4 Golden Rules of Capitalization in Technical Documents


It is ebay or eBay or Ebay? How Technical Writers use capitalization in user guides creates many problems for editors, reviewers, and users. Part of the problem is a lack of guidelines and style guides. What you think looks fine break some style guide rule you were unaware of.

The Capitalization of Microsoft

A good example is the word Microsoft. When it started out, it was MicroSoft. Then it changed the uppercase S to a lowercase.

So, what do you do with all the legacy documents or international materials, for example, business documents for Chinese readers?

Guidelines for Capitalization

In general, use capitalization rules whenever possible – for example, common nouns are usually all lowercase and proper nouns are always capitalized.

  1. Never use all uppercase letters for emphasis.
  2. Follow the capitalization rules of software as necessary, as in case-sensitive keywords.
  3. Do not capitalize the spelled-out form of an acronym unless specified otherwise in the List of Acronyms and Abbreviations.
  4. Avoid over-capitalization.

Capitalization Of User Interfaces Elements

Microsoft recommends the following capitalization rules for interface elements:

  • Menu names, command and command button names, and dialog box titles and tab names: Follow the interface. Usually, these items use title caps. If the interface is inconsistent, use title caps.
  • Dialog box elements: Follow the interface. Newer style calls for these items to use sentence caps. If the interface is inconsistent, use sentence caps.
  • Functional elements: Capitalize the names of functional elements that do not have a label in the interface, such as toolbars (the Standard toolbar) and toolbar buttons (the Insert Table button).
  • Do not capitalize interface elements used generically, such as toolbar, menu, scroll bar, and icon.
  • The Golden Rules of Capitalization in Technical Documents Do not capitalize unless it is case-sensitive.

Looking for examples


One of the hazards of having a love of words is that you see things that others take for granted.

So, when it comes to caps or should that be capitalizations… I see these everywhere.

For example:

Is it web site or Web Site or Website?

Is it the Bible of The Bible?

Is it IBM or I.B.M.?

What other examples would you add?