capitalization: titles of office or rank

(A similar topic is discussed in French in the article titres de fonctions.)

Follow the guidelines below.

DO capitalize

Capitalize titles in the following situations.

  • Titles before a name (whether the title is civil, military, religious or professional, or a title of nobility):
    • Archbishop Gervais
    • Finance Minister Paul Martin
    • General de Chastelain
    • Lord Carrington
    • Pope Francis
    • President Obama
    • Prime Minister Harper
    • Professor Layton
    • Queen Elizabeth II
  • Titles following and placed in apposition to a personal name (except those denoting professions):
    • Clare Smith, Director of Public Affairs
    • Ron Irwin, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • BUT
    • Jane Tanaka, professor of physics
  • Titles referring to a specific person and used as a substitute for that person’s name:
    • the President of the Treasury Board
    • the Chief, Public Affairs Section
    • the Leader of the Opposition
    • According to the Assistant Deputy Minister, this is a unique agreement.
    • They discussed the matter with the Colonel.
    • The Archbishop made no further comment.
  • Abbreviated titles in the plural:
    • We met Profs. Sami and Nicolet.
  • Titles of respect and forms of address (even when used in the plural):
    • Your Honour
    • Your Grace
    • Your Excellencies
    • Mr. Chairman
    • Their Royal Highnesses
    • Her Worship
    • His Holiness
    • Her Majesty

DO NOT capitalize

Do not capitalize titles in the following situations.

  • Spelled-out titles in the plural or titles preceded by an indefinite article:
    • the lieutenant-governors of Quebec and Ontario
    • a member of Parliament
  • BUT
    • the Member for Winnipeg North Centre
      [preceded by the definite article and referring to a specific person]
  • Titles modified by a possessive or other type of adjective, or by an indefinite article:
    • their colonel
    • the former ambassador
    • the Canadian prime minister
    • a member of Parliament
  • Occupational titles that are used descriptively and that are followed by a complete personal name:
    • manager Cito Gaston
    • production superintendent Anna Chang
    • technical writer John Lipon

Note: Occupational titles are often capitalized in a company’s own documents.

  • Terms that refer to a role rather than a person:
    • As prime minister [that is, while occupying a certain position], Lester Pearson introduced the new Canadian flag.
    • The production manager [any person who occupies that position] assigns schedules.
  • Adjectives derived from titles:
    • episcopal
    • papal
    • ministerial correspondence
    • presidential prerogative

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