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Capitalization in English

Use initial capital letters sparingly, according to the general rules set out below.

Use initial capitals to mark beginnings:

  • The first word of a sentence
  • The first word of a subparagraph or item on a vertical list

Initial capitals are not used as a mark of respect; neither does the use of lower case imply a lack of respect. Certain words are capitalized when used in a specialized or restricted sense, the purpose of the capital being to point to the specialized or restricted sense (e.g. Aboriginal people in Australia, but the consequences of climate change for indigenous communities, the mortality rates of black infants).

Some points of style

Initial capital letters are used for:

  • Proper nouns and adjectives and recognized geographical names:

Mexico City but the city of Chicago
Manatee County; Manatee and Pinellas Counties
Var Department; Var and Loire Departments
Aleppo Governorate; the Governorates of Hasakah and Homs
Ouham Prefecture; the Prefectures of Ouham and Haute-Kotto
the Cayman Islands but the island of Cyprus
Mount Everest; the Andes Mountains
Arctic Ocean
Manihiki Plateau
Province of Herat in Afghanistan; Herat Province; Herat and Farah Provinces
Kayes Region; the Kayes and Kidal Regions
Nile River; the River Nile; the Nile and Congo Rivers
Baltic Sea

but lower Mekong basin, Lake Chad basin

  • All words in the titles of books, periodicals and publications except articles, conjunctions and prepositions

Note: The first word in the title is always capitalized, no matter what part of speech it is.

  • The first word, proper nouns and other words that are normally capitalized:
    • In titles of United Nations documents
    • In headings of chapters, sections, subsections, annexes, tables, figures and articles
    • In legends on figures and maps
    • In titles of articles and unpublished papers
  • The official titles of persons, councils, commissions, committees, Secretariat units, organizations, institutions, political parties and organized movements  
  • The titles of specific posts
  • The names of special rooms, halls and buildings: the General Assembly Hall
  • Elements of proper names transliterated from Arabic, as follows:
    • The definite article al is capitalized when it is the first element in a name and lower-case when it is in the middle; for example Al-Jazeera, Al-Qaida, Mohammed al-Ansari. The same practice applies to el, where used.

      Note: In a limited number of names, Al is not a definite article but rather a noun meaning "House of" or "Family of". In these cases, the word is always written with a capital A and is never attached to the following word; for example Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

    • The same rule applies to bin and ibn; for example Osama bin Laden, Mr. Bin Hamdan, Abu al-Walid ibn Rushd (Averroës), Ibn Sina (Avicenna).
  • The main component of an e-compound referring to an established electronic system or tool, such as eDoc or eMeets (and their successors, gDoc and gMeets); otherwise email, e-commerce and so on; also Email at the beginning of a sentence

Words frequently found in United Nations documents, showing the use of capital or lower-case letters in United Nations practice           

An asterisk (*) indicates a change from previous practice.


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Act, of a legislative body

when citing the title of a specific act


in specific references, when used in the sense of "Government"

also in reference to senior management within the United Nations Secretariat

but  East Timor under United Nations administration

administrative instruction

advisory opinion (of the International Court of Justice)

agenda, agenda item, agenda item 24

but  2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Agenda 21, United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s

Aid for Trade Initiative

but  aid for trade in general usage


in reference to a specific representative

also United Nations Goodwill Ambassador(s)

but a seminar for ambassadors and other diplomats

annex, an annex, annex III, the annexes to the report

appendix,  an appendix, appendix IV, the appendices



but arabic numerals

armed forces

when not part of the official title or when used in a general or descriptive sense

article, an article, article 3

but Article in reference to an Article of the Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice

Autonomous Community

in specific references: the Autonomous Community of Galicia, the Autonomous Communities of Galicia and La Rioja

but all the autonomous communities of Spain

autumn   [see also Usage at the end of this list]


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bill (before a legislative body)


in specific references to an established body: United Nations Board of Auditors, International Narcotics Control Board

but  a proposal to set up an advisory board


in reference to a Secretary-General's bulletin


in specific references to the officers of an established body: the Bureau of the Economic and Social Council, the Bureau of the Second Committee, the Bureaux of the Main Committees, the Bureau of the Commission on the Status of Women

but  the bureaux of the intergovernmental bodies...

Note: le Bureau de l'Assemblée générale = the General Committee of the General Assembly


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when referring to a Cabinet of senior ministers or secretaries of State


category 5 hurricane; General Service and related categories


in reference to an area within a country

but Central in reference to a major region: Central Africa


Chair of the Third Committee, Chairs of the Main Committees of the General Assembly

Note: “Chair”, rather than “Chairman”, is the preferred title in the context of United Nations bodies, in line with the United Nations guidelines for gender-inclusive language in English. Titles such as “Chairperson”, when used by officials in bodies that are not part of the United Nations, should not be changed, for example Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

chapter, chapter II

but  Chapter in reference to a Chapter of the Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice

Chargé d'affaires

Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Andorra to the United Nations


Charter of the United Nations, Charter of the League of Arab States, Charter of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries


when not part of the official name: the city of Chicago

but New York City, Mexico City

civilian police

as a component of a United Nations peacekeeping operation

Co-Chair (noun)

Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group (see note under Chair)

co-chair (verb)

Task Force on Children and Armed Conflict, co-chaired by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and the United Nations Children's Fund

cold war

Commander, Force Commander

in specific references: the post of Force Commander of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire


in specific references, and when used as a short title

but  the regional commissions, the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council


in specific references, and when used as a short title

but  the committees of the General Assembly (other than the Main Committees), Security Council committees, the sanctions committees

common country assessment


in specific references, and when used as a short title

conference room, conference room paper

but Conference Room 4

consolidated appeal process


in a reference to a specific Constitution of a State, a specialized agency and the like: article 28 of the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia; as provided in the Constitution of the World Health Organization

but a new constitution, the constitutions of many States


in specific references



the continent of Africa

continental shelf

Contracting Party, High Contracting Party, non-Contracting Party

in a formal text such as the text of a treaty: the Contracting Parties to the present Convention

but the contracting parties to the Treaty (in other texts)


in citing the title of a specific instrument: the Convention on the Rights of the Child

but  the international anti-terrorism conventions, to draft a convention on the rights of disabled persons (see also draft)


when using it as a short title, as noun or adjective: Council resolution 1979/81


in specific references: Manatee County; Manatee and Pinellas Counties

*customs (in the sense of douane)


unless followed by a name: Cyclone Laila


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Dag Hammarskjöld Library (Auditorium, Building)

daily subsistence allowance


but  First United Nations Development Decade, United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty


when citing the title of a specific declaration made at the government or international organization level


when citing the title of a specific decree

delegation, a delegation, the delegation

demarcation line


in specific references: the Department of Political Affairs of the Secretariat, the Department of Commerce of the United States Government

also Var Department; Var and Loire Departments

but  one of the three Secretariat departments dealing with the question 



draft Convention in reference to a text that has been under discussion for a long time


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in reference to the planet

but  earth in reference to soil

east, eastern

in reference to a geographical direction or an area within a country

but  East, Eastern in reference to a major region or in a political context: East Africa, East-West dialogue

eDoc, eFolder, eMeets

but  e-commerce, e-flow, email


in specific references


executing agency

executive heads

of the specialized agencies

executive secretaries

of the regional commissions

but  Executive Secretary of ECA, ECE, ECLAC, ESCAP or ESCWA


a group of experts

but  the Group of Experts on Global Warming


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financial regulation 3.5, financial rule 103.7

but  Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations


defence force(s), national defence force(s)




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General Service

category of the staff of the United Nations

*Government (noun only)

when making reference to a Government representing a State or a Non-Self-Governing Territory, including a transitional administration established under a peace agreement: the Government of India, the National Transitional Government of Liberia, the Government of South Sudan, the national Government of Canada, territorial Government, any Government wishing to participate, all Governments concerned

but  local or municipal government, pro-government elements, a system of government, a change of government, a government department, the government-sponsored project, the provincial government of Ontario, the government officials concerned, anti-government forces


in specific references: Aleppo Governorate, the Governorates of Hasakah and Homs

group, group of experts, working group

but  Group of 77, Group of African States, Working Group on Minorities, United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names


