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When used as the title of a course or a college major, clearly Music, Art, Theater, Dance and "The Arts" are capitalized.

I find myself writing about the arts and wondering if I should capitalize the "A" or not. If I write Arts majors, I capitalize; but I write non-arts majors in lower case. Is this correct? Which one is correct − "patrons of the arts," or "patrons of the Arts" or "patrons of The Arts"?

I want to do this correctly, as I teach a college course in this discipline.

  • A few Victorians used to refer to patrons of the Arts, but they had funny ideas about capitalisation anyway. Unless your context is a "proper noun" you should probably stick to lower case. – FumbleFingers Sep 9 '16 at 22:36
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While I would specifically refer to proper title degrees as proper nouns (Bachelor of Arts) as you said, I wouldn't capitalize "arts" unless it was something like the Art(s) Department or School of Art(s). As FumbleFingers said, capilization of non-proper nouns does appear in older writing (see Capitalisation of nouns in English in the 17th and 18th centuries).

I even recall seeing it in earlier 20th Century writing (mostly in news settings) and to this day it still appears as way to give credibility words in a marketing contest (e.g.: The Next Big Idea).

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The college I went to for the fine arts never gave the word art any special treatment. It was only capitalized in the names of degrees, and even then only when listed. If the name of the degree appeared in a sentence, (bachelor of fine arts) and wasn't a link on the website, or the first word in a sentence, it was almost always entirely lower case. Usually the degree name wouldn't even appear, they'd just abbreviate it BFA. Everywhere else the word art is just another word.

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