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Don’t Be That Guy, Part 2: Punctuation Mistakes to AvoidJanuary 27, 2020
Marketers Have A Tendency To Capitalize Everything!
At SkyRocket Group, this is a frequent mistake that our experienced writers and copy editors see all the time in marketing copy. It’s commonplace for businesses to hire a skeleton crew of marketing professionals with a general background, rather than a team of marketers where each member specializes in a different field—writing, design, strategizing, etc.
While there is something to be said for having your own internal marketing staff, the caveat is that it is easy for marketers to fall prey to common copywriting pitfalls, like frequent and frivolous use of capitalization, which can end up hurting your credibility in the end.
Anyone can write and publish content online. The internet gives brilliant business people an opportunity to share thought leadership and musings on industry trends. It’s important, however, that your content is easy to read and understand.
The Purpose of Capitalization
The purpose of capitalization is three-fold:
- To signal the start of a new sentence
- To differentiate titles and major headings from the body of the text.
- To show proper nouns and official titles.
Here is a breakdown of capitalization issues that companies may come across when writing content:
Company and Product Names:
You can capitalize the name of your product or service, because they are proper nouns. You can’t, however, capitalize a generic service you offer.
- “We offer the Data Snatcher 5000 barcode scanner,” would be correct.
- “We offer Technical Support and Services” would be incorrect.
Why? The second phrase is a generic, ambiguous phrase that could apply to any company’s services, not yours specifically. It isn’t the official name of your service. In fact, most services that companies offer don’t have specific names. They are simply referred to as “consulting services” or “technical support,” and that’s fine! They are generic terms that are commonly known among your clients.
Bullet Points and Introductions
Businesses have been committing this grammar crime for years. It usually happens in a list of product features or specifications, where companies want to sound as professional as possible. They capitalize every single word in a bulleted list, including the introduction that precedes it. That’s probably why people think of this as standard practice—they’ve seen it done so many times.
This one is an easy fix. Capitalize the first word in a bullet point and the introduction to the list, but not the rest. Follow the same capitalization rules you would follow for normal sentences.
Incorrect Usage of Capitalization:
- We Offer Unique Marketing Services
- Our Products Include the Data Snatcher 5000 Data Collection Device
Correct usage of capitalization:
- We offer unique marketing services
- Our products include the Data Snatcher 5000 data collection device
No matter the position, we all like to look professional. But would you capitalize the title of “receptionist” or “janitor”? No? Well, although they are generic titles that can apply to many people in one building, they are job titles nonetheless—no different from “marketing director.”
While a job title is an important part of who someone is—especially when referring to C-suite positions—making these corrections won’t cost you any of your professionalism. Whether capitalized or not, job titles, product specifications and service features still hold the same sentiment.
Many writers shudder at the thought of using direct quotations. There are so many rules, and without professional training or extensive industry experience, it can be difficult to know what to do. While there are some confusing rules for punctuation and formatting within quotation marks, fortunately the rules for capitalization are pretty simple.
In general, you always capitalize the first letter in a quote, as long as it begins complete sentence.
“This quarter,” Dan Smith, chief executive officer began as he addressed the board, “we are expecting record-high profits.” He continued, “We have been experiencing unprecedented growth over the last three quarters, and that pattern is likely to continue.”
Here, there are three different instances where quotations are used:
- The first quote is capitalized because it begins a complete sentence, even though the sentence isn’t completed within the same quote.
- The second quote is not capitalized because it is a continuation of the first quote, and not a complete sentence itself.
- The third quote is capitalized even though it appears later in the sentence, because it still acts as a complete sentence on its own.
Email and Letters
Letters and emails typically include a greeting and some type of valediction.
- Good morning
- Good afternoon
- Best regards
- Yours truly
Many people often capitalize each word in the greeting and the closing. This is understandable, because it is set apart from the body of the letter, similar to headings. It’s important to recognize the difference, and only capitalize the first word of each greeting.
When Not to Capitalize:
With so many rules for what to capitalize, it can be confusing to know when not to capitalize. In general, capital letters are reserved for titles, the first letter of a sentence and proper nouns. It’s all too common for marketers to capitalize words unnecessarily.
Don’t make the same mistakes that are common with inexperienced writers. Avoid capitalizing:
- Headings that are H3 or lower
- Bullet point lists
- Job titles and fields of study
- Articles, conjunctions, or prepositions in H1s and H2s
- Words of emphasis within the body of the text
- Season and directions (unless stating a specific region of a country, like the South)
- Acronyms that are spelled out (POS stands for point of sale, not Point Of Sale)
Writing clear, digestible copy is harder than it looks. Even experienced writers can still make mistakes once in a while. We’ve touched on the most common issues that marketers run into, but the rules of capitalization are still complex.
If you aren’t sure whether to capitalize a word or not, the best bet is to look it up. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) and the Associated Press Stylebook (AP style) are what writers typically use. The CMS is commonly used in the publishing sphere, and AP style is more press-oriented, however both are very similar and are commonly used in content marketing.
If the rules for capitalization and grammar are still giving you trouble, you can always consider hiring an outside expert to draft your copy for you. Experienced professionals, like our copywriters at SkyRocket Group, are highly-skilled individuals that have spent years studying the practice. Our copywriters specialize in writing for technology companies and know your industry well. If you would like to know more about content marketing, and the services that SkyRocket Group offers, contact us today!