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but   the General Assembly Hall, in this Hall


Head(s) of State, Head(s) of Government, and in specific titles: Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Central African Republic and Head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic

but  head of a delegation or mission


the headquarters of ESCAP, the Commission headquarters building

but   United Nations Headquarters, the Headquarters Building when referring specifically to the United Nations building in New York


northern, southern, eastern, western

high-level [plenary] meeting of the General Assembly on ...


unless followed by a name: Hurricane Emily


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information circular

information services

international civil servant, international civil service

Internet (see also web)



in the introduction to his report, he stated that …

introductory note


when not part of the official name: the island of Cyprus

but   the Cayman Islands


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unless followed by the name of a specific person: Judge Claude Jorda


initial capital in the formal citation of a specific judgment: East Timor (Portugal v. Australia), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1995, p. 90; Attention is drawn to Judgment No. 61, Crawford et al. (1955), of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal

lower case in a general or abbreviated citation:  In its judgment of 11 September 1992, the Court decided ... ; the judgments of the Tribunal are final


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language proficiency examination

language training programme


including all references to the profession of law

but  Law, in citing the title of a specific legal instrument

liaison officer

Local level

in reference to a category of United Nations staff


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Main Committee(s)

of the General Assembly


in reference to a State Member or States Members of the United Nations

also Member of Parliament

but a State not a member of the United Nations, a non-member State, a member of a United Nations organ, e.g., member or members of the Security Council, member or members of the Economic and Social Council, etc.

Note: "States Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency…" and "States Members of the United Nations or members of organizations of the United Nations system"

memorandum of understanding

but  Memorandum of Understanding in reference to a specific agreement between two States

Mesoamerica, Mesoamerican

Millennium Development Goals

also in reference to a specific Goal: Millennium Development Goal 5

Minister, Ministry

the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

but  a meeting of finance ministers, posts in the principal ministries


the Permanent Mission of Solomon Islands to the United Nations

but members of permanent missions at United Nations Headquarters

also as the short title of a peacekeeping/peacebuilding mission, if included in the full title: the United Nations Mission in South Sudan … the Mission (contrast with "the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire" … "the mission")


but  moon(s) of planets other than Earth


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north, northern

in reference to a geographical direction or an area within a country

but  North, Northern in reference to a major region or in a political context: North America, North-South dialogue

note, note verbale

a note by the Secretary-General, in response to the Chair's note verbale dated . . .

number, No.

No. only when followed by a numeral: Supplement No. 2

The plural form is Nos.


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the United Nations military observer in San Salvador, organizations having received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly, observer State

but  Permanent Observer of the Holy See, of the African Union

office, term of office

but  Office in official titles: the Office of Legal Affairs, the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator, the Office of the High Representative (Bosnia and Herzegovina)


when used as a short title

Other level

of General Service staff (G-6 and below)


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unless referring specifically to a legislative body that is actually called “Parliament”


as stated in part one of the report

but  Part one as a heading


in a formal text such as the text of a treaty: the Parties to the present Convention

but  the States parties to the Treaty (in other texts)

also when referring to a specific political party: the Conservative Party, the Socialist Party


Korean Peninsula, Prevlaka Peninsula


permanent member of the Security Council

also permanent missions at United Nations Headquarters

but the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations
the Permanent Missions of France and Samoa to the United Nations
the Permanent Observer for the University of Peace
the Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations

Pledging Conference

in specific references: Fourth Pledging Conference for the World Food Programme


but  Plenary Meetings  in citing the Official Records series


United Nations civilian police, national police, police force


in reference to a State: a great Power, a super-Power, the administering Power of a Non-Self-Governing Territory

also when used adjectivally in that sense: a three-Power agreement


but  Preamble in reference to the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations




of the General Assembly, of a United Nations council, of a State or of a recognized international or national body

but president in a generic reference: the Conference of the Parties is invited to elect a president


elections, statement (of the Security Council)

Principal level

of General Service staff (G-7)


category of the staff of the United Nations: staff in the Professional and higher categories


in specific references to a separately constituted body: the World Food Programme; or to an adopted text: the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States


in specific references: Province of Herat in Afghanistan, Herat Province, Herat and Farah Provinces


in specific references: the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols thereto

purposes and principles

of the United Nations, as set out in the Charter


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the question of children and armed conflict, the Palestinian question


