away day?
  • I travel all over the world for my job.

Capital letters in days and festivals

Days and festivals are capitalised, so Monday, New Year’s Day, Easter. The last two are bank holidays, and there are several “bank holidays”. Accordingly, “bank holiday” is not a proper noun and it is not capitalised.

  • Are you working on Monday? No, it’s bank holiday.
  • I’m looking forward to our ski trip at Easter.

Capital letters in nationalities and countries

We capitalise nationalities as well as countries:

  • I need to speak German and also English at work.
  • We have a multinational team which includes Brazilians, Germans and Australians.

Learn more and test your knowledge with this great quiz from the British Council.

Do you want to improve your English language skills from the comfort of your own company in London? Then get in touch today to set up your free trial English class.

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