Editorial Manual 

Capitalization in English

Use initial capital letters sparingly, according to the general rules set out below.

Use initial capitals to mark beginnings:

  • The first word of a sentence
  • The first word of a subparagraph or item on a vertical list

Initial capitals are not used as a mark of respect; neither does the use of lower case imply a lack of respect. Certain words are capitalized when used in a specialized or restricted sense, the purpose of the capital being to point to the specialized or restricted sense (e.g. Aboriginal people in Australia, but the consequences of climate change for indigenous communities, the mortality rates of black infants).

Some points of style

Initial capital letters are used for:

  • Proper nouns and adjectives and recognized geographical names:

               Mexico City but the city of Chicago
               Manatee County; Manatee and Pinellas Counties
               Var Department; Var and Loire Departments
               Aleppo Governorate; the Governorates of Hasakah and Homs
               Ouham Prefecture; the Prefectures of Ouham and Haute-Kotto
               the Cayman Islands but the island of Cyprus
               Mount Everest; the Andes Mountains
               Arctic Ocean
               Manihiki Plateau
               Province of Herat in Afghanistan; Herat Province; Herat and Farah Provinces
               Kayes Region; the Kayes and Kidal Regions
               Nile River; the River Nile; the Nile and Congo Rivers
               Baltic Sea

                but lower Mekong basin, Lake Chad basin

  • All words in the titles of books, periodicals and publications except articles, conjunctions and prepositions

               Note: The first word in the title is always capitalized, no matter what part of speech it is.

  • The first word, proper nouns and other words that are normally capitalized:
    • In titles of United Nations documents
    • In headings of chapters, sections, subsections, annexes, tables, figures and articles
    • In legends on figures and maps
    • In titles of articles and unpublished papers
  • The official titles of persons, councils, commissions, committees, Secretariat units, organizations, institutions, political parties and organized movements  
  • The titles of specific posts
  • The names of special rooms, halls and buildings: the General Assembly Hall
  • Elements of proper names transliterated from Arabic, as follows:
    • The definite article al is capitalized when it is the first element in a name and lower-case when it is in the middle; for example Al-Jazeera, Al-Qaida, Mohammed al-Ansari. The same practice applies to el, where used. 

      Note:In a limited number of names, Al is not a definite article but rather a noun meaning "House of" or "Family of". In these cases, the word is always written with a capital A and is never attached to the following word; for example Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalif

    • The same rule applies to bin and ibn; for example Osama bin Laden, Mr. Bin Hamdan, Abu al-Walid ibn Rushd (Averroës), Ibn Sina (Avicenna).
  • The main component of an e-compound referring to an established electronic system or tool, such as eDoc or eMeets (and their successors, gDoc and gMeets); otherwise email, e-commerce and so on; also Email at the beginning of a sentence

 

Words frequently found in United Nations documents, showing the use of capital or lower-case letters in United Nations practice           

An asterisk (*) indicates a change from previous practice.
 

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Act, of a legislative body

          when citing the title of a specific act

Administration

          in specific references, when used in the sense of "Government"

          also in reference to senior management within the United Nations Secretariat

          but  East Timor under United Nations administration
administrative instruction

advisory opinion (of the International Court of Justice)

agenda, agenda item, agenda item 24

          but 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Agenda 21, United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s

Aid for Trade Initiative

          but aid for trade in general usage

Ambassador

          in reference to a specific representative

          also United Nations Goodwill Ambassador(s)

          but a seminar for ambassadors and other diplomats

annex, an annex, annex III, the annexes to the report

appendix,  an appendix, appendix IV, the appendices

Arabic

          language

          but arabic numerals

armed forces

          when not part of the official title or when used in a general or descriptive sense

article, an article, article 3

          but Article in reference to an Article of the Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice

Autonomous Community

          in specific references: the Autonomous Community of Galicia, the Autonomous Communities of Galicia and La Rioja

          but all the autonomous communities of Spain

autumn [see also Usage at the end of this list]

 

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bill (before a legislative body)

Board

          in specific references to an established body: United Nations Board of Auditors, International Narcotics Control Board

          but a proposal to set up an advisory board

bulletin

          in reference to a Secretary-General's bulletin

Bureau

          in specific references to the officers of an established body: the Bureau of the Economic and Social Council, the Bureau of the Second Committee, the Bureaux of the Main Committees, the Bureau of the Commission on the Status of Women

          but the bureaux of the intergovernmental bodies...

