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Does Your Utility’s PR Department Commit Capital Crimes?

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
  • 1,004 items added with 508,541 views
  • Jul 6, 2020

My sister, who’s an elementary school teacher, swears kids are still taught the rules of capitalization, but the influence of texting and other kinds of informal communications has really dragged down the quality of writing these days.

Not only do we have to deal with the scourge of idiotic abbreviations – LOL anyone? – terrible punctuation and fragmented sentences, but improper capitalization rears its ugly head more and more.

Compared to the problems this nation’s is facing, capitalization may seem like a minor issue, but your utility’s communications efforts will look foolish if you can’t write properly. Having top quality communications will always benefit your utility

Here’s a made-up example of the kind of press releases I’m seeing.

ZYZ Electric Co. announced TODAY the hiring of Phil Adelphia as its new Senior Vice President of Technological Advancement.

Adelphia will be in charge of the Company’s push to Maximize its use of Alternative Energy in Electrical generation, according to Howie Makum, ZXY’s President and Chairman.

Adelphia previously served as Chief Technology Officer for The Kugelman Group’s Computer Operations support team.

So, what’s the problem here? How about just about everything.

For one thing, never use all caps on a regular word because it makes you sound like a 10th grader.

More importantly, way too many things are capitalized. Just remember what the “Associated Press Stylebook” has to say: “In general, avoid unnecessary capitals."

When in doubt, follow these rules:

  • Capitalize proper names and proper nouns, such as Tom Hanks or Philadelphia Phillies.
  • Capitalize the first word in a sentence. Thankfully, most people do still abide by this and programs like Word automatically start a sentence with a capital letter.
  • Titles can be tricky. Capitalize a title when it comes before a name, such as in Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Matt Klentak. When the title is after the name, lowercase it, as in Matt Klentak, general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
  • Don’t capitalize academic degrees unless a language is involved. You can have a bachelor's degree in French, but not in physics or political science.
  • Product names are capitalized, such as Carvel’s Fudgy the Whale cake.
  • When it comes to services they usually should be lowercase. Here’s a common mistake: Shnerdman Computer Co. offers Repair Service, Virus Removal, RAM Installation and Data Backup. None of those words after Co. should be capitalized, except for RAM, which is an acronym for "random access memory."
  • Company names can be confusing, so generally follow whatever they use, whether it's all capital letters, all lower case or something in between. Thus names like eBay and Chik-fil-A are OK.

Hopefully, that clears up most things up, but if you have any doubt, there’s an ancient tool that you’re probably using as a paperweight that can help – the dictionary.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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