Capitalization

Follow a consistent capitalization scheme.

Creating trustworthy internal and external communications relies, to a large extent, on the content’s consistency. Inconsistent spellings and capitalizations undermine your narrative authority. We follow these capitalization guidelines:

  • Do capitalize proper nouns, including names of individuals, places, and agencies
  • Don’t capitalize agile, unless it is the first word of a sentence
  • Don’t capitalize open source, unless it is the first word of a sentence
  • Don’t capitalize federal or government

When you’re deciding whether to capitalize noun phrases, keep in mind that in English, title case is often a marker of formality. Using it judiciously can help clarify that you’re speaking about a specific, official thing (such as a form, office, or person). Overuse can cause users stress by implying formality or officialness where it doesn’t exist. For instance:

  • It makes sense to capitalize the phrase Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return because you want users to know the exact, official title of that specific form.
  • It could confuse users to capitalize income taxes or income tax forms, because those phrases could refer to any number of possible forms.

See additional capitalization rules in the Specific words and phrases section.

Personal titles

Don’t capitalize personal titles unless they precede a name. For example, the director got approval or Director Lopez got approval. Whenever possible, keep titles gender neutral. For example, we prefer firefighter to fireman and chairperson to chairman.

Headings

Headlines, page titles, subheads and similar content should follow sentence case, and should not include a trailing colon. For example:

Making sense of Washington’s tech landscape

Privileges and responsibilities

See also: information about optimizing headings.