When important messages were carved on stone, no one knew – or cared – about capital letters.
In the old days, writers capitalised whatever they thought were the Most Important Words. In the 18th and 19th Centuries some Writers capitalised every Noun.
That’s not the case anymore. Today, we have rules to make the use of capitals orderly and consistent. We went to the new Australian Government Style Manual to find out how!
Rule 1: Title case for proper names
‘Title case’ (also called ‘maximal capitalisation’ or ‘headline style’) means capitalising every word except articles, prepositions and conjunctions (words like the, and, of, for and similar).
What’s a ‘proper name’? It’s the given name of a unique, individual something. The broad categories are a personal name or title; a place or geographical feature; and an organisation or business name.
For example, the title, the Australian Association of Shetland Pony Breeders is a proper noun.
Proper nouns also include brand names; a named government program or benefit; a named ship or train; a historical period; a special day or event.
The name of a document or creative work (book, magazine, journal article, Act of parliament, film, play, musical composition, work of art …) is also a proper name.
Hold onto the key idea: like a child, a proper name is also christened by its creators that contrasts with the ordinary words of a language.
The lower case ‘apple’ is an ordinary noun, a fruit. . Capitalised ‘Apple’ is a given name patented by Apple Inc.
Similarly, lower case ‘the age pension’ is an ordinary noun phrase. Capitalised ‘Family Tax Benefit Part A’ is the given name of a particular benefit, created by the Australian Government.
Rule 2: Override rule 1, when necessary
Write proper names in the style preferred by the owner or creator of the name. This means you may have to include non-standard elements by:
If in doubt, call us!
These two rules will, for the most part, make your use of capitals consistent. We leave the trickier ones for another day!