Section 3: Capitalization

3.1 A note on capitalization

In recent years, there has been a significant and widespread shift in style away from a more formal style to one using less capitalization and punctuation. This approach is followed by the Chicago Manual of Style and Canadian Press, among many other authorities. It is reflected in this UVic style guide and in the recommendations pertaining to capitalization below.

3.2 The case for lower case

This guide recommends a lower case style for several reasons:

  • When too many words are capitalized, they lose their importance and no longer attract attention.
  • Readability studies have shown that copy is more easily read when it isn't peppered with initial caps or all caps.
  • Using lower case letters in no way diminishes the stature or credibility of an individual's position or a department's reputation.
  • When writing promotional or marketing materials (such as brochures or print ads), emphasis can be achieved more effectively by the skillful use of white space, typeface and typestyle than by excessive use of initial caps or all caps.

3.3 The general rule

The general rule is to capitalize common nouns when they represent a complete formal name and use lower case in subsequent partial or informal forms.

the Ministry of Advanced Education; the ministry; the education ministry

the Government of Canada; the Canadian government; the government

the Government of British Columbia; the BC government; the government

the University of Victoria; the university

the Senate of the University of Victoria, the UVic senate, the senate

the Faculty of Fine Arts, the fine arts faculty, the faculty [To avoid confusion, use a construction such as “faculty members” when referring to people as opposed to the academic unit.]

3.4 What not to capitalize

Common nouns should not be capitalized, even when they are used in terminology specific to the university context, such as “grade-point average,” “winter session,” “letter of permission,” “record of degree program” and “university fellowship.”

See also Appendix B: Word list.

3.5 Capitalization after colons

Do not capitalize the first letter of a common noun after a colon in running text, even if the colon is followed by a complete sentence.

3.6 Capitalization of job and position titles

In running text, capitalize formal job titles directly preceding a name and not set off by a comma. Use lower case in other instances.

Prime Minister Paul Martin; the prime minister; Paul Martin, prime minister

Executive Director of UVic Communications Bruce Kilpatrick; Bruce Kilpatrick, executive director of communications; the executive director

See Lists: Vertical lists and capitalization.

3.7 Capitalization and quotations

Capitalize the first word of a quotation that is a complete sentence.

3.8 Capitalization at UVic

3.8.1 Academic programs

Formal academic programs within faculties and departments and interdisciplinary academic programs follow the general rule for capitalization. Refer to the University of Victoria Undergraduate Calendar for the complete formal names of programs.

the Russian Studies Program, Russian studies

the Medieval Studies Program, medieval studies

the Arts of Canada Program, arts of Canada

3.8.2 Academic subjects

Do not capitalize academic subjects except when referring to a subject that is also a proper noun.

English, biology, French, history, physics, Spanish, law, Latin

When referring to the course offerings of a specific UVic department (as opposed to offerings in the general field of study or at other institutions), be explicit or use the standard course code.

“Prerequisites include at least six course credits in HIST,” or “Prerequisites include at least six course credits in the UVic history department.”

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3.8.3 Awards, honours and decorations

Follow the general rule of capitalization: only capitalize the full formal title of the award or honour.

University of Victoria Fellowship, university fellowship

3.8.4 Building names

Only the full, formal name of the building should be capitalized. Use lower case for all informal references:

the Lam Auditorium; the auditorium

Gordon Head Residences; the residence buildings

Refer to buildings and other university venues named after people by using either the family name or the person’s full name, but use one or the other convention consistently within a publication.

Strong Building, David F. Strong Building

Stewart Complex, Ian Stewart Complex

Matthews and McQueen Lecture Theatre, Trevor Matthews and Bob McQueen Lecture Theatre

The authoritative source for official names of university buildings and venues is

3.8.5 Committee names

The names of committees, task groups and other working groups need not be capitalized.

the planning and priorities committee

the nominations and committee governance committee

The names of committees may be capitalized in such formal documents as the University of Victoria Undergraduate Calendar and communications of or with university governing bodies.

3.8.6 Degrees, certificates and diplomas

The general rules of capitalization apply.

