Do You Capitalize Race in Writing?

Writers must use language thoughtfully as our awareness of race, ethnic background, and socio-economic status develops. You must adhere to general writing rules to guarantee that your wording is impartial when you write.

For instance, “race” is a social concept, not a biological fact. Consequently, how we write about it counts.

While there are a lot of conceptual and technical issues to consider, we recognize that conversations about “race,” including whether or not we are racialized, can be emotionally charged and influenced by our unique experiences.

Nevertheless, there is a common question that may arise from such conversations. Do you capitalize race in writing?

Read on to answer this question and understand better what the different referencing styles stipulate on the capitalization of racial terms.

Do You Capitalize Race in Writing?

When referring to racial or ethnic groups, use proper nouns with capital letters. For example, when writing an essay, substitute “Black” and “White” for “black” and “white” when referring to individuals’ races. Similarly, capitalize words like “Native American,” “Latino,” and similar terms.

When alluding to a particular group, capitalize “Indigenous People” or “Aboriginal People” (e.g., the Indigenous Peoples of Australia).

The term “race” refers to physical distinctions that certain societies and cultures view as socially relevant.

As an illustration, individuals may identify as American or White, African American or Black, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Aboriginal, Asian, European, Native American, Latino, or another race.

Also see: How to Write a Company/ Business Name in an Essay

Numerous style manuals for researchers, publishers, editors, and authors have changed since 2020 better to understand the significance of the term “race” and assist readers in challenging its (social) origins.

This involves placing the word “race” in quotation marks, capitalizing the phrases “White,” “Black,” and other terms that are used to allude to racialized identities or cultures.

Keep scrolling to understand the individual writing styles and their requirements in capitalizing on various races.


Before 2020, the APA mandated writers use lowercase black and white when referring to race. However, this requirement has since changed. According to APA style, authors should capitalize “Black” in a racial, ethnic, or cultural sense.

This emphasizes an essential and recognized sense of history, belonging, and society among those who consider themselves Black. The Black People include those in the African diaspora and within Africa.

According to this writing style, the lowercase black is not a person but a color. Therefore, proper nouns should be capitalized to denote ethnic and racial identities.

Next time you write terms like Asian, Hispanic, Latina, White, Black, Indigenous, or Caucasian in APA style, ensure to capitalize them.


The new guidelines and inclusive language improvements in the MLA 9th Handbook make it easier for authors to explore delicate topics, including race, religion, ethnicity, health, gender, socio-economic position, and age, while still using suitable and appropriate language.

It features capitalization adjustments that will adhere to the standards for writings written in languages other than English that must utilize their capitalization requirements.

Similar to the APA writing style, racial terms like Black and White were not capitalized in MLA before 2020. This format allows writers to use lowercase and uppercase forms when addressing these terms.

For example, you could still use “black” and “white” or “Black” and “White” to describe an individual’s racial identity. However, be consistent throughout the paper to avoid contradiction when you decide to capitalize or not to capitalize.

In Chicago

Before 2020, the Chicago Manual of Style mandated that writers use lowercase for the words “black” and “white” when referring to someone’s race or ethnicity unless the writer or publisher specifically requested capitalization.

Today, for racial and ethnic identification, the Chicago Manual of Style now recommends “Black” with a capital “B” and Capital “W” for “White.”

However, writers’ choices may differ but should be acknowledged as their capitalization may vary depending on the context. The other racial terms, such as Hispanic, Latino, Chinese, Indian, etc., should all be capitalized.

When is Capitalization Allowed in Writing Essays?

It can be debatable whether or not to capitalize certain words and phrases in essays. Although the capitalization of proper nouns is generally agreed upon, there are differing views on other terms. It’s wise to capitalize when essential because doing so too often can be unprofessional. Below are scenarios when capitalization is allowed in writing essays.

  1. The first word in a sentence

This rule is among the most straightforward and obvious capitalization principles. The first character of the first word should always be capitalized when introducing a new sentence.

  1. Proper nouns and names

A proper noun is a name assigned to a given person, place, or object. These terms should always be capitalized regardless of where they appear in a statement or paragraph. Proper nouns include:

  • Books’ titles
  • Federal agencies
  • Religions
  • Planets
  • Towns, states, and nations
  • Street and road names
  • Monuments’ names (artificial or not)
  • Company, institution, and brand names
  • Departmental names
  • Partisan organizations
  • College names (e.g., Yale University)
  • University degrees
  • Races, nations, and ethnic groups
  • Days of the week, months, and holidays
  1. Titles before names

These are the sources of some confusion regarding capitalization in essay writing. Job descriptions appear both specialized and generalized. The titles are often capitalized if they occur before a name, but not if they don’t—for example, President Samuel and not Samuel, president.

  1. Events and periods

You must uppercase time frames, eras, and particular events. Such terms include World War II, Roaring Twenties, The Byzantine Empire, or The Cold War. However, you shouldn’t use uppercase century names or century numerals.

  1. Majority of Titles

There are also minor differences across style manuals regarding how to capitalize titles of books, films, and other works. Generally speaking, you always capitalize the initial word, every noun, every verb (even a brief one like is), every adjective, and every proper noun.

It follows that articles, conjunctions, and prepositions should all be written in lowercase. Nonetheless, some style manuals advise capitalizing conjunctions and prepositions more than five characters long.


So, do you capitalize race in writing? After reading this article, you are more enlightened on the capitalization guidelines of racial and ethnic terms in the various writing styles. You are also more educated on the different capitalization scenarios in essay writing. Kindly utilize this information to improve your writing prowess. All the best!