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More About Capitalizing Job Titles from Thomas Hauck, Ghostwriter and Book Editor

I’ve written often about the capitalization of job titles. This is because writers seem to have a wide range of opinions about the subject, and approach the question on an ad hoc basis, without having a clear concept to guide them.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, which I follow, job titles, no matter how lofty, are ordinary nouns and are not capitalized. Therefore king, president, janitor, doctor, capo de capo, pope, and all the others are not capitalized. You would say, “I went to the capo de capo, and he said yes.” Or, “I spoke to the president yesterday,” or, “I spoke to the janitor yesterday.” All are the same.

Job titles are capitalized only when used as part of a proper name. So you would write, “I spoke to President Smith yesterday,” or, “Pope Francis is visiting today.”

However, many reputable publications, including The New Yorker, don’t do this. They follow the practice common in business, which is to capitalize a job title to make it seem more important. In business, you commonly see, “I was appointed Regional General Manager last week.” Or in politics, “The President said yesterday that we will end trade sanctions.” The problem with this approach is that it’s purely subjective. Who gets capitalized? President? Director? Manager? Account Rep? Salesperson? It can quickly get confusing.

It’s understandable, perhaps, to want to capitalize a word like “President” when you’re using it as a substitute for his or her proper name, and it’s obvious to whom you’re referring. So you would write, “I spoke with the President yesterday, and he said he’d call the King of Thailand and extend his best wishes.” But imagine writing, “I spoke with the Regional Sales Rep yesterday, and she said she’d call the Warehouse Manager to solve the problem.” It looks absurd, doesn’t it?

If you want literary credibility, stick to the Chicago style. If you want to impress the shareholders who read your company’s annual report, then you might as well go for it and capitalize Every Important Job Title!
Thomas Hauck ghostwriter, book editor, author

– Thomas Hauck is a leading professional ghostwriter and book editor.
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