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Should we capitalize job titles?

By Alexandra Sharp

When it comes to media relations and corporate communications, PR pros should follow AP Style


When to capitalize a job title is not always clear.Anytime you communicate with a client or customer, you make an impression on behalf of your company. You want to represent professionalism and quality of content, and your written communications are simple ways to do that.


Spelling and grammar mistakes make your company look unprofessional, sloppy, and uninterested. If you don’t ensure all your written communications are error-free, it looks like your company didn’t put forth the time and effort to produce its very best work. Clear, consistent copy editing improves your company’s corporate communications.


One common mistake people make in written communications is capitalizing job titles. According to “The Associated Press Stylebook,” the preferred style guide for most newsrooms and used among the top public relations firms, you should only capitalize formal titles and only when they appear immediately before the individual’s name. A formal title generally “denotes a scope of authority, professional activity, or academic activity.” For example: President Donald Trump, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook. 


You wouldn’t capitalize a formal job title that appears after the individual’s name. For example: Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was born in 1946. Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIH, is speaking at a press conference. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive officer, is currently hiring.


It’s often up to an organization to determine which job titles are formal. And you shouldn’t capitalize occupational titles or job descriptions, such as “graphic designer” or “human resource specialist.”


Additionally, anytime you set the title off with commas, you don’t capitalize it: “Our vice president, John Smith, is hosting the holiday party.”


Here are some more examples of when to capitalize job titles:


  • “Marketing Director Jane Smith arrived early for the meeting.”

  • “The marketing director, Jane Smith, arrived early for the meeting.”

  • “Jane Smith, marketing director, arrived early for the meeting.”

  • “The company presented an award to Executive Vice President John Smith.”

  • “Amazon’s chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos, was a key presenter.”


Some companies have their own specific style guides, so check with your company on its individual title case rules. Specifically, Axia Public Relations has its own style guide in addition to following AP Style. Axia’s policy is to capitalize a title when it’s standing alone in an email signature or below the signature in the business letter. Regardless, you should always be mindful of your target audience. If your target audience is newsrooms, you should follow the standard recommendations of that newsroom.


For more information about capitalizing job titles, refer to the most recent edition of “The AP Stylebook.”


One of the benefits of hiring an outside PR company is the best PR agencies have a team of experts, including copy editors. At Axia, we have three copy editors, so you know our copy is clear, concise, free from grammar errors, and stylistically consistent. For many companies, having a copy editor on hand is a luxury they can’t afford or get approved. Axia is pleased to offer this service at no additional cost, ensuring we present impeccable copy for and about your company while saving you money in the long run. Don’t believe us? Check out the cost of an in-house public relations department and if you agree, let’s explore how we might manage your corporate communications and public relations.


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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Topics: copy editing, communications

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