1. Proper Nouns

Capitalize proper names. These include the names of government programs, official projects, formal groups, organizations, companies, titles when they precede a name (use lowercase in titles that follow the name), specific geographic areas or features, and ethnic groups.

When referring to NREL, "National Renewable Energy Laboratory" is capitalized, but "the lab," "the laboratory," and "national laboratories" are not.

the Alcohol Fuels Program
the Ethanol Project
the Human Resources Office
the U.S. Bureau of Mines
Solarex Corp.
President Carter
Christine Johnson, president and chief executive officer
the Southwest
Lake Powell
the Colorado River
African, Asian, Black, Caucasian, Hispanic, or Native Americans

One exception to this rule is companies and products with stylized lowercase or "camel cap" names (e.g., eBay, iPhone). In these cases, use the company’s or product’s preferred capitalization.

2. Figure Captions, Table Titles, and Section Headings

Figure captions: Capitalize only the first word and proper nouns in figure captions. No period needed (unless there are multiple full sentences).

Figure 1. Results for the electrochromic window developed at NREL

Table titles and section headings: Capitalize the main words of table titles and headings and subheadings, including the second word in a hyphenated term (e.g., "PV Program Five-Year Plan"). No period needed.

Table 1. Number and Frequency of Defects in Six Samples

Testing the 7.6-m Blades
Results for E. Coli
Development of Method To Detect Anomalies

Do not capitalize:

  • Articles (e.g., "a," "an," and "the") unless they begin the title or heading
  • Conjunctions of three or fewer letters (e.g., "and," "or," "nor," "yet," "so," and "but")
  • Prepositions of three or fewer letters (e.g., "for," "of," "on," and "up").

Do capitalize:

  • Conjunctions (e.g., "than") and prepositions of four or more letters (e.g., “from,” “with,” “above,” “after,” “down,” “inside,” “over,” and “into”)
  • "To" as an infinitive (but lowercase as a preposition, e.g., “Scientists Travel to Chile To Engage Utilities”)
  • Verbs, including "is" and "are."

For journal/conference submissions or other non-NREL publications, follow the style recommended by the professional society or publisher.

3. Titles

Capitalize titles when they precede the person's name. Lowercase titles and names of groups when they follow the name.

Chief Operating Officer Mark Wilson
Mary Jones, the president of the company
John Smith, the chair of the committee

4. Trade Names

Capitalize trade or brand names, and include a trademark, copyright, or other symbol only when it's an Alliance-registered trademark. Include the symbol the first time you use the trade name in body text (not in a title, acronym list, or section header); thereafter, you may omit the symbol. Also use superscript for trademark symbols. See the trademark symbols entry for a list of Alliance trademarks.

5. Taxonomic Names

When writing about botanical and zoological divisions, capitalize the names of all divisions higher than species: genera, families, orders, classes, and phyla. Italicize genera, species, and varieties.

Clostridium thermocellum
Escherichia coli

After you first mention them (and spell them out), you can abbreviate most generic names followed by species names.

C. thermocellum
E. coli

See also captions, fiscal year, geographic regions, headings and subheadings, states and countries, and tables.