Are you confused about capitalization? It’s hard to remember all the rules and the English language is full of exceptions.
An author recently asked about when to capitalize academic course names. If someone is taking courses in biology and French, are both in caps?
I thought I knew the answer but I reverted to the classic cliché—when in doubt, check it out—and hauled out The Chicago Manual of Style. I was sure that languages are capitalized—well, 99% sure—but I needed confirmation. I was a little iffy about biology.
Courses of study are addressed in Chapter 8, Names and Terms, under section 8.95. “Official names of courses of study are capitalized.” The examples show that generic course names are not.
So I sent her the following examples for illustration:
Specific Course Names
I’m taking French 101.
I signed up for Conservation Biology.
Generic course names
I’d like to take a course in French. (still capitalized because it’s a language)
I think I’ll take a course in biology next fall. (lower case because it’s generic)
To sum up, languages are always capitalized. So are specific course names. Anything else is not. If you have a specific case you’d like to clear up, or you need help with other writing topics, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. I’d be happy to help!