Historical Writing Project

Good and Bad Writing -- Exercises in Evaluating Writing Samples

Grammar -- Capitalization

Using Names and Titles:  In the first reference to a person, always use the full name and, if appropriate, identify the person’s position.  Thereafter you may use the last name only unless reasons of clarity such as two people with the same last name require the use of first names.  Do not use Mr., Miss, Mrs., and Ms.  Do use titles such as Doctor, General, Reverend, etc., when they are appropriate for purposes of identification.  If a first name is not clearly masculine or feminine or if someone’s name is usually associated with opposite gender, accomplish the appropriate identification obliquely by the use of he, she, her, his, etc. 

Ordinal numbers of royalty and nobility are always given in Roman numerals.
            Louis XIV                                            Elizabeth II
            Gustavus II Adolphus.

When used immediately before a proper name, a title should be capitalized, but when used on its own, a title should not be capitalized.
            Professor Youngs sneezed                   the professor sneezed
            by the Red Sea                                    by the sea

Capitalize ethnic and national groups, but not socioeconomic terms.
            African Americans                              the middle class
            Canadians                                            the have-nots

Capitalize historic periods and events but not general terms.
            the Iron Age                                         ancient Persia
            World War II                                        the seventeenth century
            Prohibition                                            the colonial period

The names of acts, treaties, and government programs should be capitalized.
            the Treaty of Versailles                         the treaty
            the New Deal                                        the necessary and proper clause

The names of legal cases must be capitalized and italicized.
            Miranda v. Arizona

The names of ships, aircraft and other vessels should be capitalized and italicized.  Do not italicize abbreviations that come before the name.
            USS Arizona                                           Enola Gay
            the space shuttle Columbia                       
When referring to governments or political divisions spell out and capitalize the numbers up through one hundred; over one hundred use numerals.
            the Third Congress                        the 120th Congress
            the Tenth Dynasty                        the Tenth Circuit Court
            the 101st Airborne                        the Third Regime


Prepared by Pippin Rubin

Sources:  Guide to Typing Papers in History by Dr. James K. Kieswetter.
Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, 7th ed.  Revised by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, and University of Chicago Press Editorial Staff.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.