Capitalization

1. Capitalize the first word of a sentence.

For example:
The client called three times.
Do not put the matter off any longer.

2. Capitalize the first word of a sentence within sentence (even if it is not within quotation marks).

For example:
The arbitrator said, “It is time to consider settling the case.”
The issue on appeal was, Was there ever a contract?

3. Capitalize all words in titles and headings with the exception of articles (a, an, the), short prepositions (in, on, of), and conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet).

For example:
Minutes of Meeting
Some Thoughts on the New Dutch Tax Regime
Letter of Intent
Memorandum Regarding Environmental Liability and Clean Up Obligation

4. Capitalize the proper (formal) names of persons, places, and things.

For example:
George Washington was the first President of the United States
The Nobel Prize is awarded at the Concert House.

Note: In legal writing, it is common to use plaintiff or defendant as titles for the litigants, Thus, if the titles are used without the name, or where the title is not preceded by the word “the”, you may capitalize the title.

5. Capitalize all academic and religious titles.

For example:
Doctor Lafave
Professor Bellman
Father McNally

6. Capitalize all titles of civil, military, professional or noble rank and honor when they come before a name.

For example:
Managing Director Alfred Malmquist
Justice of the Court Serena Cortez
Chairman Man

Note: Titles are not capitalized when used generically, i.e. without the name.

For example:
The presidents of five countries will attend the conference.

7. Capitalize all government titles and titles of nobility when referring to definite persons.

For example:
the Minister of Justice
the Prime Minister
the Bishop of Uppsala
the Prince of Wales

8. Capitalize titles of distinction following a name or where used in place of a name.(However, there is a growing tendency not to capitalize titles appearing after a name).

For example:
Marie Vanderwinkle, Chairman of the Board of Directors
the Chief Executive Officer

9. Capitalize the names of the days of the week, months of the year, and holidays.

For example:
The trial is set for the first Monday in September.

10. Capitalize academic degrees

For example:
Robin Fox, Ph.D.
Harold von Brinkelworth, Master of Economics

11. Capitalize historical periods and occurrences.<

For example:
The Tudor Era brought great changes to European law.
The Gulf Wars forever altered transatlantic relations.

12. Capitalize the names of members of athletic, national, political, religious, racial, and social groups.

For example:
The Labour Party made some headway in the last election.
Three Crowns is favored to win the hockey championship.

13. Capitalize compass directions only when they refer to a region or place.

For example:
Many people are immigrating to Northern Europe.

However:
Uppsala is north of Stockholm.

14. Capitalize adjectives that are formed from names that are capitalized.

For example:
The Italian people do not favor an increase in taxes.
The book is about Renaissance law.

15. Capitalize the first word of complimentary closing in correspondence.

For example:
Faithfully
Sincerely yours
Yours truly

Randy G. Sklaver, B.A., J.D. Born: New York, USA. Admitted to the California Bar and the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Received her J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles (1987). Practice included insurance coverage litigation and appeals as well as tort law litigation and appeals. LANGUAGES: ENGLISH, SWEDISH

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Nancy Gallagher

    I just want to know whether or not it is proper to capitalize plaintiff/defendant in the middle of a sentence – I can’t seem to find as rule on this anywhere. I would assume that since it really isn’t a title and it isn’t a proper name that you wouldn’t capitalize it, yet almost everyone does. Any thoughts?

    1. Peter Dahlen

      It is generally proper to capitalize these terms if they are defined, i.e. if they refer to a particular person or company and this has been established at the beginning of the document.

  2. Stephen Hard

    Why are some paragraphs in an agreement in all capital letters, such as:

    6. DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY. SOFTWARE AND SERVICES ARE PROVIDED “AS-IS” AND “AS-AVAILABLE” WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND. SPECIFICALLY, VENDOR MAKES NO WARRANTY WITH RESPECT TO VENDOR’S OR PARTICIPANT’S PRODUCTS OR THE SOFTWARE OR SERVICES RENDERED UNDER THIS AGREEMENT, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

    1. Mark

      The law requires certain statements, such as a warranty disclaimer like the one you quote, to appear in some type of bold or capitalized font. The idea is that the consumer won’t miss the all-caps text, and will be clued in to the fact that he or she is buying without a warranty. The unfortunately reality is that all-caps text is difficult to read because there is no size differentiation between the letters, so readers end up skipping it.

      FWIW, I always write warranty sections in large-and-small caps, which are much more legible.

  3. Oliver Lawrence

    A comprehensive round-up :).
    But the use of ‘title case’ is a matter of style and taste; in the UK, for example, many users prefer just to capitalise the first letter of headings (see the Oxford Guide to Plain English).

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