Grammar Capitalization of Governmental Words |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Capitalization of Governmental Words

When you write about or to a governmental agency, do you wonder when to capitalize? Here are some simple rules to help you.

Rule: When you use the complete names of departments, capitalize. You may also capitalize a shortened form of a department. Do not capitalize when these words are used as adjectives or generically.

the United Nations General Assembly
the General Assembly
a congressional committee

Rule: Capitalize civil titles only when used with the name following or when addressing someone directly.

Councilman James Harris
the councilman
James Harris, councilman
How are you voting, Councilman?
President Biden
the president

Rule: If you are working on government documents or you are representing a government agency, then you may capitalize words like City, County, and District when they stand alone.

Example: The County will implement the plan approved by the voters last June.

Rule: When you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize it.

The District Water Plan allocates … The Plan calls for …
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken the case. The Bureau has sent out a bulletin to other federal departments to enlist their help in capturing the fugitive.

However, if you are not working on government documents or are not representing a government agency, do not capitalize generic or shortened terms.

The county will implement the plan …
The plan calls for …
The bureau has sent out a bulletin

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

155 responses to “Capitalization of Governmental Words”

  1. Deborah says:

    The full name of a U.S. estate tax form is: Form 706 United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return. When referring to an estate tax return and estate tax, what are the rules for capitalization of “federal” and when referring to the Return itself, if never properly named in a paragraph?

    Your spouse’s Federal exemption…
    … a Federal Estate Tax Return.
    … shelter from Federal tax.
    … the Federal exemption.
    … Federal taxes.

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    • The word federal when used generically as an adjective would not be capitalized. If it refers to a governmental body that uses it as part of its name, such as Federal Trade Commission, it would be capitalized. Regarding the tax return, if you are writing the name of a specific tax return form, it is considered a proper noun and would be capitalized.

      Form 706 United States Estate Tax Return
      your spouse’s federal exemption
      a federal estate tax return
      shelter from federal tax
      the federal exemption
      federal taxes

      • Dana says:

        Should I capitalize the word deed in a sentence?

      • C. Raymond says:

        What’s your opinion on the capitalization of terms derived from government programs and congressional authorizations? I’m thinking specifically of this type of usage:

        “The property development is financed with sources including low-income housing tax credits, new markets tax credits, a USDA Rural Development loan and a HUD HOME grant.”

        Some government agencies, including the IRS, refer to the “Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program” and the “New Markets Tax Credit program Program”; both are funding programs established by congressional authorization.

        When using the full program name, I assume it would be appropriate to capitalize it. It’s less clear to me what rule applies when one is referring to the tax credits themselves — especially in the case of “new markets,” which is not a term that gets used except in reference to this specific government program/authorization.

  2. Barbara G. says:

    I question your statement: “Rule: When you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize it.”
    Isn’t the phrase “refer back” tautological, because “refer” means to look back?

    • Our copy of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language has a Usage Note specifically dealing with the belief that “refer back” is redundant. In short, the Usage Note explains that the “objection is misplaced. In fact, an expression can refer either to something that has already been mentioned or to something that is yet to be mentioned . . .”

  3. Rose says:

    When you refer to constitution, do you capitalize this word?

    • The Chicago Manual of Style’s Rule 8.79 states, “Formal or accepted titles of pacts, plans, policies, treaties, acts, programs, and similar documents or agreements are capitalized.” Therefore, write the Constitution of the United States, the United States (or US) Constitution, or the Constitution.

  4. nancy says:

    When someone is referring to continuing education hours and says, “It’s forty hours for the State to keep our State certification,” is it capitalized or not?

    • Our Rule 9 of Capitalization says, “Capitalize federal or state when used as part of an official agency name or in government documents where these terms represent an official name. If they are being used as general terms, you may use lowercase letters.
      The state has evidence to the contrary.”

      Since the word state is not used as part of an official agency name but is used in general terms, do not capitalize. Your second use of the word state is an adjective describing the word certification and likewise should not be capitalized. Also, you may wish to consider rewording the sentence to avoid using a contraction and repeating the word state.
      Perhaps “We must complete forty continuing education hours in order to keep our state certification.”

