Artificial intelligence (AI) has rapidly become one of the most talked-about technologies of the 21st century. As the capabilities of AI systems grow more advanced, discussions around terminology and proper naming conventions have similarly increased. One question that often arises is: should we capitalize “artificial intelligence”?
In this definitive guide, we’ll cover the complex debate around AI capitalization best practices, including:
- Key arguments for and against capitalizing AI
- An analysis of major style guides’ recommendations
- How publications and companies currently handle capitalization
- The implications of capitalized vs non-capitalized AI
- Concrete advice for writers and content creators
By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of this nuanced issue along with actionable guidelines to inform your own writing.
A Primer: What is Artificial Intelligence?
Before diving deeper into the capitalization debate, it’s helpful to level-set on a definition of artificial intelligence (AI):
Artificial intelligence refers to computer systems or machines that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, and decision-making.
Key components that enable AI to accomplish these complex feats include machine learning algorithms, neural networks, and vast amounts of data for “training” purposes. Based on this definition, AI represents an entire field of computer science focusing on building intelligent machines.
Now let’s explore whether this rapidly advancing field constitutes a proper noun requiring capitalization.
Arguments For Capitalizing Artificial Intelligence
There are several arguments in favor of capitalizing “Artificial Intelligence” as a proper noun:
Recognizes AI as a Distinct Field of Study
As a specific discipline within computer science, champions of capitalization contend that AI warrants proper noun status. Just as fields like Physics, Biology, or Chemistry are proper nouns denoting established areas of research, Artificial Intelligence refers to a distinct branch of science with codified principles.
Capitalizing the term distinguishes it from general, human intelligence, highlighting AI as a formal sphere of investigation.
Promotes Industry Standards and Uniformity
Capitalization also helps cement uniform terminology across the AI landscape. As the field continues advancing at a rapid pace, referring to Artificial Intelligence as a capitalized proper noun enables clearer communication and adherence to naming conventions.
This standardization signals that AI represents an entire body of knowledge instead of just a descriptive noun phrase.
Aligns with Related Technologies
Another argument points towards consistency with other prominent technologies like Machine Learning and Robotics that are generally capitalized. Since Artificial Intelligence is closely linked to sub-fields like Machine Learning, maintaining capitalization aligns AI with adjacent tech categories.
Arguments Against Capitalizing Artificial Intelligence
On the other side of the debate, here are some of the main reasons why AI does not necessarily require capitalization:
AI is an Evolving, Generic Concept
One of the central arguments against capitalization is that “artificial intelligence” represents a loose, catch-all term for a continually advancing set of technologies. Rather than denoting a single, well-defined field, AI encompasses various capabilities under a broad umbrella.
Under this interpretation, AI is more of an ever-evolving idea instead of an established discipline meriting the proper noun designation.
Could Perpetuate Hype and Misconceptions
In addition, some experts argue that routinely capitalizing AI places undue emphasis on the term and fuels common misperceptions. The media, futurists and other commentators often ascribe almost mythical qualities to AI, and uppercase styling may contribute to this excessive hype.
Maintaining a lowercase format helps ground the concept and discourages sensationalism.
Promotes Inclusivity and Accessibility
Lowercasing AI may also help make the topic more inclusive and approachable for general audiences. Capitalized terminology tends to project formality and rigidity, which could discourage curiosity and engagement among everyday citizens.
Accessible, lowercase AI enables broader understanding across technical and non-technical readers alike.
An Analysis of Major Style Guides’ AI Capitalization Rules
In navigating this complex capitalization debate, it’s instructive to examine the guidance put forth by major style manuals:
The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook
The AP Stylebook is considered an authoritative source for journalists, editors and other media creators. Their 2022 edition contains an explicit lowercase recommendation for “artificial intelligence” in all uses.
So following AP guidance, writers would adopt a non-capitalized “artificial intelligence” in headlines, body copy and other contexts.
The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)
Unlike the AP Stylebook, the widely-used Chicago Manual of Style takes the opposite position in officially designating Artificial Intelligence as a capitalized proper noun.
The manual states that “forming part of a proper name, the term artificial intelligence is capitalized.” So per CMOS directives, authors would refer to Artificial Intelligence in formal papers, academic works and other polished content.
American Psychological Association (APA) Style
The APA style guide put forth by the American Psychological Association offers less definitive guidance compared to other manuals. Their publications use both capitalized and non-capitalized versions interchangeably.
So following APA conventions, writers can elect to use either “Artificial Intelligence” or “artificial intelligence” based on personal preference.
As shown above, authoritative style guides differ somewhat in their recommendations concerning AI capitalization. The AP Stylebook firmly calls for lowercase “artificial intelligence” in all uses, while CMOS endorses capitalized Artificial Intelligence as a proper noun.
The APA Manual exhibits flexibility in allowing both versions. These discrepancies contribute to the lack of industry-wide standards around AI naming rules.
How Publications and Companies Currently Handle AI Capitalization
Beyond formal style manuals, it’s helpful to analyze how mainstream publications and AI-focused companies currently handle capitalization in their materials:
Publications Vary Widely in Approach
Many major outlets like Wired, MIT Technology Review, and The Wall Street Journal use both capitalized “Artificial Intelligence” and lowercase “artificial intelligence” interchangeably depending on the context.
For example, a headline may refer to “The Future of Artificial Intelligence” while the body copy discusses progress in “artificial intelligence.”
So instead of fixed rules, predominant publications tend to take a fluid stylistic approach based on article themes and target readership.
