Branding Standards Guide


Capitalizing a word gives it significance or emphasis. Excessive use of capitals negates this purpose, and today’s trend is toward a lowercase style. Proper nouns and formal names of departments and individuals are capitalized.

Academic Degrees
In text, academic degrees when used in a general sense are not capitalized. (That campus offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees.) You can also use “bachelor’s” and “master’s” on its own, but do not capitalize. (Example: She said she hoped to earn her master’s by next spring.)

Capitalize names of specific degrees or honors when they follow a personal name: Jose J. Gonzalez, Doctor of Philosophy; Bachelor of Science in nursing or bachelorís degree in nursing; Master of Arts in education or masterís degree in education; Master of Public Administration or masterís degree in public administration.

Academic Majors, Minors/Courses
Lowercase all majors except those containing proper nouns. (His major is English; her major is engineering. Sue is majoring in Asian studies.) General subjects are lowercase (algebra, chemistry), but the names of specific courses are capitalized (Algebra I, Introduction to Sociology).

Academic Years and Terms
Lowercase words designating academic terms and years (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, fall semester, summer quarter, spring 2010).

After a Colon
Capitalize the first word after a colon if what follows is a grammatically complete sentence; otherwise, lowercase the first word unless it is normally capitalized. An exception to this is if the colon is used as a kind of dash indicating a logical connection between the clauses, rather than performing its usual function of introducing what follows.

Names of awards are capitalized, but many terms used with them are not unless they are part of the formal name (Guggenheim Fellowship but Guggenheim grant, National Merit scholarships, Nobel Prize in physics, William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement).

California Geographic Terms
Certain areas in California are increasingly recognized as popular names (Bay Area, Southern California, Central Coast, etc.) and as such are capitalized. Use consistency, however, and don’t have a sentence that says: “Visitors to Southern California increased, while those to northern California decreased.”

Chapters, Figures (in a document)
Capitalize references to specific chapters, figures, etc., in a book, but lowercase words referring to a general part of the book. (In Chapter 3 you will find.… This chapter describes.… Read Appendix A. The appendix include.… See Figure B below. The figure shows.…)

Departments (Campus)
Capitalize formal names (Department of History), but lowercase informal names (history department).

Divisions (CO)
Capitalize divisions and departments within the Chancellor’s Office in formal usage but only when the complete title is given. (The Division of Business and Finance is active. According to student academic support, more students are applying electronically.)

Historical Periods
A numerical designation of a time period is lowercased unless it is part of a proper name (21st century, the nineties). Some names applied to historical periods are capitalized (Ice Age, Roaring Twenties, Reformation).

Place Names
Political divisions (state, county, city, etc.) are capitalized when they follow the name or are an accepted part of the name. They are usually lowercased when they precede the name or stand alone (New York City, the city of Albany, the state of California, Los Angeles County). Lowercase plural combinations (Los Angeles and Orange counties). State and federal are lowercased unless they are part of the proper name.

Capitalize the word program only when it is part of the formal name (Educational Opportunity Program, International Programs, President’s Scholars program). Check with the campus or organization if unsure.

The California State University
“The” is part of the official name of the CSU system and should be included and capitalized on covers, title pages, contents, headings, or whenever the official name of the organization is called for. However, it should be lowercased in textual matter. Lowercasing “the” in text will avoid such awkward situations as “the University of California, The California State University and the California Community Colleges.” System is not part of the official name of the California State University and should not be capitalized.

Lowercase spring, summer, fall and winter unless part of a formal name (Summer Olympics).

Titles (Documents, Programs, Presentations)
Capitalize all nouns, pronouns, verbs (even the two- letter is), adjectives, adverbs and subordinating conjunctions (because, if, since, when, etc.). Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor) and prepositions of three or fewer letters (of, for, at, in, by) should not be capitalized unless they are the first or last word of the title. Lowercase the infinitive to. The capitalization of as depends upon its function. If as is used as a preposition, it is lowercase; if as is used as an adverb, conjunction or pronoun, it is uppercase. (Most uses will be uppercase.)

Titles with Personal Names
Capitalize titles when they precede the name: President Obama, Chancellor White and Professor Doe met this week. In text, titles following the names or used alone are lowercase: The chancellor and Sara Flores, Ph.D., professor of anthropology, met today.


  • Capitalize titles in formal listings such as in an agenda for the Board of Trustees’ meetings.
  • Names of academic degrees and honors when following a personís name are capitalized: Emily Chin, Ph.D.; John Roberts, Doctor of Law; James Hernandez, CSU Professor Emeritus (but Dr. Hernandez is a professor emeritus.)
  • Capitalize titles in an address.