      • Gina Morkel says:

        What if you use state as a noun or an entity. When we worked with the State Agency….Or When we worked with the State on the project, they….

        • Although we are unable to see your examples in context, it appears the terms are being used generically. Therefore, we recommend using lowercase letters unless you are working on government documents or representing a government agency that capitalizes those terms in its own written work.

  5. Nicole Nucinkis says:

    Your texts are very helpful for a paper that I am correcting. I would like to know why Congress is spelled with a capital while parliament is not..thanks!!

    • If it is used generically to mean “a representative body having supreme legislative powers within a state or multinational organization,” or “a formal conference for the discussion of public affairs” it is not capitalized.

      The word is capitalized when it is referring specifically to a legislative body that is actually called “Parliament” in a country using that form of government; for example, the British Parliament.

  6. MARIO says:

    I’ve read that federal government is generally not capitalized unless used in connection with certain organizations or preceded by US: the US Federal Government, the Federal Government of the US, The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Also, I have read that the words Federal Government are capitalized when referring directly to the official government of the US in its official capacity: the Federal Government.

    • The Chicago Manual of Style’s Question and Answer section has the following entry:

      Q. When I refer to the government of the United States in text, should it be US Federal Government or US federal government?

      A. The government of the United States is not a single official entity. Nor is it when it is referred to as the federal government or the US government or the US federal government. It’s just a government, which, like those in all countries, has some official bodies that act and operate in the name of government: the Congress, the Senate, the Department of State, etc.

      The federal government itself doesn’t always follow Chicago style, however.

  7. Kaki Almirall says:

    I’m typing a manuscript for a book and would like to know if I should capitalize clerk and register of deeds. I can’t find the answer anywhere. I’ve gotten a lot of help from your blogs but can’t find this answer. It does not follow a name.

    Could someone please help as the book is due in February and I’d like it to be correct.

    Thank you for your time.

    • We recommend capitalizing titles when they are used before names, unless the title is followed by a comma. Do not capitalize the title if it is used after a name or instead of a name. Also, titles are not the same as occupations or job descriptions. Do not capitalize occupations before full names. To us “clerk” sounds like an occupation, while “register of deeds” sounds like a title.
      clerk Amy Smith
      Register of Deeds Amy Smith
      Amy Smith, register of deeds

      • SueB says:

        I am proofing some real estate appraisals and often a county office is referenced. I am unsure if I should capitalize the name of the offices in the following sentence:
        “A study of various public records including data available from the county assessor, the county recorder and other public agencies.”

        Should “county” be capitalized? Should “recorder” and “assessor” be capitalized?

        Thank you in advance for your help.

        • The words are used generically in your example sentences. Therefore, we do not recommend capitalizing.

          • Porter Broyles says:

            The queary:
            “A study of various public records including data available from the county assessor, the county recorder and other public agencies.”

            Should “county” be capitalized? Should “recorder” and “assessor” be capitalized?

            Your Response:
            The words are used generically in your example sentences. Therefore, we do not recommend capitalizing.

            I believe that you are incorrect here. “County Assessor” and “County Recorder” are titles of specific individuals or departments within the local government. E.g. I work for the County Recorder and people can submit request to the County Assessor. (A lot of counties use the term interchangeably for the department and the individual who holds the office.)

            • If the word is part of a full proper name of a specific governmental body, such as “Broward County Assessor,” it should be capitalized. SueB’s examples were non-specific; therefore, we did not recommend capitalizing.

      • Ana Maria Veiga says:

        When referring to one of the hundreds of offices of the Clerk of the Court, in which many of the court clerks (occupation) work, should you write “civil clerk’s office” or “civil clerks’ office”?

        • If you are referring to a single civil clerk, write “civil clerk’s office.” If you are referring to more than one civil clerk, write “civil clerks’ office.”

      • Benjamin Jordan says:

        In local government in the US, “clerk” is a title of a specific elected or appointer official. You can find a discussion of the position and its responsibilities at:

        • Thank you for the information regarding municipal clerks. Kaki Almarall’s question did not specify a particular type of clerk. The Wikipedia article does not capitalize municipal clerk. We would not capitalize unless it was used as a title before a name. Please see our post Capitalization of Job Titles for more information.

