Language & Grammar


A ‘down’ style, meaning that capitals are used sparingly, is generally preferred when writing.

Helpful rules

  • In general, capitalize proper nouns—those belonging to a unique individual person, place, country or other entity. Examples: Vancouver, Adele, Saturn, Earth, the Everglades, the Queen, Queen Elizabeth II, the Pope, Pope Francis, Elvis, the Great Depression, Google. The term "Black" should be capitalized when used as a proper noun to refer to a person's race. The more generic term "white" is not capitalized.
  • Note: internet is no longer capitalized.
  • Headlines and running text - only capitalize the first word and all proper nouns in headlines and running text. When in doubt, use lowercase unless it looks peculiar.
  • Use uppercase for executive titles only when they precede the name, not after.


Use lowercase for people’s occupations, including academic titles, whether preceding or following their name.


  • During the lecture, professor John Smith fell asleep.
  • John Smith, professor of archaeology, fell asleep during the lecture.

Formal titles

Formal titles, such as Mayor, Chief, Queen should be capitalized preceding the name, but not after. Such titles should not be capitalized when standing alone. 

Note: It is acceptable to capitalize such titles after the name on invitations, business cards and in promotional materials.


  • Mayor Jane Smith
  • Jane Smith, mayor of Surrey.
  • Surrey's mayor went on vacation.

Indigenous titles, such as "Elder", should always be capitalized.


  • Elder Margaret George
  • Margaret George, an Elder in the SFU Elders program


If the term for an individual member of an organization is the same as the proper name of the organization, capitalize the term.


  • Rotarian
  • Liberal
  • Marine

Formal names of buildings, places, departments, etc.

Capitalize the formal names of buildings, places, faculties, departments, centres, schools and programs. Do not capitalize when using an informal reference. 


  • The Department of Science
  • The science department

Academic subjects

Use lowercase for academic subjects, except when describing a subject that is also a culture, religion or language.


  • He is registering for a computing science course.
  • Eva is taking a French course.

Days, grades and games

When referencing days, grade years, and sports games, capitalize the words associated with them.


  • Grade 1
  • Game 7
  • Year 1