Re: Using capital letters

Subject: Re: Using capital letters
From: Peter Brown <pbrown -at- MKS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 8 Aug 1997 11:26:30 -0400

Jennifer O'Neill wrote:
> A tech writer who recently joined my company uses capital letters in
> a way I can't quite follow and am not very keen about. She just
> handed in a manual with sentences like:
> The Red LED on the Alarm Panel will be lit.
> or
> The Display scrolls through the options.
> When I asked her about it she said that these were key words.

What does "key words" mean?? Only proper nouns should be capitalized in
the middle of a sentence. A regular piece of jargon becomes a proper
noun if the product you're documenting uses it to name a specific object
or concept within that product.

"Press ESC to cancel the operation." Cancel is in lowercase.
"Click Cancel." Cancel is first-caps because it's the NAME of a button.

Now, if the Alarm Panel in your example above is the formal name of a
part of the product (evidenced by its first-capped appearance anywhere
on the surface of a physical object or in the user interface of a
software product), then the usage used above is correct. But "Red"? Not

In the case of software, I like to apply the simple rule of ensuring
consistency with the GUI (as long as the GUI is itself internally
consistent). That means, in most cases, that names of menus, commands,
dialog boxes, and buttons, settings, and fields inside of dialog boxes
are first-capped.

"Opinions? I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention."
Peter Brown, Technical Writer (pbrown -at- mks -dot- com)
Mortice Kern Systems Inc. (

TECHWR-L (Technical Communication) List Information: To send a message
to 2500+ readers, e-mail to TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU -dot- Send commands
Search the archives at or search and
browse the archives at

Previous by Author: Re: Single-step procedures
Next by Author: Re: Capital letters
Previous by Thread: Re: posting instructions
Next by Thread: Re: Using capital letters

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads