First off, the title is misleading; feel free to improve upon it.

I've noticed words surrounding titles often start with upper case letters, but I'm uncertain if this is correct. After reading this article I cannot find rules that justify the uppercase letters.


1) The student union building of many universities is abbreviated SUB but I often see the full name written as "Student Union Building". By itself "student union building" is not a proper noun since it doesn't refer to one unique entity but when speaking of a certain university it might.

2) Common buildings often have names beginning with upper case letters. For example, I've seen fire hall written as "Fire Hall" and city hall written as "City Hall" (example).

3) I have a ticket which reads "Winter Formal Dance".

Is the capitalization of these words correct? If so, then why? Is it a matter of rules, or is the deciding factor whatever the owner decides? For example, if a swimming coach decides practices on Wednesday will be known as "Wednesday Practices", would it be correct to always write 'practices' with the upper case "P"?

2 Answers 2


I love your question. :-) (very unprofessional of me, I know.)

Acronyms are always capitalized, in order to alert the reader that the nonsense word they have just encountered is, indeed, an acronym.

I think the pertinent concept here is titles. Though common words appear in titles, the words in titles are capitalized.

When buildings are given a (common) title (as in your example, Student Union Building), they are capitalized on the building itself (often in the school's literature as well), because that is the building's title. You need not capitalized when you write about them using the common name. One would be surprised to see "student cafeteria" on a building, because that is the building's title, and as such, the words should begin with upper case letters.

Pertaining to example 2, your source may provide you a semblance of an answer in rules 9 and 10. "City Hall" is capitalized because it is a specific city hall, Vancouver's city hall. It is a title (Vancouver City Hall) for a specific building. Random or unspecified city halls or fire houses are not capitalized. Same with specific town halls (Trenton Town Hall), hospitals (Good Samaritan Hospital), etc. They are titles.

Pertaining to example 3, specific events, like books, have titles, and the first letter of the words in a title (with exceptions you are probably familiar with) are capitalized. So while people run marathons, they might not qualify to run in the Boston City Marathon; your dance is 'titled' "Winter Formal Dance". Wednesday Practice is also a specific, titled event, even if it occurs every week.

You might look at this page. It has a bit more detail on the use of capitals than your source.


I need to further define the very first part of the answer that was given. The answer states, "Acronyms are always capitalized, in order to alert the reader that the nonsense word they have just encountered is, indeed, an acronym." This is not detailed enough to determine if they intended to say that the acronym itself is always capitalized, or if the words in the acronym are. In most cases, the acronym itself is capitalized, but the words that make up the acronym should very rarely be capitalized. If the words are a proper noun, then they would be, but very few actually are. After an acronym is spelled out and used the first time, it should not be spelled out again, only the acronym should be used at that point. Also, even if the first citation of the acronym is plural, do not make the acronym itself plural. However, subsequent use of the acronym as plural can be made such in the text using a lowercase s only (do NOT use an apostrophe to make plural, only for possession). The following examples are written as they should be within the text of any document.

Department of the Navy (DON) Department of Defense (DoD) self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) fleet readiness centers (FRC) and later FRCs, if plural is needed engineering technician (ET) commanding officer's (CO) and later CO's (this is singular possessive in both cases) Farnsworth lantern test (FALANT) functional check flights (FCF) and later FCFs, if plural is needed radiation safety program (RSP) standard operating procedures (SOP) and later SOPs, if plural is needed X-ray - that is it, not an acronym or abbreviation, just how it is written, plural, of course, is X-rays, but cannot be possessive Correct me if you think I am wrong, but I am not. Nichole W.

  • I don't think you are wrong. I just don't think the bulk of this, the apostrophe rant, is relevant to the question.
    – Chenmunka
    Jun 29, 2017 at 12:18

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