When To Capitalize A Job Title

Should job titles be capitalized?My last blog addressed capitalizing words that represent groups, primarily in a business context: board of directors or board of trustees, company, department, committee.

This week, let’s look at when to capitalize a job title.

In general, use capital letters only when the title immediately precedes an individual’s name:

Chief Executive Officer Indra K. Nooyi joined PepsiCo Inc. in 1994.
Indra K. Nooyi has served as PepsiCo. Inc.’s chief executive officer since 2006 and board of directors chair since 2007.

Marketing Director Ellen Smith will lead the campaign to introduce our new service.
Ellen Smith, who as marketing director will lead the campaign to introduce our new service, has a staff of seven.

However, it’s not unusual to see job titles capitalized after an individual’s name in an organization’s internal communications:

Ellen Smith, who as Marketing Director will lead the campaign, has a staff of seven.
James Evans, Administrative Assistant to the Marketing Director, will describe key features of the new service.

Here’s an exception to not capitalizing titles that follow a name: when you use a title with a signature at the end of an email or a letter.

Ellen Smith, Marketing Director
James Evans, Administrative Assistant

Don’t capitalize what is more an occupational description than a title:

Popular Movie Star movie star George Clooney got married last year.
Famous Basketball Coach basketball coach Red Auerbach served 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association.

Don’t overdo capitalizations. They are intended to indicate importance or add emphasis. Using too many capitals diminishes their impact.

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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)