Capitalization question.
December 30, 2009 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Capitalization question for cover letters.

If I wanted to write about earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in a cover letter or written statement, should the "B," "A" and "H" be capitalized? Microsoft Word doesn't seem to like them lower cased (I'm getting the green squiggly) but I just want to be sure. And I would like to know the rule that applies to this. I'm sure someone out there in the world of askmeta knows, and I would really appreciate the help!
posted by roxie5 to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You do indeed have a Bachelor of Arts in History. The word "degree" is implied; you should not state it.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:00 PM on December 30, 2009

The Chicago Manual of Style generally recommends lowercase. But it does allow for the capitalization you used when it "looks like a title." So I'd say you're probably OK either way.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:05 PM on December 30, 2009

Response by poster: The Chicago Manual of Style cleared up the bachelor of arts degree as being able to go either way, but what about the "h" in history?
posted by roxie5 at 12:09 PM on December 30, 2009

I would go with Bachelor of Arts, History. If space is tight, you can go with B.A., History (or BA, History, for that matter, as different style guides have different things to say about using the periods for abbreviating degrees). But honestly, I don't think there's a hard-and-fast rule for capitalizing the field you received your degree in (unless it's a proper noun, like English); it just looks more official in this context, I think. If someone sent me a resume with "B.A., history" on it, I wouldn't consider it to be a typo (unless it was inconsistent with how another degree was written, e.g., "M.A., Sociology").
posted by scody at 12:16 PM on December 30, 2009

My initial instinct is to capitalize the words ("Bachelor of Arts in History"), but the Carnegie Mellon style guide seems to disagree, as does the University of Colorado Denver. Western Michigan University and USC both say it's ok to capitalize if the entire degree is written out. It seems to be an even split as to what is ok and what is not; I would go with whatever makes you most comfortable.
posted by m0nm0n at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2009

Data point: I prefer B.A., History -- looks more professional to me.

I capitalised on my CV.
posted by katrielalex at 12:20 PM on December 30, 2009

Best answer: If you are using the phrase as part of a sentence in the body text of a paragraph, I would go with lowercase:

"While at Metafilter University, I earned a bachelor of arts in history."

If you are using the phrase in another way (i.e. bulleted list, table), I would go with capitalizing all 3 letters.

I agree with DarlingBri that the word "degree" is implied and takes away from a more efficient streamlined sentence. It's similar to saying, "Look at the big elephant animal," when we all know it's an animal.

posted by surfgator at 12:34 PM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I'm sorry -- for some reason, my brain decided you were asking about resumes, rather than cover letters. For a cover letter, either A) abbreviate and capitalize the degree itself or B) spell out but not capitalize the degree; do not capitalize the field either way, as it's not a proper noun. So your sentence might be something like "I received my B.A. in history from XYZ University in 2006" or "I received my bachelor of arts in history from XYZ University in 2006."

Though there's not a specific hard-and-fast rule about this, the latest edition of Chicago trends pretty strongly toward lower-case, rather than capitalization, when something is in doubt.
posted by scody at 12:44 PM on December 30, 2009

The Chicago Manual of Style generally recommends lowercase.

It specifically recommends lowercase degree for one purpose and uppercase degree for another purpose. We don't know which applies to roxie5; she'll have to click on the link to find out.

In either case, though, the Chicago Manual of Style is not going to want to see the word "history" capitalized.
posted by gum at 12:55 PM on December 30, 2009

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