I blogged a couple weeks ago about a particular grammar pet peeve of mine, and today I have a new one: capitalizing words that shouldn’t be capitalized! Unfortunately, I see this a lot. Here are some typical examples of mistakes authors often make, both in their books and their marketing communications:
- He’s the Vice President of a big company.
- I’m going to give a presentation at my local Library.
- I’m very proud of being an Author.
- Having a Business degree helps with book Marketing.
- My book is coming out next Summer.
To the trained eye, the capitalized words above scream “amateur” and are a huge distraction. They also make me want to put down whatever I’m reading and never pick it up again. If it’s a book, that means I won’t recommend it because I won’t finish it. If the errors are on the author’s website, bio, or other marketing materials, it stops me from picking up the book at all. And that is unfortunate, because the story could be great!
The basic rules of capitalization are very simple:
- Only proper nouns (cities, states, people, companies, etc.) are capitalized.
- Titles are capitalized only when they come directly before a person’s name (e.g. “I saw President Obama on television last night,” but “Barack Obama is the president of the United States“).
- College degrees are not capitalized, and neither are majors, except for languages (e.g. “I have a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in business“).
- Generic departments and functions at companies are not capitalized (e.g. “He works in the marketing department, and she helps out with accounting“).
- Seasons of the year are not capitalized.
If you think about the above rules, you may remember learning them in elementary school, which is where we learned a lot of life’s important lessons. When it comes to grammar, sometimes it’s important to go back to the basics.
(Btw for those of you who are interested in mastering grammar to the point where you could teach it to others, there are several online teaching certification programs available.)