          Note: le Bureau de l'Assemblée générale = the General Committee of the General Assembly

 

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Cabinet

          when referring to a Cabinet of senior ministers or secretaries of State

category

          category 5 hurricane; General Service and related categories
central

          in reference to an area within a country or a body of water (e.g., the central Mediterranean)

          but Central in reference to a major region: Central Africa

Chair

          Chair of the Third Committee, Chairs of the Main Committees of the General Assembly

          Note: “Chair”, rather than “Chairman”, is the preferred title in the context of United Nations bodies, in line with the United Nations guidelines for gender-inclusive language in English. Titles such as “Chairperson”, when used by officials in bodies that are not part of the United Nations, should not be changed, for example Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

chapter, chapter II

          but Chapter in reference to a Chapter of the Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice

Chargé d'affaires

          Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Andorra to the United Nations

Charter

          Charter of the United Nations, Charter of the League of Arab States, Charter of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries

city

          when not part of the official name: the city of Chicago

          but New York City, Mexico City

civilian police

          as a component of a United Nations peacekeeping operation

Co-Chair (noun)

          Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group (see note under Chair)

co-chair (verb)

          Task Force on Children and Armed Conflict, co-chaired by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and the United Nations Children's Fund
cold war

Commander, Force Commander

          in specific references: the post of Force Commander of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire

Commission

          in specific references, and when used as a short title

          but the regional commissions, the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council

Committee

          in specific references, and when used as a short title

          but the committees of the General Assembly (other than the Main Committees), Security Council committees, the sanctions committees

common country assessment

Conference

          in specific references, and when used as a short title

conference room, conference room paper

          but Conference Room 4

consolidated appeal process

Constitution

          in a reference to a specific Constitution of a State, a specialized agency and the like: article 28 of the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia; as provided in the Constitution of the World Health Organization

          but a new constitution, the constitutions of many States

Consulate

          in specific references

consultant

continent

          the continent of Africa

continental shelf

Contracting Party, High Contracting Party, non-Contracting Party

          in a formal text such as the text of a treaty: the Contracting Parties to the present Convention

          but the contracting parties to the Treaty (in other texts)

Convention

          in citing the title of a specific instrument: the Convention on the Rights of the Child

          but the international anti-terrorism conventions, to draft a convention on the rights of disabled persons (see also draft)

Council

          when using it as a short title, as noun or adjective: Council resolution 1979/81

County

          in specific references: Manatee County; Manatee and Pinellas Counties

*customs (in the sense of douane)

cyclone

          unless followed by a name: Cyclone Laila

 

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Dag Hammarskjöld Library (Auditorium, Building)

daily subsistence allowance

decade

          but  First United Nations Development Decade, United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty

Declaration

          when citing the title of a specific declaration made at the government or international organization level

Decree

          when citing the title of a specific decree

delegation, a delegation, the delegation

demarcation line

Department

          in specific references: the Department of Political Affairs of the Secretariat, the Department of Commerce of the United States Government

          also Var Department; Var and Loire Departments

          but one of the three Secretariat departments dealing with the question 

document

draft

          draft Convention in reference to a text that has been under discussion for a long time

 

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Earth

          in reference to the planet

          but earth in reference to soil

east, eastern

          in reference to a geographical direction or an area within a country or a body of water (e.g., the eastern Mediterranean)

          but East, Eastern in reference to a major region or in a political context: East Africa, East-West dialogue; the East Atlantic

eDoc, eFolder, eMeets

          but e-commerce, e-flow, email

Embassy

          in specific references

Eurostat

executing agency

executive heads

          of the specialized agencies

executive secretaries

          of the regional commissions

          but Executive Secretary of ECA, ECE, ECLAC, ESCAP or ESCWA

expert

          a group of experts

          but the Group of Experts on Global Warming

 

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financial regulation 3.5, financial rule 103.7

          but Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations

force

          defence force(s), national defence force(s)

foreword

funds-in-trust

 

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General Service

          category of the staff of the United Nations

*Government (noun only)

          when making reference to a Government representing a State or a Non-Self-Governing Territory, including a transitional administration established under a peace agreement: the Government of India, the National Transitional Government of Liberia, the Government of South Sudan, the national Government of Canada, territorial Government, any Government wishing to participate, all Governments concerned

          but local or municipal government, pro-government elements, a system of government, a change of government, a government department, the government-sponsored project, the provincial government of Ontario, the government officials concerned, anti-government forces

Governorate

          in specific references: Aleppo Governorate, the Governorates of Hasakah and Homs

group, group of experts, working group

          but Group of 77, Group of African States, Working Group on Minorities, United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names

 