  8. Jason Harris says:

    I am working on a beneficiary informational, should one capitalize ‘state’ in ‘If you designate someone other your Spouse/state-registered Domestic Partner as your beneficiary…’


  9. Mary diaz says:

    When writing a proposal and referring to a specific city government as an entity, do you capitalize City? For example:

    The City of Mulahay requires all lawns to be green.


    The city of Mulahay requires all lawns to be green.

    This is causing a heated debate at my place of employment.

    Thank you,

    • Sorry, but we are not going to be able to settle your debate.

      The Chicago Manual of Style says, “In contexts where a specific governmental body rather than the place is meant, the words state, city, and the like are usually capitalized when used as part of the full name of the body.

      She works for the Village of Forest Park.
      That is a City of Chicago ordinance.
      Residents of the village of Forest Park enjoy easy access to the city of Chicago.”

      However, the Associated Press Stylebook does not recommend capitalizing city in such cases. Therefore, you should pick a style and stay consistent.

  10. Warren says:

    If I mention a specific military organization at the beginning of an article, example “The 1st Infantry Division….”, should I capitalize when I refer to it as “the Command”, or should the c in command be lower case?

  11. Pam says:

    When transcribing recordings of Planning Department meetings for my local county government, a term like “condition 1” or “Condition 1” is often used, referring to conditions that have been suggested by staff for a certain case to be approved. “Proffer” is also used the same way.

    My question is when transcribing the discussion of a case, should “condition” and “proffer” be capitalized when they are referring to certain numbered conditions and/or proffers? “We’d like to change Condition 1 [or condition 1] to read….”

    Thank you!

  12. Martha says:

    Do you capitalize the word agency if referring to government agency?
    ex. “I will contact the Agency to set up a meeting with the president.”

    • If the full proper name of the agency has been named previously, some editors would capitalize the shortened form of the name. However, we would not do so in this case.

  13. Tony says:

    Why there isn’t an article in front of Defense Secretary? Shouldn’t there be an “a” or “the”?

    From ABC News: Chuck Hagel was sworn in as Defense Secretary today shortly after arriving to the Pentagon for his first day on the job.

    • In the case of official job titles, the article the is usually dropped if there is only one such person holding the title at any given time. Since the title is not used as part of the person’s name in your sentence, it is not capitalized.
      Chuck Hagel was sworn in as defense secretary today shortly after arriving at the Pentagon for his first day on the job.

  14. Erin says:

    When pluralizing government department names, do they get a capital letter? For example, “The treasuries and ministries of finance of most governments,” or “The Treasuries and Ministries of Finance of most governments.” My guess is that they don’t get capital letters as they do not refer to a specific department, but I’m not absolutely sure that this is the case. Thank you for your help!

  15. Matt says:

    When citing a regulation, such as section 404 of the Clean Water Act, would it be “Section 404” or “section 404.” Is this the same situation as your guidance to Pam on January 6, 2015?

  16. Sonja says:

    When do you capitalize “state” for example:

    1) On April 11, 1980 the State of Washington issued Respondent a credential to practice as a registered nurse

    2) On January 6, 2015, you were convicted of DUI, gross misdemeanor in the Superior Court, State of Washington, Case No. 12345.

    Are either one of these correct?

    • In normal prose write “state of Washington.” The word state is capitalized by some editors, but lowercased by others, in Washington state, New York State, etc. Legal documents may follow different rules.

  17. Lisa says:

    I worked as an intern in a district office for a U.S. Congressman. I read that Congressional District should be capitalized, but not other cases where congressional is used as an adjective as in congressional letters or congressional constituents (

    Is that correct?

    Thank you!

    • The Chicago Manual of Style capitalizes political divisions when they follow a name and are used as an accepted part of the name, such as “the Eleventh Congressional District.” Used alone, they are usually lowercased.

  18. Cindy M. says:

    Do you know – should governmental have a capital G?

    7.1 This specification is applicable only to STEBBINS’ lined metal vessels. This specification supplements all applicable governmental codes and regulations. In the event of conflict, the more stringent requirement shall apply.

    • The words government and governmental should be lowercased. If you are writing the full proper name of a governmental agency, such as the Government Accountability Office, you would capitalize.

