When to Capitalize Letters in a Cover Letter

Here's a topic that throws a lot of job seekers for a loop: when to capitalize letters in a cover letter.

Knowing what words always start with a capital letter and what circumstances require a normally lowercase word to be capitalized can help you make a good first impression. So keep the following points in mind as you plow through your letter-writing process.

When to Capitalize Letters

  • Capitalize the first word of a sentence, question, exclamation, or expression used as a sentence.
  • Capitalize the first word of a quoted sentence, even when it appears within a sentence. Example: I couldn't believe it when Mr. Jones said, "Go for it!"
  • Capitalize the first word of each line in a list of items. Example:
  • Capitalize the first word of the salutation and complimentary close. Examples: Dear Mrs. Smith, Sincerely yours,
  • Capitalize proper nouns such as names of people, organizations, days of the week, months, and languages. Examples: Sally White, Produce Growers Inc., Monday, March, English
  • Capitalize adjectives that are derived from proper nouns. Example: South American bananas.
  • Capitalize a title when it is used as part of someone's name. Example: Please ask President Brown your question.
  • Capitalize the first and last word in a title, as well as all words within the title that are four or more letters long or have special significance. Examples: The Annual Tin and Aluminum Report
  • Capitalize a term such as "marketing," "production," or "sales" in a sentence when it refers to the name of an official department. Example: I coordinated with the Marketing Department.

When NOT to Capitalize Words

  • Do not capitalize the word "the" when it appears before the name of an organization, unless "the" is officially part of the organization's name. Examples: I wrote to the Agency on Aging. I wrote to The American Red Cross Association.
  • Do not capitalize a professional title when it is used as a common noun. Example: Please ask the president your question.

Optional Times to Cap Letters

  • Capitalizing a job title in the text of your cover letter is optional. You may capitalize the title if you want to give it emphasis. If you capitalize one job title in your letter, you should capitalize all job titles in that document.

There are exceptions to these guidelines, of course. You'll notice in my collection of sample cover letters that some proper names of products and companies intentionally start with lowercase letters. iPhone, for example.