Should it be “President Biden” or “president Biden”? Is the “social worker” coming to the meeting, or should it be “Social Worker”? To learn when to capitalize job titles in business writing (or any other document), read our guide below.
When Capitalization is Key
Typically, job titles that come before names are capitalized (unless there is punctuation separating the title from the name). In these cases, the job title functions as part of a proper noun formed by the title and name:
President Biden has won the election.
Head of Sales Mark Smith will be interviewing for the position.
But beware of commas! As you can see, the job title below is not capitalized as we’re using it generically, not as a proper name:
The graphic designer, Sohaila Hussein, is very good at her job.
We’ll look at this and other exceptions again later in the post.
Capitalization in Other Contexts
Other situations in which you may need to capitalize job titles include:
To show respect to a person in a high-status role or position, especially if you are using their job title to stand in for their name.
The Queen will be opening this leisure center.
Have you written to the President yet?
In emails or letter signature lines.
Yours faithfully, Sarah Brown, Assistant Principal
Melanie Ferrer, Speech and Language Therapist
In headings, such as section headings in a resume.
May 2019–July 2020, Customer Services Assistant
In the vocative case (i.e., when using a job title to address someone directly).
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Is it serious, Doctor?
If a job title appears in the proper name for a building or department.
Office of the Vice Chancellor
Finally, if you’re an employee, make sure to check your organization’s style guide (if they have one) for specific details on capitalizing titles within the company. For example, some companies prefer to capitalize job roles as a matter of respect. And if your boss prefers to see their title capitalized in official documents, it is usually wise to follow their example even if it means bending the standard rules!
When Capitalization is Not Correct
When job titles are used descriptively or generically within a sentence, they are not usually capitalized. This applies to formal writing, job descriptions, cover letters and resumes, and pretty much any other form of writing you can imagine. For example:
Our chief editor, Simon Crystal, has an office on the second floor.
Mrs. Osborne, our assistant chef, makes the most delicious lasagna.
The receptionists at this company leave a lot to be desired.
During my time as a sales manager, I was responsible for 15 employees.
I would make an excellent staff nurse as I have great interpersonal skills.
In other words, when a job description is used in a sentence and does not stand in for (or form part of) a proper name, your default should be to use lowercase letters at the start of each word. However, as above, you may want to check your employer’s style guide for advice on capitalizing specific job titles.
Summary: To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize?
In summary, the rules for capitalizing job titles are:
Job titles are normally capitalized when they stand in for (or are part of) a proper name, especially when the title precedes a person’s name.
Job titles are also commonly capitalized to show respect for high-status individuals, when using a title to address someone directly, or when they appear in headings and signature lines.
When used generically or descriptively, job titles are not usually capitalized.
We hope this post has clarified how to capitalize job titles in writing. But if you’d like an expert to help you perfect your writing, why not try our proofreading service?