Can I use capital S in the sentence below? The word staff refers to a unit.

The Board of Directors and the staff of x company wish you a happy and peaceful New Year!

Thank you!

  • Welcome to ELU! It would be useful to indicate what research you have already done on the subject. – microenzo Dec 21 '18 at 16:42
  • I think that in a greeting of this kind there would be considered plenty of latitude in what was worthy of capitalisation. More generally, I would not personally, in normal prose, capitalise "staff" unless it referred to a military hierarchy e.g "The Commanding Officer and General Staff of the Thirty-first Division were based in Alexandria". (see OED category III sense 21a) – WS2 Dec 21 '18 at 23:24

The short an­swer: yes! But you prob­a­bly shouldn’t.

I would say that in this case, it’s bet­ter to leave staff lower-case. How­ever, whether or not you choose to cap­i­tal­ize it com­mu­ni­cates some­thing dif­fer­ent to the reader about your per­spec­tive of the staff.

What is a proper noun, any­way?

Board of Direc­tors is a great ex­am­ple of a phrase that switches from be­ing a proper noun to a nor­mal noun in dif­fer­ent con­texts. For ex­am­ple, in a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle, one might read the phrase:

Face­book’s board of di­rec­tors an­nounced quar­terly earn­ings this week.

Here, board of di­rec­tors can­not be a proper noun and must not be cap­i­tal­ized, since any com­pany can have a board of di­rec­tors, and this just hap­pens to be Face­book’s board of di­rec­tors. (The pos­ses­sive, Face­book’s, is a big hint here).

Now for an op­po­site ex­am­ple:

The Face­book Board of Direc­tors an­nounced quar­terly earn­ings this week.

In this case, Face­book Board of Direc­tors is a proper noun and must be cap­i­tal­ized. This is be­cause, while there may be many dif­fer­ent boards of di­rec­tors, there is ex­actly one Face­book Board of Direc­tors, and this is their name. (You can have a bunch of names in this con­text: The Board, Face­book Board, Face­book Direc­tors. We’re no longer re­fer­ring to the ab­stract con­cept of a board of di­rec­tors, but in­stead a spe­cific group of peo­ple.

An anal­o­gous ex­am­ples is a pres­i­dent vs. the Pres­i­dent of the United States. (No­tice the use of the ar­ti­cles a vs. the here. This is very com­mon).

So what does this mean for my ex­am­ple?

In the con­text of in­side your com­pany, you would prob­a­bly use the phrase, The Board of Direc­tors as a proper noun, since from your per­spec­tive, The Board of Direc­tors refers specif­i­cally to the board of di­rec­tors of your com­pany. Every­one knows ex­actly who you’re talk­ing about, and that’s their name. You could leave it un­cap­i­tal­ized, but that would seem very im­per­sonal; the board of di­rec­tors seems like an inan­i­mate part of the ma­chine of your com­pany rather than a spe­cific de­part­ment of work­ers.

There­fore, if you were to cap­i­tal­ize staff to Staff, it would re­fer to a spe­cific group of peo­ple who col­lec­tively are re­ferred to by name as the Staff. You can see how this might come off as awk­ward, since it im­plies that the Staff some­how iden­tify with the la­bel of Staff, when you prob­a­bly want to re­fer to them as staff “a group of peo­ple who work at a com­pany.”

That said, if you want to be play­ful and im­ply that the staff mem­bers of your com­pany take some ex­tra pride in be­ing af­fil­i­ated with the Staff, go right on ahead, but I would ad­vise to usu­ally play it safe and only turn nouns into proper nouns when nec­es­sary.


The only words in that sentence that should be capitalized are the first word of the sentence and the name of the company.

"The Board of Directors" -> "The board of directors"

"Board of Directors" is not a proper noun. It's the description of a group of people at the company. It's possible that a board of directors, say the directors of XYZ Corporation, could formally call themselves the XYZ Corporation Board of Directors, in which case, XYZ Corporation Board of Directors is the name of the organization, not its description, and should be capitalized (like all names).

"and the Staff" -> "and the staff"

"Staff" could conceivably be the formal name for the staff at your company, but that would be pretty unusual. Usually, "staff" like "board of directors" is a description, not a title, or a name. Maybe some examples would help:

"However, that doesn’t mean the students of Harvard...necessarily agree with establishment politics. " (The Boston Globe)
"Skaleski, 75, was one of the earliest employees of McDonald’s No. 1" (Chicago Tribune)
"...he joined the staff of the Cambridge Evening News..." (The Washington Post)

"of x company"

The name of the company should be capitalized, unless it's intentionally not capitalized, like eBay.

"wish you a happy and peaceful New Year!" -> "wish you a happy and peaceful new year!" (possibly)

"New Year" is the name of the holiday, which in many countries is celebrated on January 1. The year that begins on January 1 and continues until December 31 can be called "the new year" not "the New Year." Are you wishing them happiness and peace on January 1? If so, then you've written it correctly. If you're wishing them happiness and peace for the year to come, it should be "new year."


My answer is yes, you can. In fact I would also capitalize Happy and Peaceful - it is common to capitalize the adjectives before Christmas and New Year in messages like this.

In terms of rules, this website indicates that while there are some precise rules on the subject, in some cases it's left to the writer to decide (the link focuses on BrE):


Look at section C.

In the question, not capitalizing Staff makes it "imbalanced" in my opinion, compared to the Board of Directors (i.e. if you capitalize one I would capitalize the other too). However, it's subjective as indicated in the link.

For reference, here is a guide for AmE (sections 16.*):


  • 1
    Capitalization is not about balance. "Board of Directors" and "New Year" are the only proper nouns in that sentence. – Chemomechanics Dec 21 '18 at 18:27
  • As I said (see link), in some cases it's up to the writer and the context. In the context of Christmas wishes, aesthetic balance is as important as strict rule in my opinion. – microenzo Dec 21 '18 at 18:33
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    We’re not talking about titles nor subheadings nor art. In the middle of a regular sentence the words you are talking about are pretty uncontroversial: no capitalization. I think you should reread the question and your links. – Laurel Dec 21 '18 at 19:27
  • I think it's wrong to ignore the context. This is a message of festive wishes, so it is perfectly reasonable to use a more relaxed approach for impact. So the answer from me is still yes to the specific question. I have read the question, and it does not ask if this is always correct, but whether it is in the specific sentence. – microenzo Dec 21 '18 at 19:37

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