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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University


Writing and communications have seen a major shift in the digital age. We are less formal, and that affects writing style, including using less capitalization and punctuation. The Chicago Manual of Style and Canadian Press, among many other authorities, recommend this practice.

Arguments for a lower case style

  • when too many words are capitalized, they lose significance and no longer attract attention
  • readability studies have shown that lower case copy is easier to read than copy flooded with initial caps or all caps
  • the use of lower case for titles of departments, committees or positions does not diminish their stature or credibility
  • the skillful use of white space, typeface and typestyle are more effective in promotional or marketing materials (such as ads or web copy) than using caps for emphasis

General rules of capitalization

Capitalize common nouns when they represent a complete formal name, but use lower case in subsequent partial or informal forms. When referring to TRU as “the university”, for example, always use lower case.

Thompson Rivers University; the university
the Government of British Columbia; the provincial government; the government
the Thompson Rivers University Senate, the TRU senate, the senate
the Faculty of Arts, the arts faculty, the faculty
Doctor of Philosophy; doctorate; Master of Education; master’s degree; baccalaureate

Common nouns should otherwise not be capitalized, even when they are used in terminology specific to the university context, such as “grade-point average,” “winter session,” “letter of permission,” “record of degree program” and “university fellowship”. 

Capitalize the first word of a quotation that is a complete sentence.

Do not capitalize the first letter of a common noun after a colon in running text, even if the colon is followed by a complete sentence.

See also: Vertical lists and capitalization

Capitalization of job and position titles

In running text, capitalize formal job titles directly preceding a name and not set off by a comma. Use lower case in other instances. (Using lower case suggests collective confidence—true to our brand.) Please contact departments directly to confirm formal job titles.

TRU President and Vice-Chancellor Brett Fairbairn; President Fairbairn; Brett Fairbairn, president; the president
Faculty of Arts Dean Richard McCutcheon; Dean McCutcheon; Dr. Rick McCutcheon, dean of arts

When referring to TRU vice-presidents, do not set off their area of responsibility with commas; however, the same rules of capitalization apply.

Provost and Vice-President Academic (Interim) Donna Murnaghan; the provost
The associate vice-president of research and graduate studies will chair the committee.
Dr. Will Garrett-Petts, associate vice-president research and graduate studies, has been appointed to the board.

In running text, use academic ranks (assistant, associate, full professor) only when the context makes it necessary, otherwise use “faculty member”. Only use “professor” when the faculty member has attained the rank of full professor.

Dr. Naowarat (Ann) Cheeptham is an associate professor in Biological Sciences.
a new book by English and Modern Languages faculty member George Johnson

The preferred academic title is Dr. for a PhD, EdD or equivalent. Exception: President Brett Fairbairn prefers not to use the title “Dr.” in most communication.

Academic titles should only be used in the first reference; subsequent references to the individual generally should be by surname only. Exceptions may be made in order to conform to the appropriate level of formality in communicating with a particular audience.

In general, identify the department or school affiliation of a person at first reference. Do not use the specialty at first reference, unless it makes clear the department affiliation.

Department of Chemistry faculty member Dr. Kingsley Donkor; Dr. Kingsley Donkor (Chemistry); TRU chemist Dr. Kingsley Donkor

Academic units, departments and committees

Unit and department names, as well as research centres and major research projects, follow the general rules of capitalization. Please refer directly to the unit for its formal name. (To avoid confusion, use a construction such as “faculty members” when referring to people as opposed to the academic unit.)

the Faculty of Science, science, the faculty, science faculty members
the School of Trades and Technology, trades and technology, the school
the Department of English and Modern Languages, English and modern languages, the department
the Centre for Optimization and Decision Science (CODS), CODS, the centre
No Straight Lines, the centre’s homelessness research stream, the project

The names of committees, task groups and other working groups need not be capitalized.

the budget committee
the communications working group

The names of committees may be capitalized in such formal documents as the TRU Calendar and communications of or with university governing bodies.

Academic programs, credentials and subjects

Formal academic programs and credentials as listed in the TRU Calendar follow the general rule for capitalization. Distinctions within degree programs, such as major, minor, honours, concentrations or specialties, co-op, with distinction, etc. should not be considered part of the official program name and should not be capitalized in running text.

the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies, interdisciplinary studies
Bachelor of Science; major in cellular, molecular and microbial biology; honours biology; directed studies
the Co-operative Education program, co-operative education, co-op

Do not capitalize academic subjects except when referring to a subject that is also a proper noun.

English, biology, French, history, physics, Russian, law

When referring to the course offerings of a specific TRU department (as opposed to offerings in the general field of study or at other institutions), be explicit or use the standard course code.

Prerequisites include at least six course credits in HIST.
Prerequisites include at least six course credits in the TRU history department.

See: Vertical lists

Awards, honours and decorations

Follow the general rule of capitalization: only capitalize the full formal title of the award or honour.

TRU Honorary Doctor of Letters, honorary doctorate, honorary degree recipient

Building names

Buildings follow the general rule of capitalization. The full, formal name of the building should be capitalized. Use lower case for most informal references. Full names should be used in the first reference, but exceptions may be made in order to conform to the appropriate level of formality in communicating with a particular audience.

Tournament Capital Centre, Hillside Stadium, the pool, the stadium
TRU Housing North Tower, North Tower, the residence

Refer to buildings and other university venues named after people by using either the family name or the person’s full name, but use one or the other convention consistently within a publication.

the Brown Family House of Learning, House of Learning, HL, the library
the Ken Lepin Science and Health Sciences Building, the Lepin Building
The Chappell Family Building for Nursing and Population Health, the Chappell Family Building, CFB

See Campus and community place names for the official names of university buildings, venues and community locations.

University policies

The names of university policies need not be capitalized.

the policy on types of undergraduate degrees
the procedures for the appointment of the dean of arts

However, the names of policies may be capitalized in such formal documents as the TRU Calendar and communications of or with university governing bodies.

the sub-committee proposed revised policy ED 16-0, Types of Undergraduate and Graduate Credentials

Cultural and historic periods

Cultural and historic periods and historic events are capitalized.

the Bronze Age, the Ice Age, the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance
World War I, the Crusades, the Holocaust

Descriptive designations should be set in lower case except for proper names.

ancient Rome, medieval manuscripts, but the Victorian era

Other capitalizations

Capitalize the formal names of the following: proper names of nationalities, peoples, ethnicities and tribes (see also: Inclusive language); titles of books, films, plays, poems, songs, speeches, works of art (follow MLA Handbook guidelines for university communications); brand names (follow the company’s capitalization); holidays and holy days; laws and historic documents; the full name of organizations and institutions; political parties and movements; and religions and deities.

Métis, Secwepemc, First Nations
After Alice
WolfPack athletics
Christmas, Ramadan, Labour Day, Chinese New Year
Thompson Rivers University Act
the Thompson Nicola Cariboo United Way

See Citing using MLA format

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