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in specific references: the Rapporteur of the Second Committee


except in a specific reference to an administrative division of a State

regional commission


of the International Court of Justice, of the International Criminal Court, of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal


regulation 2.1 of the Staff Regulations


report of the Secretary-General


a representative, the representative of France, a  personal representative of the Secretary-General        

but   the Special/Personal Representative of the Secretary-General (as a title), the Permanent Representative of Algeria

Resident Representative/Coordinator

in specific references: the Resident Representative of UNDP in Turkey, John Smith; the Deputy Special Representative for Sierra Leone also serves as the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator


road map

in reference to a national or international programme of action or similar document


numerals and type



rule 104.5 of the Staff Rules

rules of procedure

rule 15 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly

but  the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (of the Tribunals)


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in reference to the United Nations Secretariat only


in specific references: the Secretary of the Second Committee


section 3 of the budget, section V of the report

but  Section in the official title of a Secretariat unit


in reference to a specific seminar with an established title; otherwise seminar


the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly, the eighteenth special session, the substantive session of 2004 of the Economic and Social Council

but  Fifty-eighth Session, on cover/title page of Official Records or in footnote reference to Official Records  

south, southern

in reference to a geographical direction or an area within a country

but  South, Southern in reference to a major region or in a political context: South-Eastern Europe, North-South dialogue

*special account

but   United Nations Special Account

specialized agency

Note: "specialized agencies" or "specialized agencies of the United Nations system"; the expression "United Nations specialized agencies" is incorrect

spring (the season)   [see also Usage at the end of this list]

staff members of the United Nations

staff regulation 4.5, staff rule 210.1

but  Staff Regulations and Rules  of the United Nations


in reference to a country, whether generic or specific; or to a specific state or states in a federation: the host State; all States concerned; State institutions (in reference to the institutions of a country); the State of New York; the State of Uttar Pradesh, India; Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States

but welfare state (when used to refer to a system, as opposed to a national territory)

status-of-forces agreement

status-of-mission agreement


the Statute of the International Court of Justice, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; otherwise statute

subcommission(s), subcommittee(s)

but  Subcommission, Subcommittee when used as a short title  

summer [see also Usage at the end of this list]

Sustainable Development Goals

in references to goals and targets: Sustainable Development Goal 9; target 15.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals; targets 7.b and 15.3 of the Goals


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Task Force

in the title of an established body


in reference to a Non-Self-Governing Territory or Trust Territory

also  Occupied Palestinian Territory

but  overseas territory of Pitcairn, overseas territories

The Hague

but the Regulations annexed to the Hague Convention IV of 1907

the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Note: name changed to North Macedonia with effect from 14 February 2019


in citing the title of a specific instrument; otherwise treaty


under trusteeship

*trust fund, trust funds

whether in reference to a generic or a specific trust fund


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universal periodic review

but Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review

United Nations country team

United Nations Development Assistance Framework (superseded by the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework)

United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework

United Nations Volunteers programme


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of the General Assembly, of a United Nations council, of a State or of a recognized international or national body

but vice-president in a generic reference: the Conference of the Parties is invited to elect a president and four vice-presidents

volume, vol.

vol. only when followed by a numeral (usually roman): vol. II

The plural form is vols.


in reference to United Nations Volunteers only


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during the world wars, the cold war, the threat of a third world war, the Iran-Iraq war

but  the First World War, the Second World War

*web (Internet)

west, western

in reference to a geographical direction or an area within a country

but  West, Western in reference to a major region or in a political context: West Africa, the Western Powers

winter [see also Usage at the end of this list]

Working Group

when referring to a specific group with an established title; otherwise working group

working paper


may occasionally be capitalized in specific references: Pacific Island Countries Workshop on Small Arms


As the designations of the seasons relate to different times of the year in the northern and southern hemispheres, they should be used with care. A phrase such as “a meeting to be held in the spring” is ambiguous; a precise date (or month or quarter) should be given, if this can be ascertained.




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