There are many questions about when to capitalize race. We looked up the top questions people ask via Google (thanks, ahrefs!). If you think the answer is easy (either yes or no to all), read on. There’s more nuance to this.
Here are the top 7 questions people Googled about capitalizing race.
Is Black capitalized?
The most-searched question about capitalizing race is: “is black capitalized?” (there are many variations on this question listed below).
So, is Black capitalized when referring to race?
Multiple style guides including the Associated Press and the American Psychological Association (APA) changed their guidelines in 2020 to capitalize the “b” in Black. John Daniszewski, the AP’s vice president of standards said in June:
“AP’s style is now to capitalize Black in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa. The lowercase black is a color, not a person.”
The APA style guide also says the following to help answer the question is Black capitalized and is White capitalized:
Racial and ethnic groups are designated by proper nouns and are capitalized. Therefore, use “Black” and “White” instead of “black” and “white” (do not use colors to refer to other human groups; doing so is considered pejorative)
I could not find any updates to “is black capitalized when referring to race — MLA”. As of 2016, MLA didn’t have any published details on whether to use a capital B when referring to “Black people”.
Another question…”Do you capitalize African American?” The answer is also yes. APA style says:
“Racial and ethnic groups are designated by proper nouns and are capitalized.”
Google search volume: is black capitalized (1,200); do you capitalize black (500); is black people capitalized (100); do you capitalize African American (150); is black capitalized when referring to race (60)
Is Hispanic capitalized?
“Is Hispanic capitalized” is another highly-searched question. Because Hispanic is a type of race or ethnic group, it should be capitalized.
The Washington Post updated its writing style changes for racial and ethnic identifiers in July 2020. In this update they define Hispanic as:
“Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish and/or are descended from Spanish-speaking populations. Latino and Latina refer to people who are from or descended from people from Latin America. Use the gender neutral Latinx if someone identifies that way. This category includes Spaniard, Chicano and Puerto Rican, as well as other national identifiers.”
Note that Hispanic is capitalized in their definition.
Google search volume: is Hispanic Capitalized (900); is Hispanic capitalized in a sentence (60); is the word Hispanic capitalized (30); is Hispanic capitalized APA (10)
Is Asian capitalized?
“Is Asian capitalized?” Asian is another example of a word that should always be capitalized. Popular digital writing assistant Grammarly says:
“You should capitalize the names of countries, nationalities, and languages because they are proper nouns”
“Is Asian American capitalized?” Yes, because it refers to a group of people in a specific ethnic group.
Google search volume: is Asian capitalized (700); is Asian American capitalized (30); is Asian always capitalized (10)
Is Latino capitalized?
Latino or Latina is sometimes preferred in place of Hispanic. But “is Latino capitalized?” A style guide from the University of California Santa Cruz says yes:
“Use “Latino” (or “Latina” for one or more female individuals) to refer to people of Latin American descent who live in the U.S. (those living in Latin America are “Latin Americans”). Latin America includes Mexico, Central America, and South America; it also includes Brazil (where Portuguese is spoken). “Latino” is always capitalized.”
Latinx is a newer term that is said to be more inclusive. Is Latinx capitalized? Yes, just like Latino or Latina, Latinx should be capitalized. An article in Oprah Magazine says it is capitalized in English but not in Spanish because the word “Latinx” is a proper noun used to refer to a group of people.
Google search volume: is Latino capitalized (500); is Latinx capitalized (40)
Is “people of color” capitalized?
“Do you capitalize people of color?” This term used to describe a group of people who are not white is not an officially recognized race or ethnic group. For this reason, publications like the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times do not capitalize people of color.
The term people of color is also often put in quotes like this”people of color”.
Google search volume: is people of color capitalized (350); do you capitalize people of color (50)
Is white capitalized?
