Clear business writing: getting the upper hand on upper case

Writers who feel compelled to use Capital Letters for no Apparent Reason make Everything seem Important or Formal, creating confusion for readers. Avoid confusing your audience by following these simple rules.

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns, which could refer to a place, person, event, or thing, are always capitalised in English. To name but a few, proper nouns include people’s names, names of businesses or organisations, place names, nationalities, cities and rivers, and months of the year. Interestingly, the four seasons are not considered to be proper nouns. Unless you’re a member of The Four Seasons, then you’re fine.


It’s totally appropriate to use capital letters for an acronym – UNESCO, for example – but for heaven’s sake don’t go crazy and insert full stops. U.N.E.S.C.O is a definite no-no.

Government and university

For some reason, these two words seem to trip folk up a lot. If you’re referring to a specific government – such as the NSW Government – then certainly the use of an upper case ‘G’ is warranted. If you’re writing about government in general – ‘The government doesn’t pay particularly well’ – then a lower case ‘g’ is correct. Use the same rule for referring to universities. ‘Sydney University is in Camperdown’ is spot on. And so is, ‘He’ll be going to university next year.’


When quoting the title of a play, movie, book, article or whatever, then use a capital letter for the main words. ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, for example or, ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’

The word ‘I’

When writing about yourself, ‘I’ is always capitalised. This golden rule should also be applied when sending a text. Shame on all those who ignore it. (You know who you are.)

Points of the compass

North, south, east and west do not require a capital letter unless they begin a sentence. However, if you’re abbreviating the direction, then upper case is the preferred style. As in, ‘Most of the rain fell in far NE Queensland.’

When using titles

For instance, if you’re referring to a specific individual and including their title, then use a capital. ‘It was only thanks to Dr Smith that the Jupiter 2 made it back to Earth.’ If, however, you’re referring to the occupation rather than an individual, then no capital is necessary. ‘Honestly, some doctors wouldn’t know an alien from an asteroid.

For help with copywriting, proofreading or editing any of your business documents, contact Proof Communications on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216 or head to the contact page.

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