Capitalisation Rules in Business English – Advanced

Posted on December 1, 2015

Hello again! We hope you have read the intermediate rules first from the blog post last week.
If not, we recommend going back and reading that first.

Here are some more advanced rules to perfecting your capitalisation skills in your business writing. These are all examples that we often see used mistakenly in students’ writing in our company English classes.

Firstly, here are some concrete rules:

Titles should be capitalised if they come before the person with the title.
I have got a meeting with Dr Brown later.
Contrast this with:
I am seeing the doctor later.

North, south east and west should be capitalised if they are regions, but not if they refer to the general direction.
We have a branch in West London. Our subsidiary is in South-East Asia.
You will have to drive south to get to the client’s office.

Capitalise brand names but not the common nouns that come after them:

I work on a Samsung laptop.
Our company gives us Nexus phones.
On our floor we have two Packard Bell printers.

Now let’s move on to the optional guidelines. One of the hardest things about capitalisation is that native speakers are not in complete agreement about the rules and different native speakers will edit the same text in different ways. Your company may have a style guide which you can follow, especially if your company is one that uses a lot of formal writing such as a law firm or a newspaper company.

There is some artistic licence regarding which words and how many should be capitalised in titles or headings. In the three example titles below you could do any of the following:

How should we capitalise?
How Should we Capitalise?
How Should We Capitalise?

I prefer the second with the important words for meaning capitalised, but this is just a question of personal taste.

If you want to use a colon, you can capitalise or not after it:

Attention: there will be a project meeting today at 11:00
Attention: There will be a project meeting today at 11:00

Good luck! Let us know your views on Twitter or Facebook.

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