The following information will help you edit your writing with confidence. Use it to check capitalization, form plurals, use abbreviations, and improve your spelling. (These rules align with those in The Chicago Manual of Style.)
In this chapter
Capitalizing Proper Nouns and Proper Adjectives
Capitalize all proper nouns and proper adjectives (adjectives formed from proper nouns).
The owner, Lynn Taylor, would like to thank Rankin Technologies.
I have a Cartesian philosophy: “I think, therefore I am . . . promoted.”
Capitalizing First Words
Capitalize the first word in a sentence and in a direct quotation.
Advertising staffers gathered for the usual Monday meeting.
Ms. Beggs began, “A lie may take care of the present, but it has no future.”
Marsha believes the saying All’s well that ends well.
The first rule is, When in doubt, leave it out.
My question is, How (or how) are we going to pay for this?
Capitalizing First Words in Lists
Capitalize the first word in each item in a list typed in an outline style.
Come to the meeting prepared to do the following:
Share your thoughts on the latest building plan.
Explain the changes to the original blueprint.
Provide an updated cost analysis and environmental impact statement.
Come to the meeting prepared with
a presentation of the latest building plan,
an explanation of the changes to the original blueprint, and
an updated cost analysis and environmental impact statement.
Capitalization in Salutations and Complimentary Closings
Capitalize the first and all major words in the salutation of a letter, but only the first word in the complimentary closing.
Dear Production Manager:
Dear Sir or Madam:
Capitalizing First Words Enclosed in Parentheses
Capitalize the first word in a sentence that is enclosed in parentheses and does not appear within another sentence.
Some writers were unsure of the product’s worthiness. (Exaggerating seemed necessary.)
Pat and Meg both volunteered to do the copywriting (we were relieved), and they immediately began tossing ideas back and forth.
Capitalization After a Colon
Capitalize the first word in a complete sentence that follows a colon when that sentence is (1) a formal statement, (2) a quotation, or (3) a sentence you want to emphasize.
It was Sydney Harris who said this about computers: “The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like people, but that people will begin to think like computers.”
Capitalize the name of an organization or a team and its members.
Toledo Mud Hens
American Indian Movement
Business Products Association
Capitalizing Particular Sections of the Country
Words that indicate sections of the country are proper nouns and should be capitalized; words that simply indicate direction are common nouns and should be lowercased.
Many businesses are moving to the sunny South. (section of the country)
Businesses move south to cut fuel costs and other expenses. (direction)
Capitalize abbreviations of titles and organizations. (A number of other abbreviations are also capitalized. See also common abbreviations.)
Capitalizing Numerical Designations
Nouns used with reference numbers or letters are often capitalized in business writing.
Capitalizing Letters Used to Indicate Form or Shape
Capitalize the letters used to indicate form or shape.
Capitalizing Words Used as Names
Capitalize words like dad, mother, aunt, and judge when they are part of a title that includes a personal name, or when they are substituted for a proper noun (especially in direct address).
Hi, Aunt Mae! (Aunt is part of the name.)
My aunt is a doctor.
The senator said his favorite legislator was Senator Hubert Humphrey.
Please, Mom, stay for dinner.
A Closer LookHere is a way to tell if a word is being substituted for a proper noun: read the sentence with a proper noun in place of the word. If the proper noun fits in the sentence, the word being tested should be capitalized. (Note: Generally the word is not capitalized if it follows a possessive noun or pronoun, such as Tonya’s, her, my.)
Did Dad (Alex) get the promotion? (Alex works in this sentence.)
Did your dad (Alex) get the promotion? (Alex does not work here; also, the word dad follows the possessive your.)
Capitalizing Names for the Supreme Being
Nouns that refer to the Supreme Being or the title of any holy book are capitalized.
Capitalization in Titles
Capitalize the first and last word of a title and every word in between with the following exceptions: articles (a, an, the), short prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions. This applies to titles of books, newspapers, periodicals, poems, plays, films, works of art, articles, and photographs.
Write for Business
Journal of Office Professionals
What It Is Like in Marrakech
Capitalizing Formal Titles
Capitalize the first letter of each major word of an employee’s title when it precedes that person’s name. Leave it lowercase if it follows the name or appears alone.
