Editorial Style

Tips on capitalisation: job titles, academic degrees, government units

The general tendency is towards lowercase rather than initial capitals, which is in part a reflection of today’s less-formal, less-deferential society. As with any aspect of style, though, it is impossible to be wholly consistent; aim for coherence and consistency, but not at the expense of clarity.

Job titles

Use the capitalised form when naming a specific person holding a specific position. But, write a job title in all lowercase when referring to the position (rather than the person) or when it is descriptive.

  • Vice-Rector Takeuchi is the president of the Central Environment Council (Japan).
  • Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi was appointed senior vice-rector of UNU on 1 January 2013.
  • Prof. Takeuchi is one of three UNU vice-rectors.
  • The directors of UNU-WIDER and UNU-FLORES met with UNU Rector David Malone last week.
  • UNU was represented at the event by Vice-Rector Max Bond and UNU-WIDER Director Finn Tarp.
  • UNU was represented at the event by Vice-Rector Bond and three institute directors.
  • Associate Research Fellow Mavrotas leads the project. He is assisted by several other UNU-CRIS associate research fellows.
  • The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was the event’s keynote speaker. In his remarks, Prime Minister Abe said …
  • Yesterday, US Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew met with President Obama.
  • Today, treasury secretary Jacob Lew met with the president.

Academic degrees

Use initial capitals for the official name of a degree. But, use lowercase if the designation of the degree is general or descriptive.

  • a Master of Science in Public Policy and Human Development; a PhD in Sustainability Science
  • a master of science degree; a master’s degree in public policy; a doctorate in physics

Government Departments & Ministries

Use initial capitals when the full name is used (1); use all lowercase when the name is abbreviated or paraphrased (2), or when it is the unofficial translation of a non-English name (3).

  1. (UK) Ministry of Justice, (US) Department of Defense, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  2. justice ministry, defense department, fisheries ministry
  3. French foreign ministry, Russian ministry of emergency situations