  19. Cheryl B. Bailey says:

    There is a debate over the correct way to write the name of an assembled body of schools in the District. The name of the organization is the iZone, but a number of distinct schools comprise that specific and proper body of schools. My thinking, for that reason,is that the written name should appear as the iZone Schools and not iZone schools.

    What are the rules to support either claim and what is the correct answer? I need this information as soon as possible, as the correct listing is soon to appear on a circulating document.

    Thank you for the information.

    C.B.B. July 29, 2015

    • There is no formal rule for this issue. It seems preferable to write the actual name of the organization, however, writing iZone Schools or iZone schools (our own preference) with or without the is acceptable and carries the same meaning.

  20. Cheryl B. Bailey says:

    If a group of educators are working on a document to distribute which has been gleaned from a number of sources and articles, should the group reference those authors? The debate is that the document is internal, but nothing is internal. Is this not plagiarism if you do not cite those authors, even if you made adaptations? Also, should not those writers have contacted the authors to get special permission to duplicate and adapt the information used in their newly created document? I am trying to make sure the organization is not guilty of anything that has legal ramifications.

  21. Day Williams says:

    Is the Federal Court when referring to the Supreme Court capitalized? Is federal capitalized before the Court?

    • The Chicago Manual of Style’s Rule 8.63 states, “The full name of a court, often including a place-name, is capitalized. Subsequent references to a court (or district court, supreme court, etc.) are lowercased, except for the phrase “Supreme Court” at the national level.
      the United States (or US) Supreme Court; the Supreme Court; but the court”

      The Associated Press Stylebook’s
      rule says, “Use a capital letter for the architectural style and for corporate or governmental bodies that use the word as part of their formal names: the Federal Trade Commission. (See separate entries for governmental agencies.)
      Lowercase when used as an adjective to distinguish something from state, county, city, town or private entities: federal assistance, federal court, the federal government, a federal judge.
      Also: federal court (but U.S. District Court is preferred) and federal Judge Ann Aldrich (but U.S. District Judge Ann Aldrich is preferred).”

      Therefore, it seems the term “federal court” is not capitalized and is not recommended as a reference to the Supreme Court.

  22. Larry Megan says:

    Is the word “branch” capitalized when referring to Anytown branch of the City Public Library. It is not considered a proper noun, right?

  23. rich moreira says:

    Regarding the Rule: When you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize-

    Does it matter if you are you are referring back to the noun in the form of a proper noun or a proper adjective.

    In other words I understand if you already referred to the State of Florida, later on you can say- The State was established in 1845. And State is properly capitalized since I am referring to the State of Florida.

    However if I am referring to the State of Florida’s assets- does the rule change. I.e- The State’s assets totaled $100 million. Is it okay to capitalize the shortened version or do I have to write out the “State of Florida”?

    • If for some special reason (e.g., you are working on government documents or are representing a government agency) you choose or are compelled to capitalize “state” in “the State of Florida’s assets,” it might be appropriate to also capitalize the shortened version, “the State’s assets.” However, in most situations we would not recommend capitalizing either “the state of Florida” or “the state.”

  24. Richard McKinney says:

    My question is when you are using the word state as an adjective decribing assets should it be capitalized? I believe it should not be – as in the state’s assets. I don’t believe in this case state is a proper adjective that should be capitalized, even if you previously referred to it as the state of Florida (“State”) in the document. Am I correct?

  25. Amy says:

    I am working on signage for an exhibit paid for by a certain city, but it will *not* be displayed in that city.

    1. If one sign in the exhibit refers to a specific “City and County” e.g “the City and County of San Francisco, subsequently, in the same sign, does one write “the City” or “the city” when refering to the city’s business (not geografical area) or does it have to refer to the city *and* county?.

    2. Another sign on a separate panel in the same exhibit also refers to the same city’s business. Does the sign need to refer to it as “the City” , “the city” or “the City of San Francisco” or must it be “the City and County of San Francisco”?

    • It is difficult for us to give recommendations about capitalization without complete wording. In the phrase “the City and County of San Francisco,” “city” and “county” would not ordinarily be capitalized. You should ask the exhibit’s organizers if they insist on capitals. If they do not, we advise against capitalizing “city” or “county.”

