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10.4. Upper and lower case

General. The basic rule is that proper nouns have an initial capital but common nouns do not. Initial capitals are often employed to excess in commercial and administrative circles, but they can be visually distracting and are often unnecessary, so should be used sparingly. When in doubt use lower case.
Proper names and titles. Use initial capitals for proper nouns:
Mr Goldsmith is a baker but Mr Baker is a goldsmith.
Sir Francis Drake
the Archbishop of Canterbury
Dame Judi Dench
honourable Member (of the European Parliament)
Programmes, policies, agendas, strategies, action plans, frameworks, etc. These are in lower case:
the programme on research and development in advanced communications technologies in Europe
common agricultural policy
EU action plan on urban mobility
Europe 2020 strategy
Acronyms/initialisms. The existence of an acronym or initialism does not mean that initial capitals must be used when the corresponding expression is written out in full:
common agricultural policy (CAP)
non-governmental organisation (NGO)


European Central Bank (ECB) (as this is the official name of the institution)
Titles of organisations, institutions, directorates, units, sections, office holders, committees, delegations, etc. Use initial capitals on all nouns and adjectives when referring to the name in full.
Publications and Dissemination Directorate
Business Development and Support Unit
Editorial Partnerships Section
Future Policies Working Group
President of the Council
Director-General for Agriculture
Council of Europe
European Development Fund
Markets in Crop Products Directorate
President of the French Republic
Vice-Chair of the Committee on International Relations (but refer back to the chair, the vice-chair of the committee)

Use lower case when referring generally to unnamed directorates-general, sections or units, or to ‘the EU institutions’ collectively.

Permanent bodies require initial capitals (e.g. the Delegation of the European Union to the United States), while ad hoc groups (e.g. the Polish delegation to a meeting) do not.

Use a lower-case ‘p’ for the Council presidency (being general), but an initial capital for individual presidencies, e.g. ‘the Latvian Presidency’.

However, for long names that read more like a description than a real title use an initial capital for the head word and lower case for the rest:

Committee for the adaptation to technical progress of the directive on the introduction of recording equipment in road transport (tachograph)
Joint FAO/EC working party on forest and forest product statistics

Names of institutions reproduced in a foreign language should retain the capitalisation of the original language, e.g. Banque centrale du Luxembourg. If you translate the name directly then English capitalisation rules apply, e.g. the Central Bank of Luxembourg.

References to EU legislation: write Regulation, Decision, Directive, Annex and Article (followed by a number) with capitals if they refer to specific acts; use lower case for references to regulations, directives, etc. in a generalised sense and when referring to proposed legislation (i.e. draft regulation, a possible new directive on …).
Full names of international agreements, conferences, conventions, etc. Nouns and adjectives have an initial capital when using the full name:
International Coffee Agreement
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

but use lower case when referring back to the agreement, the conference, etc.


Publications. Titles of books, journals, newspapers and periodicals normally take a capital on each word except articles, prepositions and conjunctions, and when cited are written in italics: Daily Mail, Cambridge Journal of Economics, European Economy, PM2 Project Management Methodology Guide, Interinstitutional Style Guide. However, for long titles and all subtitles use a capital only on the first word, on any proper nouns and on any adjectives formed from proper nouns: Economic and budgetary outlook for the European Union 2017, Handbook on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration.

Likewise, titles of papers included in journals or as chapters in books, along with newspaper articles, take a capital only on the first word, on any proper nouns and on any adjectives formed from proper nouns. They are written in roman type in quotation marks.

Headings and subheadings. All headings and subheadings within a document take a capital only on the first word, on any proper nouns and on any adjectives formed from proper nouns.
Periods, events, festivals, seasons. Use initial capitals for periods such as:
Second World War
Dark Ages

and events such as:

International Year of the Child
European Job Day
Second UN Development Decade
Edinburgh Festival

Use capitals for days of the week, months and feast days:

Tuesday, August, Ascension Day, pre-Christmas business

Do not use capitals, however, for the 2003/2004 marketing year, the 2004 budget year, and so on.

Do not use capitals for spring, summer, autumn or winter.

Graphics, tables and cross references. Figure (Fig.), Number (No), Table, Volume (Vol.), Part, Chapter (Chap.), Subchapter (Subchap.), Division (Div.), Section (Sect.), Subsection (Subsect.), Article (Art.) should always have an initial capital when followed by a numeral; conversely, page, paragraph, subparagraph, point, footnote and line should not be capitalised. The abbreviations shown here should be spelt out in running text:
see page 250
as shown in Figure 5
refer to footnote 6
see also the following chapter/section
Party denominations and organisations. Use capitals for their names:
Socialist Group, Fianna Fáil Party

but liberal, socialist, etc. otherwise.

For political groups in the European Parliament, see

State or state? Generally use lower case:
reasons of state
nation states
the Arab states

except in in an abstract or legal sense:

the separation of Church and State

and in the following instances, which are rooted in the treaties:

Member States (when referring to EU ֹMember States)
State aid
Heads of State or Government (when referring to the heads of state or government of all of the Member States as a group)
Geographical names and political divisions. Use initial capitals for proper nouns:
North Pole
River Plate
Trafalgar Square
Third World
North Rhine-Westphalia
East Midlands
the North-West Frontier
Northern Ireland

but lower case when describing a geographical area:

northern England
western, central and eastern Europe
central European countries
Industry is concentrated in the north of the country.

NUTS (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) region names do not follow these rules as they refer to the name of the authority for each region – see Annex A10.

The South East is an administrative region of England, but do not use capitals in the general expression ‘Rain is forecast for London and the south-east’.

Adjectival forms of points of the compass are not capitalised unless they form part of a proper name, e.g. an administrative or political unit or a distinct regional entity. Hence southern Africa, northern France, eastern Europe but South Africa, Northern Ireland, East Indies. Noun forms are capitalised when they refer to geopolitical concepts (the West, the East) or geographical concepts (the North of England, the South of France), but not otherwise (the sun rises in the east and sets in the west). Compass bearings are abbreviated without a point (54° E).

Compound compass points follow the same rule and are hyphenated. Hence south-eastern Europe but the North-West Passage, South-East Asia; they are always abbreviated as capitals without points (NW France).

Proprietary names and generic terms. Proprietary names (or trade names) are normally capitalised, for example:
Land Rover

unless they have become generic terms, such as



the web
Botanical works

The name of the genus appears with initial capitals, in italics (e.g. Rosa, Felis).

Adjectives derived from proper nouns. Not all adjectives derived from proper nouns take a capital:
french (chalk, polish, windows)
morocco (leather)
roman (type)

Hyphenated constructions. Where constructions starting with one letter followed by a hyphen appear as a heading or at the beginning of a sentence, the letter preceding the hyphen should remain in lower case:

Last updated: 12.12.2022
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