Capitalizing things that clearly should not be in upper case is distracting to readers and sometimes makes them wince.

Granted, the English language has a lot of nuances when it comes to grammar, punctuation, and mechanics (capitalization and the use of numbers), and even if you know the traditional guidelines, knowing what is appropriate in a given situation can be challenging. But it’s worth the effort to avoid embarrassment, and when it comes to capitalization, learning the essentials will serve you well most of the time.

Avoid capitalizing titles, group names, and objects that clearly are not proper nouns. The standard for capitalization has changed little in the last 100 years: Proper nouns are capitalized; common nouns are not, and common nouns are much more abundant.

Many things in companies have no formal name. A term such as “team leader” is an informal designation, not an official title. For something to be capitalized, it must be the formal, official name of it (or the legal name if it has one). The Associated Press Stylebook offers the best guidance, saying the name must constitute “the unique identification of a specific person, place, or thing.”

Such labels as “senior leadership team,” “customer suggestion box,” or “team leader” are not proper nouns. The fact that a group is known within the company as the senior leadership team does not make it a proper noun. It is not a formal, official designation, in the way that the U.N. Security Council is a formal name. When every company in America has a senior leadership team, the name becomes a generic reference, and those are not capitalized.

For more helpful tips, go to www.WritingWithClarity.com and sign up for the monthly writing tip or send me a note at Ken@WritingWithClarity.com and ask to be added to the mailing list. It’s free, it’s one page, and it has no ads.