Home > The Editor's Corner > Editor’s Corner Grammar Quiz 3: Titles

Capitalization of Titles

The proper capitalization of titles can prove quite tricky for some writers. Test your skill with the quiz below.

capitalizing titles

Quiz:
1. The Judge handed down a sentence of guilty, which state’s attorney Smith quickly appealed.
2. On TV’s The X-Files, doctor Dana Scully was partnered with special agent Fox Mulder, with Walter Skinner acting as their Supervisor.
3. William Bligh, an Officer of the British Royal Navy, was Captain of the infamous HMS Bounty.
4. The Sheriff left his office early to meet deputy Grimes for lunch.
5. “What exciting adventures do you have planned, admiral?”
6. Dear Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch:

title capitalization

Answers:
1. The judge handed down a sentence of guilty, which State’s Attorney Smith quickly appealed.
Explanation: Because “judge” is used in place of a name (but not in direct address or a formal introduction), it is lowercased, whereas “State’s Attorney” is used as part of a name and is therefore capitalized.
2. On TV’s The X-Files, Doctor Dana Scully was partnered with Special Agent Fox Mulder, with Walter Skinner acting as their supervisor.
Explanation: The titles “Doctor” and “Special Agent” are used as part of the names, which means they should be capitalized. “Supervisor,” however, is used in place of a name but not in direct address, which means it should be lowercased.
3. William Bligh, an officer of the British Royal Navy, was captain of the infamous HMS Bounty.
Explanation: In this example, the terms “officer” and “captain” are used in place of a name not in direct address. Per CMS 8.18, they are lowercased.
4. The sheriff left his office early to meet Deputy Grimes for lunch.
Explanation: Because “sheriff” is used in place of a name, it is lowercased. “Deputy,” however, is used as part of a name and is therefore capitalized.
5. Correction: “What exciting voyages do you have planned, Captain?”
Explanation: The term “Captain” is being used here in direct address, which means it should be capitalized.
6. None needed!
Explanation: In a letter (i.e., a “formal communication”), titles are capitalized.

Here are some other examples:
• the king but King Charles V
• the president but President Lincoln
• the general manager but General Manager Thomas

Further explanation:
The Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition) states, “Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are thus used as part of the name (typically replacing the title holder’s first name). In formal prose and other generic text … titles are normally lowercased when following a name or used in place of a name” (8.18, emphasis added) but “a title used alone, in place of a personal name, is capitalized only in such contexts as a toast or a formal introduction, or when used in direct address” (8.19).

Angela Wade
Angela Wade

I have one goal: to create and shape cohesive, fluid, accessible copy that shifts perspective and makes a connection. With more than twelve years of experience in the writing and editing industry, I accomplish that goal through a passion for brainstorming, researching, planning, writing, and editing everything from grants to novels to marketing materials to websites. My articles, interviews, poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in various print and online publications, including Calyx Journal, Inkwell Magazine, Mindful Homeschooler, and Home Education Magazine.

Stephanie Stringham
Stephanie Stringham

As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on, and I dreamed of getting paid to read books and of helping people. With this dream, I propelled myself through college to earn bachelor’s degrees in English (minor in Writing and Publishing) and Business Administration while working as a peer tutor in the university writing lab and interning with a publishing company in college. After graduation, I stayed on with the publishing company, where I fell in love with book publishing. Editing is my avocation. I began freelancing right after college, while earning a master’s degree in Health Communication and then working as an editor for Eli Lilly and Company and for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. I have edited everything from class materials and newsletters to master’s theses, scholastic imprints, professional journals, and books in all genres. I feel my calling as an editor is not only to improve text but also to teach those with whom I work so they can constantly improve their writing. When I’m not editing books, I’m planting and growing things on a small homestead in Indiana with my husband and two children.