Marketing Manager Diane Barnhart will give her report at today’s meeting.
Diane Barnhart, marketing manager, will give her report at today’s meeting.
The marketing manager will give her report at today’s meeting.
Research and Development
Capitalizing Titles of Specific Courses
Words such as history, business, science, and technology are proper nouns when they are used in the titles of specific courses, but they are common nouns when they name a field of study.
Professor Sajev teaches Global Business Ethics. (title of a specific course)
Which professor teaches the biology course? (a field of study)
Ms. Ott teaches Spanish and Geography 101.
A Closer LookA plural generic is capitalized when used before two or more names; it is usually lowercased when used after two or more names.
Lakes Michigan, Erie, and Huron
Mounts Everest and McKinley
the Nile and Euphrates rivers
Proper Nouns and Proper AdjectivesCapitalize all proper nouns and all proper adjectives (adjectives formed from proper nouns). The chart below provides an overview of capitalization rules.
Capitalization at a Glance
Periods, events in history
Dark Ages, Great Depression
February, September, December
Days of the week
Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday
Holidays, holy days
Labor Day, Ash Wednesday, Kwanzaa
Libertarian Party, Democratic Party
Congress, the House, the Senate
Bill of Rights
Academy Award, Nobel Prize
Microsoft; Jackson Farms, Inc.
Honda Civic, Krispy Kreme doughnut
Ivan the Terrible, the Big Three
Senator Bernie Sanders, Training Director John Thatch
Official state nicknames
the Keystone State, the Wolverine State
Planets and other heavenly bodies
Mars, Earth, Big Dipper
Africa, North America
Sections of a country or the world
the Northwest, the Mideast
Peru, Congo, Malaysia
Idaho, Iowa, Manitoba
Cities, towns, villages
San Diego, Lyons, East Troy
the Loop, the Twin Cities
Streets, roads, highways
Sunset Boulevard, Highway 18, Pennsylvania Turnpike
the Mojave Desert, the Alps
Bodies of water
the Chang and Huang rivers, Lake Superior, Hudson Bay
Empire State Building, Denali National Park
Plurals Formed by Adding s
The plurals of most nouns are formed by adding s to the singular.
Plurals of Compound Nouns
The plurals of compound nouns are usually formed by adding s or es to the important word in the compound.
secretaries of state
Plurals of Nouns Ending in ch, s, sh, x, and z
The plurals of nouns ending in ch, s, sh, x, and z are made by adding es to the singular.
Plurals of Nouns Ending in y Preceded by Consonants
The plurals of common nouns ending in a y that’s preceded by a consonant are formed by changing the y to i and adding es.
the department has three Marys, two Randys, and four Bobbys
Plurals of Nouns Ending in y Preceded by Vowels
The plurals of nouns ending in a y that’s preceded by a vowel are formed by adding only an s.
Plurals of Nouns Ending in o Preceded by Vowels
The plurals of nouns ending in an o that’s preceded by a vowel are formed by adding only an s.
Plurals of Nouns Ending in o Preceded by Consonants
The plurals of most nouns ending in an o that’s preceded by a consonant are formed by adding es.
Other exceptions include memos and nouns ending in o that can form plurals by adding either s or es, such as mementos/mementoes and cargos/cargoes.
Plurals of Symbols, Letters, Numbers, and Words Discussed as Words
The plurals of symbols, letters, numbers, and words discussed as words are formed by adding an apostrophe and an s.
Using &’s, @’s, and %’s in place of the words and, at, and percent will save room in this report. Don’t forget to cross your t’s. And, avoid using too many and’s in your writing.
DVD’s or DVDs
fives and sixes
Plurals of Nouns Ending in f or fe
The plurals of nouns ending in f or fe are formed in one of two ways: If the final f sound is still heard in the plural form of the word, add only an s; if the final f sound becomes a v sound, change the f to ve and add s.
Plural ends with f sound: proof—proofs; safe—safes
Plural ends with v sound: shelf—shelves; life—lives
Plural ends with either sound: scarf—scarfs, scarves
Plurals of Nouns Ending in ful
The plurals of nouns ending with ful are formed by adding an s.
