Professions and job titles are essential parts of the work landscape; they identify for whom one works and the tasks performed within a particular occupation. In this article, we will explore if capitalizing professions is a good practice when writing, what could be its exceptions, if any, and examples of good practice in sentences when it comes to capitalizing.
Professions are only supposed to be capitalized in three cases:
1) If preceded by someone's name, used as a specific title, such as "Tech Manager Susana."
2) When signing your name on emails or other formal documents.
3) When directly addressing a person's title or role instead of their name.
Cases other than those are considered common nouns, such as engineer, doctor, teacher, banker, etc., and used for describing a profession rather than addressing someone directly by their career itself. However, Capitalizing depends on style guidelines such as AP, APA, The Oxford Guide To Style, MLA, and The Chicago Manual of Style. Keep reading to learn more!
Do You Capitalize Professions When Writing?
Perhaps you have thought that in order to avoid being too personal, it is best to capitalize the title of the person being addressed to. It is a way of showing respect to the individual and their career path. Each profession has its own set of complexities, so there should be no room for underestimation.
Profession nouns work as labels. They are used to identify for whom a person works and the tasks expected within a particular occupation. Therefore, if labeled as common nouns, they should be written in lowercase. The following are examples of occupations in cases where they shouldn't be capitalized since they are used as common nouns rather than directly addressing the person.
- Gerald came to visit last night; he has become a great physician in Canada. This is why he always has a large number of patients.
- Esther and Amelia are well-known psychologists at the clinical assistance unit. All patients love them because of their caring nature.
- Ernesto, the tall, young man you see over there, is our local engineer. He is a simple man of simple words.
- The grey-haired, sweet woman with glasses is Ana, the town baker. She has already won twenty-four awards for her strawberry sorbet-infused cake.
- They said we needed a plumber to fix the water leak. However, I believe Ronald is more than capable of fixing it.
- Being an accountant has helped me prepare monthly budgets for my home bills. These were the main reasons why we were able to afford a new house.
- A marketer is supposed to create great communication strategies.
- Julissa is an efficient computer programmer. She designed our software program.
- Mr. Gilmore was awarded last Friday night for his loyalty as executive chef. His work will forever be remembered for its great quality and taste.
- Melody Astacio grew her visibility as a young Dominican singer. However, due to her attitude, her stardom has decreased in the last couple of years.
- Rudy Mancuso is an incredible content writer. We all love his work!
Professions should be capitalized if they are used in formal documents, such as cover letters, resumes, and emails. However, guidelines provided by the priorly mentioned grammar and style references have to be practiced in a consistent way throughout the written document.
Rules for Capitalizing
When writing, if the desire is to show respect for someone's position at their job, some rules help address the person and their profession adequately.
- Before a name
You should capitalize professions if they are used to address esteemed or awarded titles, for example, "Dr. Maximillian," "Bishop Franklin," or "Lieutenant Marcy." On the other hand, if the profession appears after the name, it means that the word was used as a common noun to describe. Therefore, it should be written in lowercase.
- Personal signatures
You should capitalize your name and job title when finishing a direct mail. By doing so, your writing appears with the right message of authority.
For example: "Luca – School Board President."
- Cover Letters and documents related to job application:
Commonly, digital and non-digital job titles are capitalized in cover letters when they reference a specific role.
For example: " I will apply for the position of Editor in Chief
at Caribe Media."
- When using the person's title in place of their name:
You should capitalize professions when they are used as a direct reference instead of the name they were given.
For example: " Will you make it to the party, Grandma?"
- Endowed positions:
You should capitalize fellowships and professorships since they are one-of-a-kind and refer to a specific title and person.
For example: "Jenessa Bright, the American Antiquarian Professor, taught for a whole decade."
In this case, it doesn't matter if the title goes after the person's name. It should still be capitalized because it is referring to a known society.
As with many tasks that have specific, standardized procedures, there are exceptions when it comes to capitalizing professions in written works. The exceptions aren't based on subjectivity, which jobs are most valuable, who earns more money, or who has the highest popularity. The exceptions are based on redundancy and description rather than direct reference.
The following are cases when professions shouldn't be capitalized:
- Do not capitalize when the title goes after the person's name. For example:
- That is Michael, a Brazilian baseball player. He is considered the best player in his city.
- Julia has studied hard to become a disciplined ballerina. This is why she was cast in the role of Swan Queen in Swan Lake's reenactment.
- Freddie Mercury is not only a rockstar interpreter but also a great actor.
- Do not capitalize when mentioning the profession anywhere else that is not the heading of job application documents, for example, within the body text. For example:
- As director of administration, I don't agree with the last decision taken. It will be up to them to enforce that rule.
- Her opinion as chief of operations is that protocol should not be reckless. However, I think that we should not be too rigid about it.
- Ulysses considers that the recent actions were optimally strategic regarding last week's meeting as a financial consultant.
It is best that at the moment of delivering a written material, make sure the rules and exceptions are up to date. Is there a late edition of those grammar-style references that just came out? One should consider skimming through them before printing their ideas on paper.
Doing this means being aware of whether protocols are the same, if the references removed some rules, or if they included other ones. When writing, being updated in these matters shows carefulness, attention, and respect for the ideas to be shared in the paper and the referenced person's profession. Not only that, but the same respect shows itself for the writer's time by investigating the proper ways of addressing someone and their own professional job. Furthermore, it denotes authority.
In conclusion, professions are nouns. Nouns are known for naming things, people, places, or ideas. When you are addressing someone directly, by their role in work matters rather than just labeling what they do, one must always capitalize such cases.
Professions should not be capitalized in writing unless they precede a person's name. They should not be capitalized unless it is the end of an email or a letter, and the writer's official signature is the name plus formal job occupation.
By reviewing these rules, applying them, and being aware of further changes or inclusions, formality and accuracy will always be present throughout the written product, be it a letter, email, job application, or any other document related to a professional's work setting.
Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.