Capitalisation. Proper nouns

    The content of these guidelines is taken from the third edition of the Vives University Network’s Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing Institutional Texts, an interuniversity project in which the UPC participates with the support of the Secretariat for Universities and Research of the Government of Catalonia.


    Titles and ranks

    • Words for the titles and ranks of people are lowercased when they are used in a general sense or refer to the position held rather than the person.

      The principal academic and administrative officer of a university in this country is the rector. 

    • They are capitalised when they are used directly before a name, as a form of address or as a substitute for the name of the holder of the title.

      In 2011, Rector Alabart was re-elected for a second four-year term of office.
      Only last week, Rector, you stated that there would be no further cuts in the departmental budget.
      Last week the Rector gave a speech to the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce.

    • When titles are used in apposition to a name, they do not form part of the name and are, therefore, lowercased.

      Dr Alabart, rector of the University, was first elected in 2007.

    • The general guideline, then, is that if the title or rank is a reference to a specific person and the person's name could be used instead without affecting factual or grammatical accuracy, then a capital letter should be used.
    • In titles that are hyphenated compounds it used to be standard practice to capitalise only the first part of the compound. Nowadays, however, the tendency is to capitalise both parts.

      The Vice-Rector for Academic Policy described the new reforms to the Governing Council.
      The vice-rector for Academic Policy is responsible for making large-scale changes to degree programmes.

    • The title is lowercased in the second example above because it is a reference to the position of vice-rector, not to a particular person.


    Personal names

    • Capitalise the names and initials of all real or fictitious people.

      William Shakespeare                   Joanot Martorell                        Silence Dogood

    • Many names contain articles, prepositions, conjunctions or other particles (for example, de, d’, de la, the, lo, el, la, i, y, von, van, etc.). English, Catalan and Spanish names tend to lowercase these elements. Therefore:

      Xavier de Bofarull                        Walter de la Mare                     Alexander the Great

      Tirant lo Blanc                             Antoni Rovira i Virgili                 Santiago Ramón y Cajal

    • However, capitalise the particle when a person is referred to by the surname and the particle is in initial position.

      The writer D’Ors often used the pseudonym Xènius.



    • Capitalise the names of all countries, towns and other geographical terms commonly accepted to be the proper names of cultural, historic, tourist, geographic or economic entities.



      the Golden Coast



      the Third World

      the Iberian Peninsula

      the Wild West

    • The names of geographical features are also capitalised. The generic term (lake, sea, river, channel, etc.) is also capitalised when it is used as part of the name.

      the Mediterranean Sea the River Francolí Lake Banyoles

    • Otherwise, no capital letter is used (see Reference).

      the Mediterranean and the Baltic seas

    • Capitalise the initial article in a town's name, even though it is lowercased in Catalan.

      El Morell La Floresta L'Anoia

    • When you are referring to parts of cities, capitalise terms such as avinguda, carrer, carretera, passeig and plaça, even though these are lowercased in Catalan (see also Place names).

      All Erasmus Week participants should be at the underground station in Plaça de Catalunya at 9 a.m.

    • Compass directions should only be capitalised when they are part of the name of a recognised geographical or political region.

      The URV has established an agreement with Queen's University, the leading university in Northern Ireland.
      The URV is the university of southern Catalonia.



    • When a reference is made to a previous mention of a capitalised proper name, the usual practice is to revert to lower case.

      The Erasmus students were taken to Lake Banyoles. When they arrived, the lake was calm and serene.
      The Spanish Civil War was fought between 17 July 1936 and 1 April 1939. The war began after a group of right-wing generals rose up against the Government of the Second Spanish Republic.

    • However, when the reference is simply a short form of the specific person, organisation, institution or event previously mentioned, capitals are used.

      The Universitat Rovira i Virgili is placing great emphasis on internationalisation. The University is fully aware of the importance of this policy.
      The Spanish Civil War was fought between 17 July 1936 and 1 April 1939. The Civil War became notable for the passion and political division it inspired.

    • Plural forms that apply one generic term to multiple names should be lowercased because the generic term is merely a descriptor and not part of the proper name.

      Girona and Lleida universities


    Dates, periods and events

    • Capitalise all days, months, festivals, holidays, historical periods and historical events.

      Wednesday, August, Easter, Saint John's Eve, the Middle Ages, the Tragic Week

    • Lowercase the seasons.

      the autumn semester, spring enrolment, winter, summer

    Movements and ideologies

    • Capitalise the names of all cultural, artistic, social, political and religious movements and ideologies.

      Romanticism, Surrealism, the Slow Movement, the Tea Party, Catholicism


    Languages and nationalities

    • The names of languages and nationalities are always written with a capital letter.

      The working languages of the research group are Catalan, Spanish and English.
      The Basque universities have signed numerous agreements with their Catalan counterparts.


    Official documents

    • The titles of laws and official documents should be capitalised.

      the Single European Act
      the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia
      Royal Decree 1359/2003, of 21 October, on the Governance of TATT Activities
      Framework Agreement of Cooperation between the University of Lleida and Queen's University

    • Descriptive titles and titles used in the plural should be lowercased.

      The regulation governing the administration of examinations was debated by the Senate yesterday.
      The statutes of the autonomous communities were first established in the early 1980s.


    Education: subjects, courses, degrees and disciplines

    • The official names of all subjects, courses and degrees are capitalised. The generic terms are lowercased.

      the degree in Biochemistry
      the subject Communication and Culture
      a master's degree in Social Anthropology
      a master of science
      a bachelor's degree

    • The generic term should be capitalised if it is part of the name of the course.

      The Master's Degree in Business Management offered by the Department of Economics provides students with all the skills and abilities they need to create and sustain a successful business.

    • The names of disciplines should be lowercased.

      Although anthropology is easy to define, it is difficult to describe.
      The course provides students with initial training in research into oenology and biotechnology.


    Education: chairs and knowledge areas

    • The official names of all chairs and knowledge areas are capitalised. The generic term is only capitalised when it is part of the official name.

      The UOC's UNESCO Chair in E-Learning is pleased to announce that its 10th International Seminar will be held next November.
      The knowledge area of Scope Management ensures that the projects include only the work required to complete them successfully.


    Education: grades

    • Grades are capitalised.

      Fail Pass Excellent
      Distinction A B


    Education: academic periods

    • Academic periods are lowercased.

      the academic year compulsory secondary education (ESO)
      the first semester the second term


    Public institutions and organisations

    • All the words, including the generic terms, that are part of the official name of public institutions, organisations, societies, associations and movements should be capitalised.

      the Faculty of Chemistry
      the Department of Business Management
      the Language Service
      the Board of Trustees
      the General Directorate of Universities

    • When the names of organisations are in the plural or have a more general meaning, the generic terms should be lowercased.

      The departments of History and Psychology are piloting a new teaching methodology.
      One of the aims of a university language service is to prepare students to compete in a globalised society.
    • When the full name of the organisation is abbreviated by deleting a word or words, the capitals should be maintained (see Reference).

      The Department [of History] is piloting a new teaching methodology.
      The University [of Barcelona] is engaged in a far-reaching process of internationalisation.