Don't overuse capital letters
Follow the guidelines below on when to use upper or lower case. Remember: overcapitalisation can make your text cluttered and harder to read, especially on screen.
When writing for the web, it is better not to use capital letters to give prominence to
- policy areas
- generic references to laws or Commission departments
A good rule of thumb when writing in English is that names and titles (proper nouns) are capitalised, whereas common nouns are not.
- European Commission, European Parliament, European Union are proper nouns and always capitalised when written in full
- words such as commissioner, president and director are common nouns and not capitalised when used in a generic sense. Examples include
- several commissioners are collaborating on a draft of the new initiative
- the European Commission is led by a president
- commissioner, president and director etc. can also appear as personal titles, in which case they are capitalised - examples include
- President Juncker was formerly Luxembourg's prime minister
- the meeting was attended by Director-General Darius Guddelschein
Instead of …
several Directorates-General are responsible for action on climate change
several directorates-general are responsible for action on climate change
Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
common agricultural policy (CAP)
Consumer Rights Directive
consumer rights directive
BUT German presidency of the Council
Council presidency (general)
German Presidency (initial capital for specific presidencies)
Environment White Paper
environment white paper
European Year of Equal Opportunities
European year of equal opportunities
the Directive on Consumer Rights
the directive on consumer rights
Information Society Technologies
information society technologies
Staff Regulations of Officials and Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of the European Communities
Staff regulations of officials and conditions of employment of other servants of the European Communities (Initial capital for titles of EU documents)
Synopsis of the Work of the Court of Justice of the European Communities
Synopsis of the work of the Court of Justice of the European Communities
Do use capitals for
When in doubt, use lower case.
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.
should be in lower case:
the programme on research and development in advanced communications technologies in Europe
Europe 2020 strategy
common agricultural policy
EU action plan on urban mobility
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:
non-governmental organisation (NGO)
European Central Bank (ECB) (as this is the official name of the institution)
Titles of organisations, institutions, departments, sections, office holders, functions, 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 capitals for a particular institution or person, but small letters for groups of institutions or people. Exception: references to permanent EU bodies/formations (e.g. ‘College of Commissioners’, ‘Directorates-General’, ‘Cabinets’) and to official functions within the EU institutions (e.g. ‘Members of the Commission’, ‘Directors-General’) always take a capital letter, whether in the singular or the plural.
Ad hoc groups (e.g. the Polish delegation to a meeting) do not require the use of capitals.
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/EU 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
Always write Regulation, Decision, Directive, Annex and Article (followed by a number) with capitals if they refer to specific acts:
On 14 March 2018, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Directive (EU) 2018/10.
The competences of the European Union are defined in Articles 2 to 6 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
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 ...):
The European Commission monitors the implementation of EU directives.
Several organisations have asked the Commission to propose a new regulation on artificial intelligence.
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.
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:
New York Times
Cambridge Journal of Economics
PM2 Project Management Methodology Guide
Commission Style Guide
However, for long titles and 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.
Periods, events, festivals, seasons
Use initial capitals for periods such as:
Second World War
and events such as:
International Year of the Child
European Job Day
Second UN Development Decade
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 2018/2019 marketing year, the 2019 budget year, and so on.
Do not use capitals for spring, summer, autumn or winter.
Graphics, tables and cross references
Figure (Fig.), Number (No), Volume (Vol.), Part, Chapter (Chap.), Section (Sect.), Article (Art.) should always have an initial capital when followed by a numeral; conversely, paragraph, point 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 Fail Party
liberal, socialist, etc.
For political groups in the European Parliament, see: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/007f2537e0/Political-groups.html
State or state?
Generally use lower case, e.g.:
reasons of state
the Arab states
except in an abstract or legal sense, e.g.:
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)
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:
the North-West Frontier
but lower case when describing a geographical area:
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.
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:
unless they have become generic terms, such as
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)
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, e.g. ‘e-Evidence’ or ‘o-Toluidine’.
Source: European Commission Style Guide
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