Caps and Spelling

Caps and Spelling is a mini-styleguide published by the Canadian Press. It's the companion to the CP Styleguide. Since it doesn't go into quite as much detail as the Styleguide (which focuses on all the aspects of Canadian Press style, including formatting and honourific policies; as its name suggests, Caps and Spelling focuses mainly on the spelling and capitalization of certain words and terms), it's a lot less thick and much more portable. Journalists (at least those journalists who are employed by publications that make use of CP style) subsequently use it and refer to it more often than the Styleguide.

A brief history

The first edition of Caps and Spelling was published in 1988. Until then, the list of oft-misspelled terms was including as part of the Styleguide -- CP wanted to make this list, which seemed to grow every year, more accessible to journalists and made it into its own book.

New editions of Caps and Spelling are published yearly. The most recent edition has been updated to include new terms and names such as Condoleezza Rice and Avril Lavigne. CP has also changes its policy on capitalization with regards to internet-related words -- while Internet is still capitalized, words like 'web' and 'net' no longer are. These additions and changes are noted in the 16th edition's preface.

Other features

Caps and Spelling is divided into two main sections: the glossary of names and terms, and a list of synonyms. Journalism relies on simple, direct language, and the use of over-elaborate and complicated language should be avoided. Caps and Spelling provides a list of words that should be avoided and more "basic" alternatives to use instead. For example, the book states that "suffered" should be used rather than "sustained" when talking about injuries, and "understand" should be used in lieu of "comprehend." The synonym section makes it easier for journalists to find the most direct and clearest words.


Caps and Spelling can be purchased in many large (Canadian) retail bookstores or on the CP website ( On its own it usually sells for about $12 (CAD). I bought mine with the Styleguide for $30. CP has also made Caps and Spelling available on CD-ROM. While this makes the lists more accessible for the computer-inclined, it removes some of the "accessibility" that the book provides journalists -- many bring it their copies with them everywhere in case something major breaks out and they need to write a news story at a moment's notice. The CD-ROM is priced at $19 CAD.

Many have lobbied CP to publish an online version of Caps and Spelling. The idea is a searchable database that anyone can access from anywhere (and wouldn't need a disc to access). This doesn't seem like it's going to happen anytime soon; it appears as though there's profit to be had.

This guide will probably only be of interest to journalists and journalism students, and of those it will probably only be of interest to Canadian journalists/journalism students who are required to use CP style.

The 40th anniversary edition of Caps and Spelling was released in 2005, complete with a notorious new entry.

I also have the book and use it on a regular basis.