“Do you capitalize white as a race?” The questions around capitalizing white when referring to race have mixed answers. Some style guides do not capitalize white, while others recommend doing so. The Center for the Study of Social Policy says:
“In addition to capitalizing Black, CSSP has also made the decision to capitalize White. We will do this when referring to people who are racialized as White in the United States, including those who identify with ethnicities and nationalities that can be traced back to Europe. To not name “White” as a race is, in fact, an anti-Black act which frames Whiteness as both neutral and the standard.”
The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) has a different view on why they capitalize Black, but not white. CJR says:
“White carries a different set of meanings; capitalizing the word in this context risks following the lead of white supremacists.”
The APA capitalization of race says to capitalize White, but the Associated Press says the opposite. The AP’s statement on their decision says:
“We agree that white people’s skin color plays into systemic inequalities and injustices, and we want our journalism to robustly explore those problems. But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.”
Google search volume: is white capitalized (350); do you capitalize white as a race (100); is white capitalized when referring to race (50)
Do you capitalize Caucasian?
“Should caucasian be capitalized?” is a commonly asked question on Google. In the APA style guide, there’s no mention of caucasian capitalized. But the guide does say:
“The term “Caucasian” is considered offensive to some cultures; use “White” or “European American” instead for people of European descent living in North America, or be more specific by providing the nation of origin.”
Captializemytitle.com says we should capitalize Caucasian:
“The rules of the English language say that we should always capitalize nouns and adjectives referring to language, race, nationality, and tribe.”
Do you capitalize Native American?
This also relates to the question, “do you capitalize ethnicities?”. Using the APA style as a reference, you should capitalize ethnicities, incuding Native American.
Is Indigenous capitalized?
“Is Indigenous capitalized?” An article from sapiens.org says:
“The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style do not capitalize the term Indigenous when it is used to refer to people. But SAPIENS does.”
SAPIENS says by capitalizing Indigenous:
“It articulates and identifies a group of political and historical communities, compared to the lower case “i,” which can refer to anyone.”
A guide from Indigenous Corporation Traning Inc. also gives advice on when to capitalize Indigenous:
“Always capitalize Indigenous, Aboriginal, First Nation, Inuit, Métis as a sign of respect the same way that English, French and Spanish etc are capitalized.”
Google search volume: is indigenous capitalized (250); capitalize indigenous (100); do you capitalize indigenous (50); when to capitalize indigenous (10); is indigenous people capitalized (5)
Do you capitalize ethnic groups? [A common question in the UK]
In the UK, “race” is replaced by “ethnic groups” or “ethnicity”. The UK government style guide for “Writing about ethnicity” explains when to capitalise ethnic groups. The guide says:
“We capitalise all ethnic groups. For example, Asian, Black, Mixed, White, Gypsy, Irish Traveller, and Other.”
WHY I WROTE THIS
Our mission here at Ongig is to transform your job descriptions to attract top-tier and diverse talent. Words matter. Our Text Analyzer software analyzes every word of your job descriptions to ensure they are inclusive to everyone.
- Why Capitalize “Indigenous”? (by Christine Weeber)
- Race and Ethnic Identity (by APA Style Guide)
- AP changes writing style to capitalize ″b″ in Black (by The Associated Press)
- Why we will lowercase white (by John Daniszewski)
- The Washington Post announces writing style changes for racial and ethnic identifiers (by Washington Post)
- Recognizing Race in Language: Why We Capitalize “Black” and “White” (by
- Why we capitalize ‘Black’ (and not ‘white’) (by Mike Laws)
- AP style is now to capitalize Black (and Indigenous) (by Sarah Scire)
- Do You Capitalize the Names of Countries, Nationalities, and Languages? (by Grammarly)
- Editorial Style Guide (by UC Santa Cruz)
- What Does “Latinx” Mean, Exactly? (by Irina Gonzalez)
- Indigenous Peoples terminology guidelines for usage (by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.)
- Writing about ethnicity style guide (by GOV.UK)
- Racial and Ethnic Identity (by APA Style Guide)
- Is Caucasian Capitalized? (by Capitalize My Title)
- Capitalization in APA, Chicago, MLA, and AP (by Proofreadingpal)