Plurals with Irregular Spellings
Some English words, including many borrowed from Latin or Greek, form a plural by taking on an irregular spelling; others are now acceptable with the commonly used s or es ending.
Plurals of Foreign Words
Deciding Between Numbers and Numerals
Normally use words for numbers from one to nine and use numerals for numbers 10 and over.
Four vice presidents and twelve managers will conduct the sixteen meetings.
The three tool attachments cost $1.85, $1.42, and $.59. (For the sake of consistent style, use $.59, not 59¢.)
Numbers in Addresses and Times
Spell out the number one in addresses (One Elmbrook Blvd.). You may spell out even, half, and quarter hours in text, but do not use a.m. or p.m. in this case.
quarter to four
nine o’clock tonight
half past two
Numbers with Abbreviations and Symbols
Use numerals with abbreviations and symbols.
Numbers to Begin a Sentence
Use words to express numbers when they begin a sentence.
Twelve customers have complained so far.
Clumsy: Seven hundred forty-two employees signed up for dental care last year.
Better: Last year, 742 employees signed up for dental care.
Numbers Before a Compound Modifier
Unless they cannot be expressed in one or two words, use words for numbers that precede a compound modifier that includes another number.
She sold twenty 35-millimeter cameras in one day.
The prescription called for 120 25-milligram doses.
2 billion to 2.9 billion
Hyphens are used to form compound modifiers indicating measurement. They are also used for inclusive numbers and fractions when written out.
a 500-mile flight
the fiscal year 2019-2020
a two-thirds majority
a three-hour drive
Numbers in Dates
In letters and most other business writing, dates are indicated by the month, day, and year with a comma separating the figures.
June 7, 2019
The military and most European companies use the day-month-year system with no commas.
7 June 2019
6/7/19 (This means 6 July 2019 in Europe; but June 7, 2019, in the U.S.)
Numbers in Different FormsUse numerals to express numbers in the following forms: money used with symbols ($ or ¢), decimals, percentages, chapters, pages, addresses, exact times, identification numbers, statistics, measurements used with abbreviations, and dates.
$20.00 (but twenty dollars)
7100 Second Avenue
4:30 p.m., 8:00 this morning (but eight o’clock)
Serial No. 3126598
a vote of 23-4
24 mph, 2 tsp.
44 B.C.E.; 79 C.E.; July 10, 2019 (domestic),
Acceptable Forms of Abbreviations
An abbreviation is the shortened form of a word or a phrase. In general, use abbreviations only in tables, graphs, charts—places where space must be conserved. The following abbreviations, however, are acceptable in any form of writing:
A Closer LookIf terms such as Company or Corporation are abbreviated in an official company name, use the abbreviated forms (Co. or Corp.) in your writing.
a.a.c. average annual cost
a.a.e. average annual earnings
abr. abridged; abridgment
acct. account; accountant
ACV actual cash value
adm. administration; administrative
a.k.a. also known as
A.M., a.m. before noon
ann. annual; annually
AP accounts payable
APR annual percentage rate
AR accounts receivable
ASAP as soon as possible
ASCII American Standard Code for Information Interchange
asst. 1. assistant 2. assorted
avg., av. average
BBB Better Business Bureau
B.C.E. before the Common Era
biog. biographer; biographical; biography
BO back order
c. 1. circa (about) 2. cup(s)
CAD computer-aided design
cc carbon copies; copies
CDT, C.D.T. central daylight time
C.E. Common Era
CEO chief executive officer
CFO chief financial officer
c.i.f. cost, insurance, and freight
c/o care of
COD, c.o.d. collect on delivery
C of C Chamber of Commerce
COLA cost of living allowance
COO chief operating officer
CPA certified public accountant
CPM cost per thousand
CST, C.S.T. central standard time
cu 1. cubic 2. cumulative
d/b/a, d.b.a. doing business as
DST daylight saving time
ed. edition; editor
EDT, E.D.T. eastern daylight time
e.g. for example
EIN employer identification number
e.o.m. end of month
EST, E.S.T. eastern standard time
et al. and others
etc. and so forth
FAQ frequently asked question
fin. finance; financial
F.O.B., f.o.b. free on board
FMV fair market value
ft. foot; feet
FY fiscal year
FYI for your information
GM general manager
GNP gross national product
i.e. that is
IRA individual retirement account
