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When to Capitalize Job Titles and Positions

Updated on December 28, 2023Grammar

When should a job title be capitalized in a sentence? It’s a simple question with a less-than-simple answer. Sometimes job titles like “president,” “prime minister,” or even royal titles like “queen” use lowercase letters, but sometimes they’re capitalized, as in “President Lincoln” or “Prime Minister Sanchéz.” So how do you know when to capitalize job titles?

Luckily, when it comes to job titles, most style guides use the same rules for when to capitalize. AP style handles job title capitalization the same as APA, MLA, and Chicago formats, so you only have to learn the rules once. Let’s take a closer look at what those rules are.

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When do you capitalize the name of a profession?

The short answer is to capitalize job titles when they act as proper nouns. When job titles are used as common nouns, use lowercase for the first letter.

How do you know if a job title is a proper noun or just a common noun? Basically, if a job title is part of the name, then it’s a proper noun and you capitalize it. To put it another way, when a job title is used before a name, it’s similar to a courtesy title like Mr. or Ms. and should be capitalized.

When he was young, Professor Garcia dreamed of becoming a professor.

Editor in Chief Jameson replaced our former editor in chief 10 years ago.

In this usage, the job title comes immediately before the name. A general capitalization rule is to capitalize job titles when they come directly in front of a name, but not when they’re used elsewhere in a sentence.

This rule proves true most of the time, but you have to be careful about appositives, which are noun phrases that precede or follow other nouns and describe them. If either a person’s name or job title is used as an appositive, you do not capitalize the job title. How can you tell if it’s an appositive? Look for a comma—appositives are often set apart with a comma.

[APPOSITIVE] At today’s meeting, the chair of the board, Elizabeth Devi, respectfully disagreed.

[PROPER NOUN] At today’s meeting, Chair of the Board Elizabeth Devi respectfully disagreed.

Also, notice how, when a job title is used as a common noun in an appositive, it includes an article like the, a, or an. This is another way to determine whether the job title is a common noun or part of a proper noun.

So the quick rule for when to capitalize job titles is this: if the job title comes immediately before a name and there’s no comma between them, capitalize it.

However, there are a few more instances when you capitalize a job title, and these have their own special guidelines. Let’s look at those now.

Replacement for a name

Similar to the capitalization of family titles, when a job title is used as a replacement for a person’s name, it is capitalized. In this case the job title acts as the name itself, which means it’s a proper noun.

What are your orders, Captain?

When the test results come back, Doctor, please call me.

Formal listings and signatures

If your name and job title appear in a formal listing or signature line, capitalize the job title. These include mail and email signatures, website profiles, and bylines, as well as other formal situations where names are listed alongside job titles. Conventionally, the job title comes after the name, separated by a comma.

Sincerely,

Amadou Ba, Head of Marketing

Written by Carol Green, Associate Editor

Job title initials

Initials are a type of abbreviation that uses a capital letter to represent an entire word. Jobs that are initials, such as C-suite jobs like CEO or COO, are always capitalized.

The CEO asked an employee to parallel park for them.

However, if the job title is spelled out, it follows the standard rules for job title capitalization. That means if the spelled-out job title is used as a common noun, it is not capitalized.

The chief executive officer asked an employee to parallel park for them.

Job titles in names of places and institutions

Just as job titles are capitalized as part of a person’s name, so too are they capitalized as part of a place’s or institution’s name. In both cases, the job title is part of a proper noun, so it’s capitalized.

Office of the Prime Minister

Should job titles be capitalized in cover letters and résumés or CVs?

Cover letters, résumés, and CVs all follow the same rules for when to capitalize job titles. That’s important to remember because these texts use job titles a lot, especially cover letters.

However, note that when job titles are used in your résumé or CV, this counts as a formal listing. In other words, capitalize a job title in your résumé or CV when it’s given as the name of a position you held, but not when it appears in a description of the work you did.

Should job titles be capitalized in essays?

In essays, capitalize job titles according to the rules above. This goes double for job application essays, which like cover letters will probably mention job titles often. Remember that it is not capitalized if you’re discussing the job title as a concept and not in reference to a particular person or institution.

When to capitalize job titles FAQ

When should a job title be capitalized in a sentence?

Capitalize a job title if it is part of a proper noun, but keep it lowercase if it is used as a common noun. Job titles used as a proper noun come immediately before the name, as in President Lincoln. If the name and job title are separated by a comma, however, then it’s an appositive and not capitalized.

Should job titles be capitalized in cover letters and résumés or CVs?

In cover letters and résumés or CVs, job titles follow the standard capitalization rules. However, note that when job titles are used in your résumé or CV, this counts as a formal listing. In other words, capitalize job titles when they’re used as an entry on a résumé or CV, but not when they’re used in descriptions.

Should job titles be capitalized in essays?

In essays, capitalize job titles according to the standard rules. This goes double for job application essays, which will probably mention job titles often. Remember that it is not capitalized if you’re discussing the job title as a concept and not in reference to a particular person or institution.

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