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In this text:

The Dean's Office consists of the Dean, the Vice-Dean of Undergraduate Studies, the Vice-Dean for External Affairs, the Vice-Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, and the Secretary General.

What would you capitalize (or what wouldn't you capitalize) and why? How about in future references?

I've found plenty of style guides and examples, but then also plenty of actual documents that don't follow what I've found in the style guides.

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2 Answers 2

You should generally capitalize when it's a reference to the job title or the office (as in your example) but not when it's a reference to the person and you're not using it as a title. So I would leave your example as it is, but would lowercase for "Bob just got a promotion and he's now a dean at his college". But if I then want to talk about Dean Bob, that's capitalized because it's a title.

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Thanks! How about if I continue and now I'm saying something like this: "Every proposal has to be approved by the dean." Would you capitalize "the dean"? –  user8400 Jun 6 '11 at 20:31
    
@user8400, I would say "the dean" in that case (I think of that is being more about the person), but would say "the Dean's Office" if I meant that somebody there, not necessarily the dean himself, had to approve. –  Monica Cellio Jun 6 '11 at 21:01
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I would definitely capitalize "the Dean" if there's only one dean I could possibly mean, because then you're implicitly talking about a title. Otherwise it should be small. See this article –  Peter Shor Jun 6 '11 at 21:44

The Guardian style guide says:

capitals

"I am a poet: I distrust anything that starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop" (Antjie Krog)

Times have changed since the days of medieval manuscripts with elaborate hand-illuminated capital letters, or Victorian documents in which not just proper names, but virtually all nouns, were given initial caps (a Tradition valiantly maintained to this day by Estate Agents).

A look through newspaper archives would show greater use of capitals the further back you went. The tendency towards lowercase, which in part reflects a less formal, less deferential society, has been accelerated by the explosion of the internet: some web companies, and many email users, have dispensed with capitals altogether.

Our style reflects these developments. We aim for coherence and consistency, but not at the expense of clarity. As with any aspect of style, it is impossible to be wholly consistent – there are almost always exceptions, so if you are unsure check for an individual entry in this guide. But here are the main principles:

jobs all lc, eg prime minister, US secretary of state, chief rabbi, editor of the Guardian.

titles cap up titles, but not job description, eg President Barack Obama (but the US president, Barack Obama, and Obama on subsequent mention); the Duke of Westminster (the duke at second mention); Pope Benedict XVI but the pope.

So:

The Dean's Office consists of the Dean, the Vice-Dean of Undergraduate Studies, the Vice-Dean for External Affairs, the Vice-Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, and the Secretary General.

Becomes:

The dean's office consists of the dean, the vice-dean of undergraduate studies, the vice-dean for external affairs, the vice-dean of graduate studies and research, and the secretary general.

Which is also a lot easier on the eye.

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