Doctor of Philosophy, doctorate; Master of Fine Arts, master’s degree; baccalaureate

Diploma in Cultural Resource Management, cultural resource management diploma

Professional Specialization Certificate in International Intellectual Property Law, intellectual property law certificate

See Appendix A: UVic academic degrees.

Distinctions within degree programs, such as major, minor, honours; concentrations or specialties; co-op designation; with distinction, etc. should not be considered part of the official program name and should not be capitalized in running text.

honours in political science, political science honours program

minor in medieval studies

major in environmental studies

3.8.7 Department and unit names

Follow the general rules of capitalization. Please refer directly to the department for its formal name.

Department of English; the English department; the department

School of Earth and Ocean Sciences; earth and ocean sciences; the school

Faculty of Fine Arts, the faculty

Co-operative Education Program & Career Services (the university’s central co-op office); UVic co‑op; Humanities, Fine Arts and Professional Writing Co-op (co-op program areas);

Professional writing co-op, co-op

Exceptions: the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Business have adopted as brand identifiers “UVic Law” and “UVic Business” and these two alternative forms continue to be used.

3.8.8 Job titles

Please contact individual departments directly for formal job titles in their units.

Capitalize formal job titles directly preceding a name and not set off by commas. Use lower case in other instances.

Executive Director of UVic Communications Bruce Kilpatrick; Bruce Kilpatrick, executive director of communications; the executive director

See also Lists: Vertical lists and capitalization.

Always hyphenate the titles “vice-chancellor” and “vice-president.”

When referring to UVic vice-presidents, do not set off their area of responsibility with commas; however, the same rules of capitalization apply.

The vice-president academic and provost will have authority to ...

The vice-president external relations will chair the committee.

Gayle Gorrill, vice-president finance and operations, has been appointed to the board.

In running text, use academic ranks (assistant, associate, full professor) only when the context makes it necessary.

The preferred academic title is Dr. for a PhD, MD or equivalent. For those with a postgraduate degree but no PhD, MD, etc., “Professor” or “Prof.” is the preferred title.

Exceptions may be made in order to conform to the appropriate level of formality in communicating with a particular audience. 

Following evolving Canadian Press style and practice, it is not necessary to use the academic title “Dr.” on first mention of a person with a PhD or equivalent, as this use is increasingly reserved for health care practitioners (medical doctors, veterinarians, dentists, optometrists, etc.). Exception is made, however, for recipients of honorary degrees from UVic; use “Dr.” on first reference in all cases out of respect for this honour. (A complete list of honorary degrees is maintained by the University Secretary.)

If an academic title is used to introduce a person, it should only be used in the first reference; subsequent references to the individual generally should be by family name only. Exceptions may be made in order to conform to the appropriate level of formality in communicating with a particular audience.

In general, identify the department or school affiliation of a person at first reference.

UVic astronomer Jane Doe 

Jane Doe (physics and astronomy) 

3.8.9 Research centres and major research projects

Follow the general rules of capitalization.

Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, the centre

Institute for Integrated Energy Systems, the institute

Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, the study

3.8.10 University policies

The names of university policies need not be capitalized.

the policy on calendar submissions

the procedures for the appointment of the associate dean of fine arts (policy 1047)

However, the names of policies may be capitalized in such formal documents as the University of Victoria Undergraduate Calendar and communications of or with university governing bodies.

Procedures for the Appointment and Review of the Associate Vice-President Research (policy 1018)

3.9 Cultural and historic periods

Cultural and historic periods are capitalized.

the Bronze Age, the Ice Age, the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance.

Historic events should also be capitalized.

World War I, the Crusades, the Holocaust

Descriptive designations should be set in lower case except for proper names.

the Victorian era, ancient Rome, medieval manuscripts

3.10 Other capitalizations

Capitalize the complete formal name of the following:

proper names of nationalities, peoples, ethnicities and tribes (e.g. Aboriginal, Indigenous, Métis, Coast Salish, Canadian, Ainu)—see Inclusive language

titles of books, films, plays, poems, songs, speeches, works of art

brand names (follow the company’s capitalization)

holidays and holy days

laws and historic documents

full name of organizations and institutions

political parties and movements

religions and deities