Titles, proper nouns, seasons, and regions. How do you know when to capitalize words? Ruralite Services’ editorial team relies on the Associated Press.

Since 1953 the AP Stylebook has offered a solid foundation for consistent, clear journalistic writing. The first edition—sold for $1—explained the style used by the AP wire service. The book began with a simple introduction:

Presentation of the printed word should be accurate, consistent, pleasing to the eye, and should conform to grammatical rules.

Consistency proved key for newspaper readers. Until the 1960s, United Press International had a separate style guide. To boost readability, the organizations agreed on a shared style. Journalists have used this style for more than 60 years.

Capitalized words form walls a reader must jump over. Excess italicizing, underlining, or using all caps has the same effect: poor readability. Some writers believe capitalization helps emphasize a word, but instead, it leaves the reader confused.

Stick with tried, true, and expected capitalization to keep readers focused on what matters: your story.

Capitalization Tips

  • Capitalize titles before, not after, a name. If a title applies to several people, capitalize the plural form and place before the first name: “Directors John Doe and Jane Doe voted.”
  • Do not capitalize common nouns. A common noun is a general classification: capital credits, bylaws, operating expenses, boardroom.
  • Capitalize “board” only when an integral part of a proper name: “Board President John Doe met with the board of directors Monday.”
  • Capitalize “cooperative” only as part of the full, formal title: “Blueberry Electric Cooperative.” Use full name of the cooperative in first reference.

Ultimately, the choice to capitalize is up to each utility.  But following the AP Stylebook keeps your copy consistent with the rest of the magazine. Want more tips? Ask your editor so you can capitalize with style!