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capitalization: school subjects, courses and degrees

Follow the guidelines below when deciding whether to capitalize the name of a school subject, a course or a degree.

School subjects and courses

Capitalize the names of languages.

  • Marjorie studied French at university.
  • Hal is majoring in English.

Do not capitalize the names of other disciplines when using them in a general sense or when referring to courses, except when you are citing the official name of a particular course.

  • She is interested in history.
  • He reads articles on economics and biology in his spare time.
  • He passed with a B in history this term.


  • She is taking Chemistry 101 and Economics 406.

Academic years and grades

Do not capitalize terms designating academic years:

  • Celia held two jobs during her senior year.
  • During his sophomore year, John was at the top of his class.

Capitalize grade when it is followed by a number or letter:

  • My daughter has completed Grade 6.

But do not capitalize grade if the number precedes it:

  • My daughter has completed sixth grade.

Academic degrees

Do not capitalize the name of a degree in informal references:

  • Janet is earning her master’s degree.

Usage is divided with regard to capitalizing the name of a specific degree written in full. A number of style manuals-including The Globe and Mail Style Book, The Canadian Press Stylebook, and The Chicago Manual of Style-prefer a down style (i.e. no capitals):

  • Eric holds a bachelor of arts degree from McGill University.
  • Melanie earned a master of science in engineering last year.

However, the use of capitals is also common and acceptable:

  • Eric holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University.
  • Melanie earned a Master of Science in Engineering last year.

Even if you choose to use a down style for the names of degrees, do capitalize a degree that follows a person’s name:

  • Ellen Compton, Doctor of Philosophy