Most people capitalize job positions and titles far more often than necessary
We don’t need to capitalize the title/rank/position of a person (1) when it follows the individual’s name; (2) when it is used with the name of a company, an agency, an office, and the like; or (3) when it is used alone.
Simply put, a title/rank/position is a common noun or adjective unless it immediately precedes a person’s name.
The phrase “lieutenant colonel,” for example, should be capitalized only when it is used as a title before a name but not when it is used generically:
- Lieutenant Colonel Peterson commanded the operation.
- Jack Peterson, a lieutenant colonel, commanded the operation.
- A lieutenant colonel, Jack Peterson, commanded the operation.
Sentence 1 employs the rank as a title, as a proper adjective immediately preceding the person’s name. The rank “Lieutenant Colonel” is, therefore, capitalized.
But in sentence 2, the rank is simply a common noun, a generic designation rather than a title because it follows the person’s name.
In sentence 3, the rank is also being used generically. It precedes the person’s name, but it is not being used as a title. Instead, it is the subject of the verb commanded, with the name “Jack Peterson” functioning as an appositive.
The use of the article a before the phrase is a clue that we are using it generically. Think of the sentence as saying, in essence, “A lieutenant colonel (just one of many lieutenant colonels) whose name is Jack Peterson commanded the operation.”
Putting the rules into practice
These principles apply to any title/rank/position. In the following sentences, the positions in bold are appropriately not capitalized:
- Digitech is advertising for the position of comptroller.
- John Smith, dean of the ULS School of Medicine, will be the keynote speaker.
- Tia Doe, former president of UniCorp, was born in Columbia, Missouri.
- Planning activities will resume when the DHEC infrastructure director and the director of the Division of Water Safety are fully on board.
- The roles of the director of training and the training coordinator will continue to be vital as we begin our intensive planning.
- “Participants will learn how to take tests and fill out job applications,” said Juan Mora, district superintendent.
- Regional School Health Coordinator Brian Wilson will work with DHEC regional community development specialists.
In short, capitalize positions used as proper titles but not those used generically.