Our last article showed you when to capitalize names of schools, companies, and other places. This time, we are going to focus on when to capitalize job titles. These words are often used in business emails, cover letters, resumes/CVs, academic papers, and other documents.
What makes job titles tricky is that sometimes the first letter is capitalized, but sometimes it is not. Are you supposed to write “Professor” or “professor”? When do you write “Manager” and when do you write “manager”? How can you tell the difference?
Proper nouns vs. common nouns
A job title is always a noun, since it is a word for a person. If the job title is referring to a specific person, such as Prime Minister Trudeau or Admiral Byrd, then it is a proper noun. On the other hand, if the job title is referring to a position in general, such as a dentist or a computer scientist or a non-specific president, then it is a common noun. Most of the time, common nouns are not capitalized. (We will mention a few exceptions later in this article.)
Using job titles in a sentence
If you are writing a sentence that includes a job title, one way to tell if it should be capitalized is to look at the word that comes immediately after it. Is it someone’s first or last name? If so, then the job title is being used as part of that person’s name and it should be capitalized. However, if the job title comes after the person’s name–or if there is no name–then it is probably a common noun and should not be capitalized.
Let’s look at some examples:
I need to take the dog to the veterinarian.
I have an appointment with Doctor Zhang on Tuesday.
Diana Ramos, professor of microbiology, will be speaking at the conference.
I heard that Professor Bashir is retiring at the end of this term.
When I was a child, I wanted to be a nurse or a ballet dancer, but I became an airline pilot.
Has anyone spoken to Secretary Evans about this issue?
Capitalizing common nouns
In the above examples, the common nouns are not capitalized. However, if you are writing a cover letter for a job, take a close look at the job posting. Did your would-be employer capitalize the job title throughout the job posting? If so, then you can capitalize the job title in your cover letter. (Note: Do not capitalize small words such as “of” or “and”.)
I am writing to express my interest in the Legal Assistant position at the Jones and Smith Law Firm.
I would like to apply for the position of Manager at ZZZ, Inc.
Similarly, if you are listing your previous work experience on a resume or CV, those job titles should be capitalized.
Emails and letters
If you are including someone’s job title when you are greeting them in a professional email or letter, then you are using it as part of that person’s name, which means it should be capitalized:
Dear Professor Pham,
Dear Chairman Howell,
If you are adding your job title to your signature at the end of an email or letter, then the job title should be capitalized:
If you still need some help or advice about when to capitalize a job title, click the link below. Please leave a note that explains the context, so that we can give you our best recommendations!
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