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When to capitalise job titles?

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

Quick copy writing tips

Question: Is it Manager or manager?

Job titles. They're used everywhere in business communications and content. But, often inconsistently.

One of the biggest questions I'm asked when reviewing copy: When do I capitalise a title?

As a general rule of thumb:

Is the title followed by a name? --> Capitalise it!

Example: Chief Executive Office John Smith announced the decision on Tuesday.

Is the title used to describe a position? --> Lower case!

Example: Not sure where to go? Meet with one of our specialists to discuss your needs.

Is the title after the person's name? --> Lower case!

Example: Anna Smith, sales director, has provided more detail in her latest update.

Is the title important and replacing a name? --> Capitalise it!

Example: Our Managing Director is passionate about customer service. As your Managing Director, I'm excited about this development.

Technically capitalising a title like this is an exception to the rule. But it's now common practice for corporate communications and business content.

Yes, I'm talking about proper nouns vs nouns here. Is it being used as a proper noun (talking about a specific person or thing) or a common noun (a general person or thing). But, I find using the prompts above is a lot easier to remember. Especially for the everyday corporate worker!

The key: consistency. And this is where a copy writing, brand or style guideline comes in handy. Creating an easy to use reference tool anyone can use. Including me when I edit or proof for clients!

Do you need a style guide?

If you don't have a copy or brand style guide, don't panic. You're not alone.

While many corporates and large companies have a style guideline, it's not as common in small and medium businesses (SMB). Sadly, a lot small businesses don't have a full brand kit. Sometimes only have a logo and basic templates. Not having a style or brand guideline can cause some problems. Without it, your brand can come across disjointed in the market. With no standard approach, look and feel.

What to do if you don't have a copy or style guide

If you're an SMB and don't have a style guide, I recommend the Australian Business Style Guide. This quick reference tool is great to get you started and will give you the basics. However, this might not always be enough.

If you have specific rules you'd like to apply - or have a larger team - I recommend developing a style guide of your own.

For example, working in the finance sector there are so many acronyms and technical terms! Is it AUD or AU when talking about Australian dollars? Do you use fullstops for U.S. or use USA?

Having a style guide ensures you don't have to go digging into your last newsletter to check. Plus, everyone from operations to customers services and marketing are applying the same rules to content.

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