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Excessive capitalization is widespread in business, and one place is in job titles.

A person’s title warrants capitalization because it is a special professional designation, but the widely accepted business writing style calls for capitalizing it only when it appears directly before a name. Examples are President Obama, Pope Francis, Doctor Smith, or Senior Vice President Pam Sears. This is because the name so frequently appears with the title that they are closely associated with each other.

However, if the title appears after the name, as in Tina Benson, vice president of marketing, then it is lower case. And it is not capitalized when it appears alone, as in, we just hired a new sales manager. The title sales manager is not a proper noun and has no distinction when it is not accompanied by a person’s name.

Companies often have an established policy of capitalizing titles in all uses, usually because “it looks right” or “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” It usually originates with an arbitrary decision someone made about such issues without ever checking a stylebook to see if it is appropriate.

Questions about capitalization are why we have style guides, and the Associated Press Stylebook is the most widely used in business and journalism. The Chicago Manual of Style also is common, and when it comes to capitalization of titles, the guides agree.

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Ken O’Quinn is a professional writing coach and former Associated Press writer who conducts corporate workshops on business writing, persuasive writing, and corporate communications writing. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business Letters (McGraw-Hill), which is available at here at Amazon.com.

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