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Sales Department or sales department?

Here is a topic that comes up often:

Do we capitalize department, as in “Finance Department”? And how about department by itself?

These sentences illustrate standard capitalization of words such as department, committee, team, unit, lab, division, and company:

  1. Jamie works in the Finance Department. (Finance is the name of a department. Both words are capitalized.)
  2. Jamie works in Finance. (Finance is the name of the department, group, or division.)
  3. Jamie works in finance. (Finance is Jamie’s specialty but not the name of his or her team.)
  4. Have some finance people review this budget. (Finance refers to an area of expertise–not a specific group.)
  5. Jamie is joining the department. (Department, group, company, and similar words are lowercase without a specific name, but see below.)

Typically the word Company or Division, standing alone, is capitalized in legal documents when it stands for the company’s or division’s name.

Graphic giving an example of how to capitalize properly "Greg from Accounting" vs "Greg knows accounting".

The title of this post is “Sales Department or sales department?” When you write to a company and want to communicate with someone in sales or about sales, the correct rendering is lowercase. Capitalize Sales (and any similar word) only when you know it is the name of the unit. Often departments have numbers or additional letters in their titles as well, here is a piece I wrote on how to handle capitalization of words followed by numbers or letters.

The Takeaway

If the word in question is describing a field of expertise, then the word is not capitalized, for example: “Greg has a background in accounting”. If the word is describing a specific department within an organization, then the word is capitalized: “Greg is the head of Accounting at Michelin Tires”.

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

14 comments on “Sales Department or sales department?”

  • I have a nitpicky question that I see at work sometimes.

    What about when it’s not exactly the offical name of the department, but it’s close?

    For example, university departments are typically named the “Department of English” or the “Department of Physics.”

    If the official name is the “Department of Writing of ABC University,” would you write “ABC’s Writing Department” or “ABC’s writing department”?

    (The simple answer is probably to stick to the exact name, but I’m still curious if there’s answer.)

  • Hi Lynn,

    What about when you are writing a compliance letter and you would like to say, “Please contact this Department…”? Is department captilized or not? What about, “This Department has reviewed the files…”? Capital or lowercase?

    Please advise.

    Thank you in advance,

    Carey

  • What about when you are writing a business letter and you would like to say ” The Department has been involved with the highway project…. you are referencing Department as in the State of NY, Department of Transportation? Is department capitalized in this instance?

  • I checked my “Associated Press Stylebook” (AP), which states: “Lowercase ‘the department’ whenever it stands alone.” The comment was referring to U.S. government departments, so I believe you can apply it in your situation.

    Lynn

  • Hello,

    What if you are writing a letter and you used two departments such as the accounts and human resources departments.

    Is this supposed to be:

    “…the Accounts and Human Resources Departments.”

    or:

    “…the Accounts and Human Resources departments.”

    Also, am I missing an apostrophe here somewhere?

    Thank you fcr your help.

    Ckrista

  • Hello, Ckrista.

    If the exact names are “Accounts Department” and “Human Resources Department,” then your first rendering is correct:

    Accounts and Human Resources Departments

    If you are not certain whether they are departments, teams, divisions, or something else, you might use just this:

    Accounts and Human Resources

    Your examples need no apostrophes.

    Lynn

  • If Food Services is the official title of the department and I am referencing the nutrition team, is it correct to be written “The Food Services nutrition team”?

  • Is it Public Relations industry or public relations industry?

    In cover letter, when is it alright to capitalize public relations? For example, “I aim to work in public relations industry.”

  • Hi-

    We have four groups in our company and I struggle on when they should or should not be capitalized.
    For example. . .

    She drove significant growth for the Civil Group.

    The Health Group is growing by 15 percent.

Comments are closed.