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hall

          but the General Assembly Hall, in this Hall

Head

          Head(s) of State, Head(s) of Government, and in specific titles: Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Central African Republic and Head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic

          but head of a delegation or mission

headquarters

          the headquarters of ESCAP, the Commission headquarters building

          but United Nations Headquarters, the Headquarters Building when referring specifically to the United Nations building in New York

hemisphere

          northern, southern, eastern, western

high-level [plenary] meeting of the General Assembly on ...

hurricane

          unless followed by a name: Hurricane Emily

 

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information circular

information services

international civil servant, international civil service

Internet (see also web)

intranet

introduction

          in the introduction to his report, he stated that …

introductory note

island(s)

          when not part of the official name: the island of Cyprus

          but the Cayman Islands

 

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judge

          unless followed by the name of a specific person: Judge Claude Jorda

Judgment

          initial capital in the formal citation of a specific judgment: East Timor (Portugal v. Australia), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1995, p. 90; Attention is drawn to Judgment No. 61, Crawford et al. (1955), of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal

          lower case in a general or abbreviated citation:  In its judgment of 11 September 1992, the Court decided ... ; the judgments of the Tribunal are final

 

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language proficiency examination

language training programme

law

          including all references to the profession of law

          but Law, in citing the title of a specific legal instrument

liaison officer

Local level

          in reference to a category of United Nations staff

 

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Main Committee(s)

          of the General Assembly

*Member

          in reference to a State Member or States Members of the United Nations

          also Member of Parliament

          but a State not a member of the United Nations, a non-member State, a member of a United Nations organ, e.g., member or members of the Security Council, member or members of the Economic and Social Council, etc.

               Note: "States Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency…" and "States Members of the United Nations or members of organizations of the United Nations system"

memorandum of understanding

          but Memorandum of Understanding in reference to a specific agreement between two States

Mesoamerica, Mesoamerican

Millennium Development Goals

          also in reference to a specific Goal: Millennium Development Goal 5

Minister, Ministry

          the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

          but a meeting of finance ministers, posts in the principal ministries
Mission

          the Permanent Mission of Solomon Islands to the United Nations

          but members of permanent missions at United Nations Headquarters

          also as the short title of a peacekeeping/peacebuilding mission, if included in the full title: the United Nations Mission in South Sudan … the Mission (contrast with "the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire" … "the mission")

Moon

          but moon(s) of planets other than Earth

 

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non-governmental

north, northern

          in reference to a geographical direction or an area within a country or a body of water (e.g., the northern Atlantic)

          but North, Northern in reference to a major region or in a political context: North America, North-South dialogue, the North Atlantic

note, note verbale

          a note by the Secretary-General, in response to the Chair's note verbale dated . . .

number, No.

          No. only when followed by a numeral: Supplement No. 2

          The plural form is Nos.

 

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observer

          the United Nations military observer in San Salvador, organizations having received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly, observer State

          but Permanent Observer of the Holy See, of the African Union

office, term of office

          but Office in official titles: the Office of Legal Affairs, the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator, the Office of the High Representative (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Organization

          when used as a short title

Other level

          of General Service staff (G-6 and below)

 

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parliament

          unless referring specifically to a legislative body that is actually called “Parliament”

part

          as stated in part one of the report

          but Part one as a heading

Party

          in a formal text such as the text of a treaty: the Parties to the present Convention

          but the States parties to the Treaty (in other texts)

          also when referring to a specific political party: the Conservative Party, the Socialist Party

*Peninsula

Korean Peninsula, Prevlaka Peninsula

permanent

          permanent member of the Security Council

          also permanent missions at United Nations Headquarters

          but     the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations
                    the Permanent Missions of France and Samoa to the United Nations
                    the Permanent Observer for the University of Peace
                    the Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations

Pledging Conference

          in specific references: Fourth Pledging Conference for the World Food Programme

plenary

          but Plenary Meetings  in citing the Official Records series

police

          United Nations civilian police, national police, police force

Power

          in reference to a State: a great Power, a super-Power, the administering Power of a Non-Self-Governing Territory

          also when used adjectivally in that sense: a three-Power agreement

preamble

          but Preamble in reference to the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations

preface

*presidency

President

         of the General Assembly, of a United Nations council, of a State or of a recognized international or national body

          but president in a generic reference: the Conference of the Parties is invited to elect a president

presidential

          elections, statement (of the Security Council)

Principal level

          of General Service staff (G-7)

Professional

          category of the staff of the United Nations: staff in the Professional and higher categories

Programme

          in specific references to a separately constituted body: the World Food Programme; or to an adopted text: the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States

Province

          in specific references: Province of Herat in Afghanistan, Herat Province, Herat and Farah Provinces

Protocol

          in specific references: the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols thereto

purposes and principles

          of the United Nations, as set out in the Charter

 

