Working on a military sci-fi thriller but never served in the military in any capacity? Or perhaps you’re writing a nonfiction book regarding WWII but have little to no idea how to address officers? You’re not alone!
Authors should approach military ranks (fictious or not) in the same way they do titles like president, director, chairman. When immediately preceding a personal name, titles are capitalized.
President Joe Biden
Queen Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
But if a title is not present before an individual’s name, it is never capitalized. Consider the examples below:
Joe Biden became president of the United States in 2021.
The longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch is Elizabeth Alexandra, queen of the United Kingdom.
Justin Trudeau is a Canadian political who was elected prime minister in 2015.
Naruhito is the 126th emperor of Japan.
The exact same rules apply to military ranks.
Captain John Smith
General Rob Stark
First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye
In formal prose and other generic text, titles are lowercased. Thus:
The captain appeared gloomy, sullen.
Ashton looked at the general, his mouth agape at the man’s decision.
“Where are you going?” asked the first lieutenant.