Some of the most confusing grammar rules for many students and adults surround the use of proper capitalization, and the frustration lies with recognizing what is and is not a proper noun.
Titles are considered proper nouns and are used to provide respect to the person it is referring to. What defines a title, however, depends on what the word being used represents and where the word is placed in a sentence.
The word president, for example, is an excellent example, and I find many people incorrectly capitalizing it when they shouldn’t and forgetting to capitalize it when it counts. Let’s take a closer look at when and when not to capitalize president, and how it should be used in a sentence.
What Is a Proper Noun?
All nouns are either classified as common or proper.
- The common noun is school; the proper noun is Pierce School.
- The common noun is girl; the proper noun is Mary.
- The common noun is continent; the proper noun is North America.
This seems easy enough to remember, but sometimes it can become confusing when referring to titles and their placement in a sentence and what they are referencing.
- The common noun is aunt; the proper noun is Aunt Sarah.
- The common noun is principal; the proper noun is Principal Kaney.
Is the Word President Capitalized?
As seen above, how you use president in a sentence depends on whether it is capitalized or not.
The word president is subject to the same rules as any other title. A title describes a specific person’s job, rank, office, or position, and when “president” is used as such, it requires capitalization.
Let’s look a little closer at this rule so you know when to capitalize president.
When to Capitalize President
There are many instances in which it is appropriate to capitalize president. But as a writer, it is important you know that it is not a word to capitalize by default. Take a look at these capitalization rules to apply to your writing.
At the Start of a Sentence
Let’s begin with the obvious. Any word that begins a sentence is capitalized, “president” included.
- President Lincoln is one of the most interesting subject studies I’ve ever researched.
- President or not, he needs to take some responsibility for the mess his club members made.
Before a Person’s Name
When the word “president” is placed before a person’s first or last name, it needs to be capitalized. This follows the rules of giving a specific title to the person, whether they are a current president or a former president.
- The last few years have truly allowed President Davis’ leadership skills to shine.
- The last president we had, President David Jones, was crucial in organizing the club’s parliamentary procedures.
President should also be capitalized when used in place of a specific president’s name (including non-governmental presidents such as school presidents, or presidents of institutions and community groups). It also is capitalized when used in conjunction with an office of high rank, such as the President of the United States.
- Tonight, the President of the United States joins us to discuss the economy.
- “Good evening, Mr. President. I hope things find you well?”
- The President is heading out on his morning walk.
- Those books belong to the President.
When Used in a Published Title
Movie titles, books, journals, poems, and the like have very specific rules of title capitalization as well. Common and proper nouns alike are capitalized in a title, as are most other words four or more letters long.
- All the President’s Men
- The Fall of the Greatest President
- Exploring the Presidents of the Past
When Not to Capitalize President
In any other use than those mentioned above, “president” is not capitalized. Capitalization occurs when “president” refers specifically to a person or recognized office of high rank.
- We will be swearing in a new president next weekend.
- Our past presidents have each left behind a legacy of responsibility and trust.
- The president of the local Republican party is holding a meeting next Wednesday.
The word president can work as both a common noun and a proper noun. Unless it refers to a specific person or office of high rank, it should not be capitalized. When preceding a name or when used in place of a name, it is capitalized.
It also is capitalized at the start of a sentence and when included in a title.