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question

          the question of children and armed conflict, the Palestinian question

 

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Rapporteur

          in specific references: the Rapporteur of the Second Committee

region

          except in a specific reference to an administrative division of a State

regional commission

Registrar

          of the International Court of Justice, of the International Criminal Court, of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal

regulation

          regulation 2.1 of the Staff Regulations

report

          report of the Secretary-General

representative

          a representative, the representative of France, a  personal representative of the Secretary-General        

          but the Special/Personal Representative of the Secretary-General (as a title), the Permanent Representative of Algeria

Resident Representative/Coordinator

          in specific references: the Resident Representative of UNDP in Turkey, John Smith; the Deputy Special Representative for Sierra Leone also serves as the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator

resolution

road map

          in reference to a national or international programme of action or similar document

roman

          numerals and type

room

rule

          rule 104.5 of the Staff Rules

rules of procedure

          rule 15 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly

          but the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (of the Tribunals)
 

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Secretariat

          in reference to the United Nations Secretariat only

Secretary

          in specific references: the Secretary of the Second Committee

section

          section 3 of the budget, section V of the report

          but Section in the official title of a Secretariat unit

Seminar

          in reference to a specific seminar with an established title; otherwise seminar

session

          the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly, the eighteenth special session, the substantive session of 2004 of the Economic and Social Council

          but Fifty-eighth Session, on cover/title page of Official Records or in footnote reference to Official Records  

south, southern

          in reference to a geographical direction or an area within a country or a body of water 

          but South, Southern in reference to a major region or in a political context: South-Eastern Europe, North-South dialogue, the South Pacific, the Southern Ocean (also known as the Antarctic Ocean)

*special account

          but United Nations Special Account

specialized agency

          Note: "specialized agencies" or "specialized agencies of the United Nations system"; the expression "United Nations specialized agencies" is incorrect

spring (the season) [see also Usage at the end of this list]

staff members of the United Nations

staff regulation 4.5, staff rule 210.1

          but Staff Regulations and Rules  of the United Nations

State

          in reference to a country, whether generic or specific; or to a specific state or states in a federation: the host State; all States concerned; State institutions (in reference to the institutions of a country); the State of New York; the State of Uttar Pradesh, India; Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States

          but welfare state (when used to refer to a system, as opposed to a national territory)

status-of-forces agreement

status-of-mission agreement

Statute 

          the Statute of the International Court of Justice, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; otherwise statute

subcommission(s), subcommittee(s)

          but Subcommission, Subcommittee when used as a short title  

summer [see also Usage at the end of this list]

Sustainable Development Goals

          in references to goals and targets: Sustainable Development Goal 9; target 15.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals; targets 7.b and 15.3 of the Goals

 

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Task Force

          in the title of an established body

Territory

          in reference to a Non-Self-Governing Territory or Trust Territory

          also Occupied Palestinian Territory

          but overseas territory of Pitcairn, overseas territories

The Hague

          but the Regulations annexed to the Hague Convention IV of 1907

the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

          Note: name changed to North Macedonia with effect from 14 February 2019

Treaty

          in citing the title of a specific instrument; otherwise treaty

trusteeship

          under trusteeship

*trust fund, trust funds

          whether in reference to a generic or a specific trust fund

 

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universal periodic review

           but Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review

United Nations country team

United Nations Development Assistance Framework (superseded by the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework)

United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework

United Nations Volunteers programme

 

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  

 
Vice-President

          of the General Assembly, of a United Nations council, of a State or of a recognized international or national body

          but vice-president in a generic reference: the Conference of the Parties is invited to elect a president and four vice-presidents

volume, vol.

          vol. only when followed by a numeral (usually roman): vol. II

          The plural form is vols.

Volunteer(s)

          in reference to United Nations Volunteers only

 

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  

 
war

          during the world wars, the cold war, the threat of a third world war, the Iran-Iraq war

          but the First World War, the Second World War

*web (Internet)

west, western

          in reference to a geographical direction or an area within a country or a body of water (e.g., the western Mediterranean)

          but West, Western in reference to a major region or in a political context: West Africa, the Western Powers, the West Pacific

winter [see also Usage at the end of this list]

Working Group

          when referring to a specific group with an established title; otherwise working group

working paper

workshop

          may occasionally be capitalized in specific references: Pacific Island Countries Workshop on Small Arms

 

Usage

As the designations of the seasons relate to different times of the year in the northern and southern hemispheres, they should be used with care. A phrase such as “a meeting to be held in the spring” is ambiguous; a precise date (or month or quarter) should be given, if this can be ascertained.