AI Companies Lean Towards Capitalization
Prominent technology corporations with stakes in the AI landscape generally capitalize Artificial Intelligence when referring to their initiatives and product offerings.
For instance, thought leaders like IBM and Microsoft consistently use the uppercase “Artificial Intelligence” on their websites, white papers and other corporate materials. As pioneers in the commercial AI sector, their branding fuels assumptions that AI should be formalized as a capitalized proper noun.
Implications of Capitalized vs. Lowercase AI
Deciding whether to capitalize artificial intelligence or not carries subtle implications that writers should consider:
Capitalized “Artificial Intelligence”
- Connotes greater legitimacy as a formal area of study
- Aligns with conventions for related tech fields
- Projects formality and technical precision
- Risks engendering hype and exaggeration
Lowercase “artificial intelligence”
- Indicates a fluid, evolving conceptual landscape
- Promotes inclusivity for non-specialist audiences
- Encourages accessibility without imposing rigidity
- Could diminish perceptions of AI’s societal importance
In summary, capitalized AI supports recognition as an established scientific discipline, while lowercase AI frames it as an informal, inclusive technical phenomenon. Writers aiming to emphasize AI’s academic standing and commercial influence may gravitate towards capitalization, while those seeking to maximize accessibility for general readers are well-served sticking to lowercase.
Conventions in Specific Writing Contexts
Along with the high-level implications described above, conventions around capitalizing AI differ across certain writing contexts:
Academic Papers & Formal Technical Writing
Following the guidance of style manuals like CMOS, academic publications related to computer science and technical summaries frequently capitalize “Artificial Intelligence” to denote its status as a serious field of research.
Exception: if an academic paper focuses specifically on techniques such as neural networks rather than AI as a whole, lowercase is more often used.
Informational Blogs & Articles
General interest blogs and digital publications targeted towards mainstream readers tend to avoid capitalized AI terminology. Since their intended audience consists primarily of non-specialists, lowercase “artificial intelligence” matches a more conversational tone.
AI Product Names & Services
When referencing a specific AI tool, platform or offering, title case formatting is appropriate. For example: “The company introduced an enterprise Artificial Intelligence solution called BrightBot.”
Proper nouns designating unique AI products or services warrant capitalization like other branded names.
In regulatory contexts around emerging technology, lowercase prevails as the preferred variation. For instance, in Congressional hearings and legislative proposals concerning AI adoption, witnesses and lawmakers generally use uncapitalized “artificial intelligence.”
This stylistic choice mirrors legal conventions for generic, descriptive terms.
Should You Capitalize Artificial Intelligence?
When assessing whether to capitalize AI or not in your own writing, consider these recommendations:
Align with Target Publication’s Style
If you are writing an article for a specific journal or magazine, refer to their prior handling of AI first. Replicate their capitalization approach to match house stylistic conventions.
Favor Lowercase for General/Conversational Writing
When authoring blogs, social media posts or other mass-audience content, default to lowercase “artificial intelligence” for maximum clarity and inclusiveness.
Consider Capitalized AI for Academic/Technical Works
If developing highly-formal academic papers, corporate materials or granular analyses of AI as a field, capitalized “Artificial Intelligence” affirms subject authority.
Emphasize Consistency Within Documents
Above all, maintain consistent capitalization of AI within a given paper, article or document. Nothing confuses readers more than haphazard switching between uppercase and lowercase technical terminology.
Pick one variation and stick with it throughout a piece for optimal cohesion and comprehension. Include exceptions only for branded AI products or services.
FAQs About Artificial Intelligence Capitalization
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the complex issue of properly formatting AI:
Should “artificial intelligence” be capitalized in all cases?
No universally-accepted rule requires AI capitalization across all writing contexts. Based on an analysis of style guides, publishing practices and usage implications, writers can exercise discretion concerning whether to capitalize or not capitalize artificial intelligence depending on audience, formality and personal preferences.
Don’t we capitalize other technical fields like Physics and Mathematics?
This argument for capitalizing Artificial Intelligence certainly carries validity. We designate most formal areas of academic study as proper nouns based on long-standing conventions. But artificial intelligence represents a relatively new, dynamically-evolving domain compared to more established scientific disciplines. AI’s ongoing maturation and permeation into mainstream culture sustains debate around appropriate naming rules in published materials.
Who ultimately decides whether artificial intelligence gets capitalized or not?
At present, no centralized authority or industry coalition enforces universal AI naming standards. Individual publications and enterprise technology vendors effectively set their own stylistic guidelines for handling capitalization within corporate documentation and externally-distributed content. Until consensus emerges around firm AI terminology conventions, inconsistencies and clashes will likely persist on this issue, with reasonable arguments on both sides.
What are the risks with inconsistent capitalization of AI?
Failing to capitalize artificial intelligence according to clear-cut standards does carry certain risks. The lack of unified rules enables confusion when similar terms take on different formatting, hindering technical precision. Over the long-term, ambiguous capitalization guidelines could impede effective communication as AI becomes further ingrained into global society. Finding common ground on this complex question will remain an ongoing, if gradual, pursuit.
The Last Word on AI Capitalization
By now, one thing should be clear: hardly any consensus exists on whether to fully capitalize artificial intelligence or not in published materials. Beyond limited style guide directives, companies and media outlets reserve discretion over AI naming conventions within their ecosystems.
As AI itself continues maturing as a field, technology and cultural phenomenon, conventions and preferences may further evolve. But for now, inconsistencies and contradictions abound regarding the complex capitalization issue, often boiling down to individual author prerogative based on writing contexts.