AP Style Tips from University Communications: Capitalization

Red carnations in the foreground with the Belltower in the background.

Memorial Belltower and spring flowers.

Capitalize someone’s formal title if it comes right before their name. So you would write “Chancellor Randy Woodson.” However, if the title is used by itself or after the name, you shouldn’t capitalize it. Therefore, you would write “Randy Woodson, the chancellor of NC State, hosted an event…” or “The chancellor hosted an event…”

The only time you would deviate from this rule is if you are publishing a list of people’s names and titles. For example, the start of a list of university officials would be presented this way:

Randy Woodson


Warwick Arden

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Note that NC State’s editorial style avoids the use of “Dr.” as a title in front of a person’s name. Instead, provide the person’s academic rank and/or field of expertise. For example, “Derek Ham, associate professor of graphic design, is an expert in augmented reality.”

Sometimes people have informal titles that denote their professions, such as bus driver, insurance agent or first lady. Informal, descriptive titles should not be capitalized.

This holds true for academic departments. Capitalize the formal name, such as “the Department of History,” but not the informal name, such as “the history department.”

Capitalize “NC State University” but do not capitalize “the university.”

Compass directions should not be capitalized: “He parked on the east side of the building.” But regions should be capitalized: “He studies Western philosophy; she comes from Southern California.”

Lowercase century: “21st century.” But capitalize widely recognized periods: “the Bronze Age; the Great Depression.”