Beyond PR

Jun 30, 2011

Capitol vs. Capital and Other Common Typos in Public Interest News

Capitol vs Capital title graphic

This blog post was updated on October 14, 2015.

In our recent article Mind Your S and Ds, we highlighted a catch made by one of the eagle-eyed customer content specialists in our Washington, D.C. bureau.

Although Eastern Standard/Eastern Daylight Time errors commonly occur in a variety of press releases, our content specialists in D.C. also have to keep their eyes open for some unique typos that don’t typically occur in other content.

Across the world, PR Newswire edits and distributes all sorts of news – financial statements, product announcements, medical discoveries, even news in different languages as our International desk can attest!

However, our bureau in Washington, D.C. is where the majority of PR Newswire’s government and public interest press releases are processed.  Because of this, our D.C. specialists have to watch for mistakes more common to these topics.

If you write about nonprofit, government, advocacy or other public interest issues, read on for a few tips from our D.C. customer content specialists on common typos to watch for in your content.

Capitol vs. Capital

One of the most common misspellings in the English language is capitol vs. capital.  You may remember being warned against this misspelling in grade school, and for our public interest specialists, they watch for it every day!

When referring to the building in Washington, D.C. used by the United States Congress, it should be spelled “Capitol” (with an “o” and a capitalized “C”).

quick and easy guide

When referring to a building occupied by a state legislature, lowercased “capitol” (still with an “o”) is by definition the correct use (though some style guidelines may make an exception to the lowercase rule).

On the other hand, “Capital” with an “a” has many different meanings. For public interest news, the most common usage is when referring to the city or town that is the official seat of government in a country or state.  For instance, Washington, D.C. is the nation’s capital.

Other mistakes commonly found in public interest news include:

  • Insure versus Ensure (Learn more about these two words in Grammar Hammer’s I Assure You, It’s Easy to Ensure and Important to Insure)
  • Wallstreet and Mainstreet, which should be Wall Street and Main Street
  • Incorrect names of legislation (e.g., American Disabilities Act should be Americans with Disabilities Act)
  • Misspelled acronyms for major organization names, legislation, and policy initiatives
  • Misspelled names of high profile political figures
  • Incorrect positions or titles (e.g., Secretary of Education should be Secretary of Health and Human Services)

An advantage of having public interest releases handled by content specialists who live and work in D.C. is that they are surrounded by the news and legislation that your press release might address.

Our specialists spend a lot of time reading and discussing politically-oriented news and if necessary turn to news outlets to check on legislation and titles.

It’s important for them to be familiar with these topics because if they’re seeing one press release about a particular piece of legislation, they’re usually seeing four or five more.

Creating content that’s accurate and grammatically correct is only the first step in getting your message across. Sharing that content across an assortment of paid, social and earned channels is critical. When you’re ready to take the next step, download our Quick & Easy Guide to Sharing Your News Release with the World for tips on doing it right.

Author Kate Goebbel is a senior customer content specialist at PR Newswire, and loves to consult with organizations about press release writing and promotion techniques, SEO and reporting. Follow her on Twitter at @kate_city.

6 Comments on Blog Post Title

Jay 11:40 EST on Feb 14, 2013

“Our Nation’s Capital” stands for a specific nation/USA and a specific City/Washington, DC….I learned in my day to capitalized it; I’m in my 60’s.

­ Peers Carter 07:08 EDT on Mar 13, 2015

I would love to know why only the Capitol in Washington is spelt with an O. Were the Founding Fathers using old English spelling (i.e. random ) ?

­ Steve 17:25 EDT on Apr 14, 2015

The term “Capitol” is a reference to the hill on which the Capitol is built. Thomas Jefferson chose the term Capitol after the Capitoline Hill which was the political center of the city in ancient Rome and adjacent to the Roman Forum.Capital (with an “a”), refers to the “head”. The city where government headquarters are is the nation’s capital or the state capital. The building where Congress meets is the U.S. Capitol and where state legislatures meet is the state capitol.

­ Janice Mandel 15:11 EDT on Aug 12, 2015

Great explanation, Steve. Thanks.

­ James 21:26 EST on Dec 2, 2015

so if someone is in Washington DC = they are in our nation’s capital not capitol? If they were in the capitol then they would be in the actual building?? Is that correct?

­ Amanda Hicken 09:19 EST on Dec 3, 2015

That’s correct, James. When I struggle to remember this, I think of the sentence: The U.S. Capitol building is located in Washington, D.C., the capital city of the U.S. I hope this helps and thanks for asking!

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