United Nations logo United Nations Editorial Manual Online  
 

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 list

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.

Some points of style

Initial capital letters are used for:

  • Proper nouns and adjectives and recognized geographical names
  • All words in the titles of books, periodicals and United Nations 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    • In titles of articles and unpublished papers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 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 eFolder; otherwise e-mail, e-commerce and so on; also E-mail 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.

 

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  

 
Act, of a legislative body

when citing the title of a specific act

Administration

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  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

Ambassador

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

Arabic

language

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

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

bill (before a legislative body)

Board

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

Bureau

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

Cabinet

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

central

in reference to an area within a country

but Central in reference to a major region: Central Africa

Chair

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

Note: The terms "Chairman" and "Chairperson" may be used at the request of an authorized body or officer or when quoting previously issued material, such as terms of reference or rules of procedure.

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

civilian police

as a component of a United Nations peacekeeping operation

cold war

Commander, Force Commander

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

Commission

in specific references, and when used as a short title

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

Committee

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

Conference

in specific references, and when used as a short title

conference room, conference room paper

but Conference Room 4

consolidated appeal process

Constitution

in a specific reference to the 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

consultant

continent

the continent of Africa

continental shelf

Contracting Party, High Contracting Party, non-Contracting Party

Convention

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)

Council

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

* customs (in the sense of douane)

cyclone

unless followed by a name: Cyclone Laila

Dag Hammarskjöld Library (Auditorium, Building)

decade

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

Declaration

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

Decree

when citing the title of a specific decree

delegation, a delegation, the delegation

demarcation line

Department

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

but  one of the three Secretariat departments dealing with the question 

document

draft

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

Earth

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, e-mail

Eurostat

executing agency

executive heads

of the specialized agencies

executive secretaries

of the regional commissions

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

expert

a group of experts

but  the Group of Experts on Global Warming

financial regulation 3.5, financial rule 103.7

but  Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations

force

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

foreword

funds-in-trust

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, territorial Government, any Government wishing to participate, all Governments concerned

but  local or municipal government, a system of government, a change of government, a government department, the government-sponsored project, the government officials concerned

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

hall

but   the General Assembly Hall, in this Hall

Head

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

headquarters

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

hemisphere

northern, southern, eastern, western

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

hurricane

unless followed by a name: Hurricane Emily

information circular

information services

international civil servant, international civil service

introduction

in the introduction to his report, he stated that …

introductory note

island(s)

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

but   the Cayman Islands

judge

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

Judgment

initial capital in the formal citation of a specific judgment of the International Court of Justice or its predecessor, the Permanent Court of International Justice, or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea: East Timor (Portugal v. Australia), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1995, p. 90

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

Judgement

initial capital in a formal citation of a judgement of any other court or tribunal: Attention is drawn to Judgement No. 61, Crawford et al. (1955), of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal

lower case in a general or abbreviated citation: the judgements of the Tribunal are final

language proficiency examination

language training programme

law

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

Main Committee(s)

of the General Assembly

Member

in reference to a State Member of the United Nations:

States Members of the United Nations, a State not a Member of the United Nations, a non-Member State

also Member of Parliament

but  an individual member of a committee, a State member of a United Nations organ: members of the Security Council; a member of a specialized agency or any other organization

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

Mission

the Permanent Mission of Solomon Islands to the United Nations

but members of permanent missions at United Nations Headquarters

Moon

but  moon(s) of planets other than Earth

non-governmental

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 Chairman’s note verbale dated . . .

number, No.

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

The plural form is Nos.

observer

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

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)

Organization

when used as a short title

Other level

of General Service staff (G-6 and below)

parliament

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

part

as stated in part one of the report

but  Part One as a heading

Party

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

* Peninsula

Korean Peninsula, Prevlaka Peninsula

permanent

permanent member of the Security Council

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

plenary

but  Plenary Meetings  in citing the Official Records series

police

United Nations civilian police, national police, police force

Power

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

preamble

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

preface

presidency

the presidency of the Security Council for the month of April

but  the Presidency of the European Union

President

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

presidential

elections, statement (of the Security Council)

Principal level

of General Service staff (G-7)

Professional

category of the staff of the United Nations: staff in the Professional category and above

Programme

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

Province

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

Protocol

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

question

the question of children and armed conflict, the Palestinian question

Rapporteur

in specific references: the Rapporteur of the Second Committee

region

except when part of the title of an administrative division of a State

regional commission

Registrar

of the International Criminal Court, of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

regulation

regulation 2.1 of the Staff Regulations

report

report of the Secretary-General

representative

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

resolution

road map

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

roman

numerals and type

room

rule

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)

Secretariat

in reference to the United Nations Secretariat only

Secretary

in specific references: the Secretary of the Second Committee

section

section 3 of the budget, section V of the report

but  Section in the official title of a Secretariat unit

Seminar

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

session

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

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

State

in reference to a country or a specific state in a federation: the State of New York; the State of Uttar Pradesh, India

status-of-forces agreement

status-of-mission agreement

Statute

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]

Task Force

in the title of an established body

Territory

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

Treaty

in citing the title of a specific instrument; otherwise treaty

trusteeship

under trusteeship

trust funds

universal periodic review

but Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review

United Nations country team

United Nations Development Assistance Framework

United Nations Volunteers programme

volume, vol.

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

The plural form is vols.

Volunteers(s)

in reference to United Nations Volunteers only

war

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

workshop

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

Usage

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.

 

 

 
     
   
 


United Nations Editorial Manual Online © 2004-2014 (New York). Prepared and maintained for the United Nations under the authority of the Chief of the Editorial, Terminology and Reference Service, Department for General Assembly and Conference Management. Mention of the names of firms and commercial products does not imply the endorsement of the United Nations. For technical or editorial enquiries, please contact the Webmaster at enriquezf@un.org.