IRS Internal Revenue Service
L.L.C. limited liability company
Ltd., ltd. limited
Mc, mc megacycle(s)
MDT, M.D.T. mountain daylight time
mgt., mgmt. management
mi. 1. mile(s), 2. mill(s) (monetary unit)
mpg, m.p.g. miles per gallon
mph, m.p.h. miles per hour
MST, M.S.T. mountain standard time
N/A not available; not applicable
N.S.F., n.s.f. not sufficient funds
o.t., o/t overtime
oz, oz. ounce(s)
P & I principal and interest
P & L profit and loss
PDT, P.D.T. Pacific daylight time
P/E price or earnings
p., pg. page
PIN personal identification number
P.M., p.m. after noon
PO purchase order
P.O. Post Office
POA power of attorney
POP point of purchase
ppd. 1. postpaid, 2. prepaid
PR, P.R. public relations
p.s.i. pounds per square inch
PST, P.S.T. Pacific standard time
QA quality assurance
QTD quarter to date
R&D research and development
ROI return on investment
r.p.m., rpm revolutions per minute
R.S.V.P., r.s.v.p. please reply
S&H shipping and handling
S&L savings and loan
SASE self-addressed stamped envelope
SOP standard operating procedures
SRO, S.R.O. standing room only
SSN social security number
syn. synonymous; synonym
tbs., tbsp. tablespoon(s)
UHF, uhf ultra high frequency
v. 1. Physics: velocity, 2. Electricity: voltage, 3. volume
VA, V.A. Veterans Administration
VIP very important person
vol. 1. volume, 2. volunteer
vp vice president
whse., whs. warehouse
yd. yard(s) (measurement)
YTD year to date
An acronym is a word formed from the first or first few letters of each word in a compound term. Periods are not used with acronyms.
LAN—Local Area Network
radar—radio detecting and ranging
RICO—Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (Act)
scuba—self-contained underwater breathing apparatus
An initialism is similar to an acronym except that the initials are pronounced as individual letters.
FDA—Food and Drug Administration
ICC—Interstate Commerce Commission
Common Acronyms and Initialisms
AFL American Federation of Labor
AIDS acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
BBB Better Business Bureau
CIA Central Intelligence Agency
CT Computerized Tomography
CAT Computerized Axial Tomography
DOD Department of Defense
EPA Environmental Protection Agency
FAA Federal Aviation Administration
FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation
FCC Federal Communications Commission
FDA Food and Drug Administration
FDIC Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
FHA Federal Housing Administration
FHFA Federal Housing Finance Agency
FICA Federal Insurance Contributions Act
FmHA Farmers Home Administration
FTC Federal Trade Commission
GAO General Accounting Office
HUD Housing and Urban Development
IRS Internal Revenue Service
MADD Mothers Against Drunk Driving
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NYSE New York Stock Exchange
OEO Office of Economic Opportunity
OEP Office of Emergency Preparedness
OPEC Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Administration
PAC political action committee
PIN personal identification number
PSA public service announcement
REA Rural Electrification Administration
ROTC Reserve Officers’ Training Corps
SEC Securities and Exchange Commission
SSA Social Security Administration
SWAT Special Weapons and Tactics
VISTA Volunteers in Service to America
i Before e
Use i before e except after c, or when sounded like a as in eighty and freight.
Neither sheik dared leisurely seize either weird species of financiers.
Adding Suffixes to Words with Final Consonants
If a single-syllable word (for example, sad) ends with a consonant (d) preceded by a single vowel (a), double the final consonant before adding a suffix beginning with a vowel (saddest).
If a multisyllable word (admit) ends in a consonant (t) preceded by a single vowel (i), the accent is on the last syllable (ad-mit´), and the suffix begins with a vowel (ed)—the same rule holds true: double the final consonant (admitted).
Adding Suffixes to Words Ending in Silent e
If a word ends with a silent e, keep the e when adding a suffix beginning with a consonant. Drop the e when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel.
Adding Suffixes to Words with y as the Last Letter
If a word ends in a y preceded by a consonant, change the y to i before adding any suffix, unless the suffix is ing.
If a word ends in a y preceded by a vowel, form the plural by simply adding an s.