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17.04 French Typographical Rules—Capitalization

(a) Capitalize nord, sud, est and ouest when included in the name of a building, geographical feature, address, region, state, territory, continent or part of a continent:

  • la rive Sud
  • la Caroline du Nord
  • le Grand Nord
  • l’Amérique du Sud
  • la tour Est
  • le cap Nord
  • la rivière Nicolet Sud-Ouest
  • rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest

For further information on the treatment of French-language place names, see Chapter 15.

Do not capitalize these words when they represent a point of the compass, a direction or a part of a building or other entity:

  • le nord géographique
  • 30 kilomètres à l’est de Gatineau
  • le côté ouest de l’étage

(b) Capitalize the definite article when it is part of a person’s name:

  • Michel Le Cavalier
  • Jean de La Vérendrye

See also 4.03 Personal names(d).

(c) Capitalize nouns designating peoples, races and inhabitants of a particular country or region, and capitalize both parts of a compound noun used for this purpose:

  • les Autochtones
  • un Noir
  • les Canadiens
  • une Ontarienne
  • les Anglo-Saxons
  • un Néo-Zélandais

Do not capitalize such words when they are used adjectivally or to refer to a language:

  • les citoyens canadiens
  • les femmes noires
  • le pétrole albertain
  • un Canadien français
  • une Basque espagnole
  • apprendre l’arabe

(d) Capitalize the following nouns when they are part of the official name of a government body, a sector of a government department, an institution, or an international organization: Administration, Agence, Association, Banque, Bureau, Caisse, Chambre, Comité, Commission, Conseil, Cour, Direction générale, Division, Fédération, Office, Organisation, Parlement, Régie, Secrétariat, Sénat, Service, Société, Syndicat, Tribunal, Université, etc.:

  • la Banque mondiale
  • la Commission de la fonction publique
  • la Cour fédérale du Canada
  • la Direction générale des finances
  • la Division de la formation
  • l’Office du crédit agricole
  • la Régie des rentes du Québec
  • le Tribunal du commerce extérieur


Do not capitalize the word ministère in a French text, but capitalize it in an English text:

  • le ministère de l’Industrie
  • le ministère des Affaires indiennes et du Nord canadien


  • An agreement has been reached with the Government of Quebec—specifically with the Ministère des Ressources naturelles.


If you are including the French name of an institution in an English text, do not use the French definite article (le, la, l’) unless it is part of the official name and must be retained for legal purposes:

  • Queen’s University will co-operate with the
  • Université Laval on this federally funded project.

(e) Do not capitalize position titles unless they are being used to address a specific person:

  • le directeur des Ventes
  • le ministre des Finances


  • Monsieur le Recteur et cher ami
  • Monsieur le Directeur

(f) In general, capitalize the first word and any proper noun in the title of a book, periodical, newspaper, report or article:

  • Artisanat et création au Québec
  • Le nouvel ordre économique international
  • Rapport du vérificateur général du Canada


  • Le Devoir
  • Le Droit