Chapter 24: Mechanics



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.”

Note: Also capitalize the first word of a saying, a slogan, a motto, or dialogue when it appears within a sentence. A question within another sentence may or may not be capitalized.

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:

  1. Share your thoughts on the latest building plan.

  2. Explain the changes to the original blueprint.

  3. Provide an updated cost analysis and environmental impact statement.

Note: Do not capitalize the first words in such a list if all together the items compose a complete sentence.

Come to the meeting prepared with

  1. a presentation of the latest building plan,

  2. an explanation of the changes to the original blueprint, and

  3. an updated cost analysis and environmental impact statement.

Creating Effective Lists

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 Sherry,

Dear Production Manager:

Dear Sir or Madam:

Best wishes,

Sincerely yours,

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.)

Note: Do not capitalize a sentence that is enclosed in parentheses and is located in the middle of another sentence.

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.”

Capitalizing Organizations

Capitalize the name of an organization or a team and its members.

Toledo Mud Hens

American Indian Movement

Republican Party

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)

Capitalizing Abbreviations

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.

Flight 709

Model 312

Form 411

Appendix B

Chapter 6

Table A3

Note: Lowercase lesser divisions within such units.

page 3

paragraph 5

line 2

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 Look

Here 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.



the Savior



the Koran

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

Note: For title capitalization, don’t lowercase short words that are not prepositions or coordinating conjunctions, such as the pronoun it or the verb is.

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.

Note: Also capitalize the formal names of entities within a company.

Research and Development

Human Resources

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)

Note: Language classes and school subjects that are followed by a number should be capitalized.

Ms. Ott teaches Spanish and Geography 101.

A Closer Look

A 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 Adjectives

Capitalize 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

Special events

Boston Marathon


February, September, December

Days of the week

Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday

Holidays, holy days

Labor Day, Ash Wednesday, Kwanzaa

Political parties

Libertarian Party, Democratic Party

Government bodies

Congress, the House, the Senate

Official documents

Bill of Rights

Awards, honors

Academy Award, Nobel Prize


Microsoft; Jackson Farms, Inc.

Trade names

Honda Civic, Krispy Kreme doughnut

Formal nicknames

Ivan the Terrible, the Big Three

Official titles

Senator Bernie Sanders, Training Director John Thatch

Official state nicknames

the Keystone State, the Wolverine State

Geographical Names

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

States, provinces

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

Public areas

Empire State Building, Denali National Park

Forming Plurals

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.



Note: The plurals of proper nouns ending in y are formed by adding s.

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.



Exceptions: All musical terms ending in an o form plurals by adding only an s.




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.

Note: It is permissible to omit the apostrophe when the omission does not cause confusion, but be consistent. Also, spelled-out numbers do not require an apostrophe.

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.

four cupfuls

six pailfuls

Note: When referring to separate cups or pails full of something, use four cups full or six pails full.

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


criterion—criteria (criterions)



phenomenon—phenomena (phenomenons)

radius—radii (radiuses)

English Words







Using Numbers

Deciding Between Numbers and Numerals

Normally use words for numbers from one to nine and use numerals for numbers 10 and over.







Note: When several numbers appear in the same sentence, keep them in the same style.

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

eleven thirty

Numbers with Abbreviations and Symbols

Use numerals with abbreviations and symbols.

7° C

4 lbs.

3 oz.

2 tsp.


5 ft.


Numbers to Begin a Sentence

Use words to express numbers when they begin a sentence.

Twelve customers have complained so far.

Note: If this rule creates an awkward sentence, reword the sentence.

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.

Note: You may use a combination of words and numerals for very large numbers.

6–8 million

2 billion to 2.9 billion

7 trillion

$6–$8 trillion

Hyphenating Numbers

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

Note: Using slashes between numbers in a date may cause confusion

6/7/19 (This means 6 July 2019 in Europe; but June 7, 2019, in the U.S.)

Numbers in Different Forms

Use 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)




8 percent


Chapter 7


pages 287–289


7100 Second Avenue


4:30 p.m., 8:00 this morning (but eight o’clock)

Identification numbers

Serial No. 3126598


a vote of 23-4


24 mph, 2 tsp.


44 B.C.E.; 79 C.E.; July 10, 2019 (domestic),
10 July 2019 (international)

Using Abbreviations

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.m. (A.M.)

Note: In the body of a letter or a report, spell out the names of states, countries, months, days, or units of measure. Also spell out the words Avenue, Street, Road, Company, and similar words when they are part of a proper name. Use words rather than signs or symbols (&,%,#,@).

A Closer Look

If terms such as Company or Corporation are abbreviated in an official company name, use the abbreviated forms (Co. or Corp.) in your writing.

Common Abbreviations

a.a.c. average annual cost

a.a.e. average annual earnings

abr. abridged; abridgment

acct. account; accountant

ACV actual cash value

addn. addition

addnl. additional

adm. administration; administrative

advt. advertisement

aff. affirmative

afft. affidavit

agcy. agency

agt. agent

a.k.a. also known as

A.M., a.m. before noon

amt. amount

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

assn. association

asst. 1. assistant 2. assorted

attn. attention

atty. attorney

aux. auxiliary

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

chap. chapter

c.i.f. cost, insurance, and freight

ck. check

cm centimeter(s)

c/o care of

COD, c.o.d. collect on delivery

C of C Chamber of Commerce

COLA cost of living allowance

cont. continued

COO chief operating officer

co-op cooperative

Corp. Corporation

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

dept. department

dev. development

disc. discount

doc. document

DST daylight saving time

dup. duplicate

ea. each

ed. edition; editor

EDT, E.D.T. eastern daylight time

e.g. for example

EIN employer identification number

e.o.m. end of month

encl. enclosure

EST, E.S.T. eastern standard time

et al. and others

etc. and so forth

ex. example

exec. executive

FAQ frequently asked question

fin. finance; financial

F.O.B., f.o.b. free on board

FMV fair market value

ft. foot; feet

fwd. forward

FY fiscal year

FYI for your information

g gram(s)

gal. gallon(s)

gds. goods

GM general manager

GNP gross national product

govt. government

hdqrs. headquarters

hp horsepower

i.e. that is

illus. illustration

Inc. Incorporated

inst. institute

invt. inventory

IRA individual retirement account

IRS Internal Revenue Service

kc kilocycle(s)

kg kilogram(s)

km kilometer(s)

kw kilowatt(s)

l liter(s)

lat. latitude

lb. pound(s)

l.c. lowercase

lg. large

L.L.C. limited liability company

long. longitude

Ltd., ltd. limited

m meter(s)

man. manual

Mc, mc megacycle(s)

mdse. merchandise

MDT, M.D.T. mountain daylight time

mfg. manufacturing

mgr. manager

mgt., mgmt. management

mi. 1. mile(s), 2. mill(s) (monetary unit)

misc. miscellaneous

mkt. market

mktg. marketing

ml milliliter(s)

mm millimeter(s)

mo. month(s)

mpg, m.p.g. miles per gallon

mph, m.p.h. miles per hour

MST, M.S.T. mountain standard time

mtg. meeting

N/A not available; not applicable

natl. national

neg. negative

N.S.F., n.s.f. not sufficient funds

num. number(s)

org. organization

orig. original

o.t., o/t overtime

oz, oz. ounce(s)

P & I principal and interest

P & L profit and loss

pat. patent

pct. percent

pd. paid

PDT, P.D.T. Pacific daylight time

P/E price or earnings

p., pg. page

pp. pages

PIN personal identification number

P.M., p.m. after noon

pmt. payment

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

qty. quantity

R&D research and development

recd. received

resp. respectively

retd. returned

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

sal. salary

SASE self-addressed stamped envelope

shpt. shipment

sm. small

SOP standard operating procedures

SRO, S.R.O. standing room only

SSN social security number

std. standard

syn. synonymous; synonym

tbs., tbsp. tablespoon(s)

TM trademark

tsp. teaspoon(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

vs. versus

whse., whs. warehouse

whsle. wholesale

wkly. weekly

w/o without

wt. weight

yd. yard(s) (measurement)

yr. year(s)

YTD year to date

Using Acronyms

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.

LANLocal Area Network

radarradio detecting and ranging

RICORacketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (Act)

scubaself-contained underwater breathing apparatus

Using Initialisms

An initialism is similar to an acronym except that the initials are pronounced as individual letters.

FDAFood and Drug Administration

ICCInterstate Commerce Commission

SUVSport-Utility Vehicle

Note: Spell out the term the first time you use it, followed by its acronym or initialism in parentheses. Once the term has been identified in this way, you may use just the abbreviation.

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

Spelling Rules

i Before e

Use i before e except after c, or when sounded like a as in eighty and freight.





Exceptions: This sentence can help you remember eight exceptions.

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.





Exceptions: courageous, noticeable, judgment

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.




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