GrammarPhile Blog

Going Back to School?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Aug 28, 2012 5:30:00 AM

Kids going back to school soon? Are you going back to school soon? Brush up on some academic terms so your notes to the teacher don't come back with a big, fat F on them!

Disciplines. Academic subjects are not capitalized unless they form part of a department name or an official course name or are themselves proper nouns (e.g., English, Latin).
  • She has published widely in the history of religions.
  • They have introduced a course in gender studies.
  • He is majoring in comparative literature, and Janie is majoring in biology.
  • She is pursuing graduate studies in philosophy of science.
  • Jones is chair of the Committee on Comparative Literature.

Courses. Official names of courses of study are capitalized.
  • I am signing up for Beginning Archaeology.
  • A popular course this fall is Basic Manuscript Editing.
  • His ballroom dancing classes have failed to civilize him.

Lectures. Names of lecture series are capitalized. Individual lectures are capitalized and usually enclosed in quotation marks.
  • This year's Robinson Memorial Lectures were devoted to the nursing profession. The first lecture, "How Nightingale Got Her Way," was a sellout.

Some academic degrees. In conservative practice, periods are added to abbreviations of all academic degrees (B.A., D.D.S., etc.). In today's writing, periods can be omitted unless they are required for tradition or consistency. In the following list, periods are shown only where uncertainty might arise as to their placement.
  • BA - Bachelor of Arts
  • BFA - Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • BM - Bachelor of Music
  • BS - Bachelor of Science
  • DD - Doctor of Divinity
  • DDS - Doctor of Dental Surgery
  • DMin (D.Min.) - Doctor of Ministry
  • DVM - Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
  • EdD - Doctor of Education
  • JD - Juris Doctor (Doctor of Law)
  • LittD (Litt.D.) - Litterarum Doctor (Doctor of Letters)
  • MA - Master of Arts
  • MBA - Master of Business Administration
  • MD - Medicinae Doctor (Doctor of Medicine)
  • MS - Master of Science
  • MSN - Master of Science in Nursing
  • MSW - Master of Social Welfare or Master of Social Work
  • PhD (Ph.D.) - Philosophiae Doctor (Doctor of Philosophy)

These designations are set off by commas when they follow a personal name.
  • Mortimer Snerd, JD, attended Wooden Memorial Law School.

Source: The Chicago Manual of Style.

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Topics: academic terms, capitalization

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