When To Capitalize Groups: Board, Company, Department, Committee

Organizations sometimes have their own writing style for internal documents — board of directors meetings Organizations sometimes have their own style guide for internal documents — annual reports, board of directors meetings notes, newsletters or emails, for example — in which capitalization use varies from external public documents.

For example, you might see Bank or Company capitalized throughout an internal piece, even in absence of the full official name.

The following guidelines will help you know when, in general, to capitalize and when to use lower case for business-related terms.

When board of directors (or board of trustees) is used with the official name of the entity it serves, capitalize it:

The First Business Bank Board of Directors will meet next week.
The Banner Hospital Board of Trustees meets tomorrow.

When board is not used with the specific entity it serves, don’t capitalize it. Nor is bank capitalized when it is does not appear with the entire official name.

The bank’s board of directors meets quarterly.
Minutes from the board meeting held yesterday will be distributed next week.
Newly elected board members will attend the meeting for the first time.

The same holds true for a board of trustees:

The Banner Hospital Board of Trustees meets in Phoenix.
Banner’s board of trustees is made up of area doctors and business leaders.
Two Banner trustees resigned from the board last year.

Company is rarely used in official names of large entities these days: Google, Apple, Edward Jones, IKEA, Sony, PepsiCo, Spotify, Amazon, UPS.

One of the few that has retained the term is Ford Motor Company, although it more often is referred to simply as Ford. When using the company on a second (or more) reference, don’t capitalize it.

Founded in 1903, Ford Motor Company still has its headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. The company now has worldwide manufacturing and assembly operations.

Other group names follow a similar guideline: Capitalize them only when they’re used as a proper noun (a specific person, place or thing).

The Marketing Committee
She serves on the committee.

The Marketing Department
He works in Marketing. (a department, division or group)
but: He works in marketing. (marketing as a field of specialty)

If your organization has a style guide, your capitalization practice should follow it for internal documents. But for anything that circulates outside of the company, consider these widely accepted practices.

Next time, we’ll look at using capitals with individual titles.

Are you uncertain about capitalization use in other areas? Let me know! You probably aren’t the only one, and I always appreciate hearing what readers find helpful.

Meanwhile, consider sharing this with your colleagues.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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