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I regularly prepare professional profiles for a client to use in proposals and on their website. They work in a sector where excessive capitalisation is endemic, so I often have to explain my reasons for changing all kinds of words to lower case.

For example:

John is a Chartered Accountant and Fellow of the Institution of Chartered Accountants.

vs.

John is a chartered accountant and fellow of the Institution of Chartered Accountants.

My client has said that they capitalise phrases such as chartered accountant 'because they mean something specific'. I don't think that this is a justification for capitalising a word, but I'm ready to be told otherwise!

Can someone, with better grammatical knowledge than mine, explain which form of capitalisation is correct and, just as importantly, why?

In case it makes a difference, I am writing in the UK for a British audience.

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    This is a question of style and convention rather than grammar, and is very much context dependent. A decent style guide is what you want. For what it's worth, I wouldn't capitalise chartered accountant in a middle of a sentence either. (As an aside, having done such work in the past, I wouldn't double down on any correction the client didn't like: if a customer demurred regarding any mark, I would yield. Horses for courses, though!)
    – tmgr
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 17:15
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    One opinion, from the Guardian/Observer style guide: 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 Francis but the pope.
    – tmgr
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 17:17

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As a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, all I can do is tell you how I would do it.

To begin with it is quite superfluous to say both that John is a Chartered Accountant and that he is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. If he is the latter then clearly he is the former.

If I were just using the word "accountant" e.g. "John is an accountant", I would not use a capital A any more than I would use a capital V if I said "John is a van driver".

However as soon as you introduce the word "Chartered", then it is not simply an occupation which is referenced, but a professional qualification and status. And as a professional body the "Institute of Chartered Accountants" is a proper noun and merits capitals - in the same way that an academic body, such as the School of Oriental and African Studies, would be capitalised.

The term "Fellow" is a professional title, a bit like Doctor, hence that too should, in my view be capitalised.

Therefore the way it should be written, in my view is:

John is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants or for everyday business purposes John is an FCA.

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    +1 I agree that if fellow is being used as part of a recognized title, then it should be capitalized. I can't see it not being so used in this case. Doctor is often used in lowercase because it's referencing the common noun, not the title. But I'm not aware of fellow being used as a single-word noun in the same way that doctor is used as a noun. (At least not beyond it's more mainstream jolly fellow sense.) Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 2:55
  • @JasonBassford Yes, if it is simply the occupation that is meant, then doctor, surgeon, astro-scientist, are no different to van-driver or plumber, so far as capitalisation is concerned. Capitals are only required where a job-title, or professional designation is written.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 8:57

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