August 15, 2023

Where there's a Will, is there a capital W?

Stephen Follows
Written by
Stephen Follows

We at Catsnake are massive nerds when it comes to stories, legacies and definitely grammatical pedantry. (Making us gregariously gleeful grammarians, I guess).

We read client style guides like others read Grazia. All in the pursuit of the perfect word in the perfect tone of voice for our perfect clients and their perfectly imperfect audiences.

One debate which constantly surfaces in the office is that of capitalisation - and never more so than with the word ‘Will’.

We don't argue over all uses, mind you. We can all agree that there’s nothing wrong with the sentence “I wonder if Will-i-am will willingly go to the shops”.  

It only becomes contentious if the popstar opts to consider how he will apportion his estate after death via his Last Will and Testament. Should it be " is writing his will" or " is writing his Will"?

Over the years we've asked around the third sector and received a variety of answers. So we thought it would be fun to apply our data geekery to the topic and see what's most commonly used among UK charities.

We analysed the language in over 200 'Gifts in Wills' guides, as well as the dedicated legacy pages of over 400 UK charities.

Note: Fellow pedants may be starting to worry that we just looked at all uses of the word 'will'. Fear not - of the 18,838 uses of the word, we narrowed in on just the 13,620 uses which directly referred to a Will in context of a legal document that outlines a person's wishes about the distribution of property and possessions after death.

Let’s start by looking at the argument for and against the big W…

The (upper) case for capitalisation

Those in favour of capitalising 'Will' in the context of Last Will and Testament argue that it helps distinguish the legal document from the common use of the word 'will'. This ensures clarity and reduces possible ambiguity.  Using 'Will' may offer a form of emphasis, underscoring the significance of this essential document in the provision of legacies.

The case against capitalisation

On the other hand, some argue against capitalising, seeing it as unnecessary. The stance here is that the context in which the word is used should suffice to clarify the intended meaning. The use of 'will', in lower case, reflects a more minimalist grammatical approach. Perhaps advocates of such an approach may deem capital 'W' as overly formal or perhaps they simply adhere strictly to conventional English grammar rules that don't typically require capitalisation in this context.

What the data reveals

So what did we find?

The vast majority of UK charities do in fact capitalise Will. 55.2% use upper case in over 90% of the times they refer to the Will. At the other end of the spectrum, 17.4% rarely, if ever, use the capitalised form.

The three types of charities

We categorised the usage of the word 'Will' into three primary groups:

  • Organisations that capitalise 'Will'.
  • Those that don’t.
  • The nerve-shredding few who like to ‘mix it up’.

The Capitalisers  

A significant 55.2% of charities consistently capitalise the 'W' in 'Will', including some of the most well known charities such as UNICEF, WWF and the RNLI (which makes sense as they like capitals so much they made it their entire names).

In their legacy documents and on their websites, 'Will' is invariably capitalised, conveying a certain sense of formality and importance that aligns with the context they find themselves in.

The Lower Casers

On the other hand, just 17.4% of charities choose to keep 'will' in lower case. These include the likes of The Woodland Trust, The National Trust and Tear Fund, as well as official bodies such as the UK government and The Law Society.

Amidst their legacy guides, documents and throughout their web content, 'will' is kept lowercase, presenting a more casual and perhaps more contemporary approach to the terminology.

The Inbetweeners

Lastly, 27.4% of charities didn’t pick a side (by which we mean they capitalised Will between 11% and 89% of the times they used it). Out of respect, we won’t name names for this one. But you know who you are (and we still love you despite this grammatical HORROR).


So, there you have it. To 'Will' or not to 'Will', that is the question.

As an organisation, Catsnake stands firmly on the fence, ensuring that whether you prefer to take your 'Will' with a capital or not, we can handle your legacy stories with care.  

(But I want to make it abundantly clear that in my personal life I’m resolutely on Team Big DUBYA).