Section Title

Brand Standards

Style Guide: Capitalization

Information and usage were taken from a variety of sources, including The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, and a collection of U-M school and college style guides.

Capitalize only the complete and official names of colleges, schools, divisions, departments, offices, and official bodies. Lowercase informal and shortened versions.

  • The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts has more than 60 academic departments and units. These departments and units of the college are housed in many different campus buildings.
  • The provost’s office sponsors a large number of programs and awards. The Office of the Provost is located in the Fleming Building.

Capitalize the official, proper names of longstanding committees and groups, and formally developed programs, centers, and initiatives. Do not capitalize an ad hoc or temporary committee’s name.

  • The Space Utilization Initiative explores facility use on the Ann Arbor campus. The initiative was launched in July 2006.
  • The vice presidential search committee met last Tuesday.

For official course titles, use initial capitals and quotation marks.

  • “Topics in Comparative Literature” is a three-credit course.

Capitalize official department names in running text. Lowercase shortened or unofficial names. Refer to the individual department, office, or unit for its official name.

  • Faculty members from the geography, anthropology, and ethnic studies departments are cooperating on this project.
  • James Elias, associate professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry, will deliver the first lecture of the conference.

Do not use capitals when the department affiliation serves as an adjective rather than as a noun:

  • The dean announced that electrical engineering Professor Pat Mendez had been promoted.

Capitalize geographical terms commonly accepted as proper nouns. Do not capitalize descriptive or identifying geographical terms that do not apply to only one geographical entity or are not considered proper names. In general, lowercase cultural or climatic terms derived from geographical proper names.

  • the Upper Peninsula, the Thumb, Metro Detroit, the South, southern, southwestern (direction), the Southwest (U.S.), the West, western Europe, the West Coast, the Middle East, the Midwest (U.S.), west, western, westerner

Capitalize grade letters and use one numeral after the period in GPAs.

  • She got a C in “CAD Fundamentals,” which brought her overall GPA from 3.7 down to 3.2.

Capitalize job titles only when they immediately precede the individual’s name or when they are named positions or honorary titles (as in the last two examples).

  • The Board of Regents appointed President Mary Sue Coleman to a second term.
  • The president of the University of Michigan, Mary Sue Coleman, accepted the offer to serve on the exploratory committee.

Put a very long title after the name to avoid clumsy syntax and excessive capitalization.

  • Kathy Myers, assistant to the associate vice president for development and interim director of alumni special projects, moved her office to Wolverine Tower.

Unlike formal, academic, or administrative titles, do not capitalize descriptive job titles and occupational descriptions whether before or after a name:

  • Project manager Tamara Boyar and Lawrence Wilson, a web programmer, presented their proposal to the client.
  • Michigan chicken farmer Tom Kaufman and his wife Monica, a master beekeeper, have written a cookbook/memoir called The Poultry Diaries.

Capitalize proper names but use lowercase for other words when referring to diseases, syndromes, theorems, laws, etc.

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease

When writing for general readerships, set book, journal, brochure, pamphlet, long poems, TV series, operas, long musical compositions, artwork, and movie titles in italics; set chapter and article titles in roman and enclose them in quotation marks; set names of forms in roman.

Capitalize the following in titles:

  • the first word
  • the last word
  • the first word after a colon
  • all nouns, verbs (including short verbs, such as is, are, be), pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, subordinating conjunctions (if, because, as, that)

Do not capitalize the following in titles (unless they fall into one of the previously listed categories):

  • articles (a, an, the), unless they are part of a proper noun
  • coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor)
  • prepositions (on, between, because of, to, so, yet, by, before, over, under, through, etc.)

For example:

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis has been by a popular children’s book for many years.
  • The film Citizen Kane stars Orson Welles.
  • Time magazine’s article “A Giant Leap for Mankind” described the first lunar landing.

Lowercase seasons, semesters, and terms.

  • spring semester
  • fall 2003
  • the winter term

Capitalize the full official names of buildings and formally designated places on campus.

  • Central Campus
  • North Campus
    • BUT Ann Arbor campus, Dearborn campus, Flint campus
  • Michigan Stadium
  • the Diag
  • Duderstadt Center

Do not capitalize freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, first-year student, second-year student, etc., unless the word appears at the beginning of a sentence or in a headline.

There is considerable debate about whether to capitalize university when the word refers to the University of Michigan. Use of a capital or a lowercase u in university when the reference is to one’s own institution is divided; some institutions capitalize while others do not. It has been customary at U-M to capitalize university when referring specifically to the University of Michigan or one of its campuses.

We recommend using lowercase for these reasons:

  • Non-university communication preferences in publishing, the news media, and the non-academic business world are for lowercasing university, even when it refers to a specific institution. U-M writers communicate often and widely with external audiences and materials originally intended for internal distribution might later be distributed to external audiences.
  • In almost all cases, context will clearly indicate when university refers to the University of Michigan. When there might be ambiguity, writers can easily substitute our university, U-M, the Flint campus, etc.

Every current style guide (including The Chicago Manual of Style, which tends to use more capitals than AP newspaper style) subscribes to the general rule that subsequent references to proper nouns that use a part of that proper noun (such as street, hotel, building, company, university, association, etc.) should be lowercase.