Ellen Widdup, our editorial director, has a bit of a problem. And it concerns capital letters. Here she explains why the invasion of the inappropriate use of uppercase is causing chaos for copywriters.
Meat Loaf sings while meatloaf does not.
This is something a very clever subeditor on a national newspaper once told me he used as a way to teach trainee journalists why the correct use of capital letters was vital.
It’s always stuck with me.
In the world of media, capital letters are used sparingly.
And for the most part, this is accepted by the general public as correct.
Why then, do so many people still insist on using them willy-nilly?
A capital catastrophe
Somewhere between primary school and the big, bad world of business, the reasoning for when and how we should use a capital letter got lost.
These days we see rogue capitals on everything from CVs, Letters, Emails, Job Titles, Adverts, Brochures, Websites and even Facebook Status Updates.
Sorry, let’s correct that: CVs, letters, emails, job titles, adverts, brochures, websites and even Facebook status updates.
And so I’ve decided to remind you all of the rules and call out the capital (excuse the pun) offenders.
Getting it right
Here are some basic rules to help you.
Use capital letters for:
- The first word in a sentence.
- The pronoun 'I'.
- Name titles like Mr, Mrs, Miss, Dr, Professor, Sir.
- Names of people: William Shakespeare, Madonna, Bob Geldof.
- Ranks and titles when used in conjunction with a name: President Trump or Director Helen Rudd but not when used on their own: the president, Donald Trump and Helen Rudd, director of Prominent PR.
- Countries: France, Spain, Germany.
- Nationalities and languages: Finnish, German, French.
- Full names of organisations, ministries, departments, treaties: the United Nations, the Metropolitan Police, the Treaty of Rome, the European Union.
- Named geographical places: The Hague, the Sahara Desert, the Tower of Pisa.
- Well-known regions: Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia.
- Celestial bodies: Mars, Venus, Jupiter, the Earth but not the sun, the moon, stars or earth (if not referred to as a planet).
- Newspapers and Journals: The Times, The Economist, The Sun.
- Brand or business names: Robert Norman Construction, Sunsquare, British Baby Box but not the product or service they sell: construction, rooflights, baby boxes.
- The main words in book and article titles: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- Days, months, holidays: Monday, September, Easter but not seasons: spring, winter, autumn and summer.
- Historical Events: World War Two, the French Revolution, the Great Depression.
- Departments when given as titles: the Department for Education.
- Religious and political terms from names: Christian, Buddhist, Marxist. Also religious groups: Sikhs, Catholics, Protestants.
- Rivers and lakes: the Limpopo, the Rhine, the River Thames, the Mississippi River, Lake Ontario, Lake Victoria.
- Mountains and ranges: Mount Everest, the Alps, the Himalayas.
- Product and trade names: a good Bordeaux wine, a nice Edam cheese.
- Political parties: the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, the Labour Party.
Find out more
To be an expert on the correct use of capital letters, you could take a look at a reputable media style guide.
This is particularly helpful for anyone who wants to get exposure in the local, national or trade media using a press release.
A well-constructed and accurately written release has much more chance of getting coverage than one littered with capital letters.
For extra guidance check out a proper style guide.
Alternatively, you could just get us to write it for you!
Call us today if you want to put our copywriting skills to the test.