  26. N Martinez says:

    If writing about a school district, does the word district get capitalized when referring to it by number and not by city name?
    While working in District 22, I contributed to various committees.
    Thank you in advance!

  27. Mollie says:

    In writing a letter, I refer to a geographical location by placing the article “the” in front of the district name. For example, “I would like to work in the Colton Joint Unified School District.”

    Conversely, when I am referring to the agency that runs the district, I drop the article. For example, “I would like to work for Colton Unified School District.”

    Am I doing this right? I’ve looked for examples, but have been unable to find the rule.

    • says:

      The important difference between your two sentences is your use of the prepositions in and for, rather than whether or not you use the article the. To us, writing your sentences with or without the is acceptable and carries the same meaning. For more information on articles, please see our post Definite Ideas About Definite and Indefinite Articles.

  28. Kim says:

    what if it’s a Government ministry? Should it be:

    Mr. Scott Smith was minister of Immigration and Public Safety for 3 years.

    Or should it be capitalised as Minister of Immigration of Public Safety?

  29. Michelle says:

    When writing about a school district, if we refer to the district, do we need to capitalize district. For example, The district will communicate….

  30. Melanie R. says:

    When do you capitalize “city hall”? I see it capitalized very inconsistently and since I am about to start a new job there I’d like to have a definitive answer…

    • There is no hard-and-fast rule for this. The Associated Press Stylebook wants it capped whenever it refers to a specific city hall. But Time, for one, does not cap it for the most part.

  31. Oksana says:

    Should I capitalize the word “Constitution” if it is used in general (speaking about constitutionalism etc.)? the same question about the word “State” if it goes about the relationships between the state and its citizens (any state). Thank you

    • Generic forms of both words in the manner you describe are usually lowercased. Formal or accepted titles of pacts, plans, policies, treaties, acts, programs, and similar documents or agreements, such as the United States Constitution, are capitalized.

  32. Karen says:

    Should “government” be capitalized? For example, “The government is waiting for a reply.” What are the rules?

    • The word government should be lowercased. If you are writing the full proper name of a governmental agency, such as the Government Accountability Office, you would capitalize.

      • Nick says:

        I’m working on getting my boss’s manuscript typed up, and we’ve been having a disagreement on whether or not the word government should be capitalized when he writes “the U.S. Government.” I can see why he insists that it ought to be treated in full as a proper noun, but in my mind it looks equally like a common noun modified by a preceding proper noun. Now I’m not sure which is correct, and I’d rather not err in either direction as that would end up costing him further money when he submits it to the publisher and the editors there have another pass, costing him additional money. As it’s mentioned several times per chapter, it would cost him a boat-load if I don’t get it right.

        Please advise.

        • says:

          AP Stylebook says, “Always lowercase, never abbreviate: the federal government, the state government, the U.S. government.” The Chicago Manual of Style also refers to “the U.S. government.”

  33. SG says:

    When referencing governmental identification, should you capitalize? Michigan driver license or Michigan Driver License, Michigan identification card or Michigan Identification Card. Thank you in advance for setting the record straight.

  34. Deana Maisey says:

    When writing a sentence such as, “Please forward all paperwork, as soon as possible, as it is needed as evidence for the prosecution at trial”, should the word prosecution be capitalized since it is referring to an entity?

    • We see no reason to capitalize; however, legal documents have their own set of rules. We recommend consulting a legal style manual. The comma after the word paperwork is unnecessary, and there should be a period after the word trial.

  35. gelkids says:

    I am writing a government document. In such an instance, should the government entity be called by the title or the office itself. For example, should the document read, the San Diego County Clerk or the San Diego County Clerk’s Office. Another example, State Fire Marshal or State Fire Marshal’s Office.

    • There is no single answer to your question. How you refer to the government entity may depend on context, on whether you are referring to the individual who holds the office or to the office itself, to standards and norms established by the particular office, or other things. We would need to see a specific example, but even then may not be able to give a definitive answer.

  36. Rol says:

    She works in the Civil Service.

    Is this right?


  37. Jim says:

    When I refer to the Bedford Town Clerk’s Office, should I write it that way?

    Yet when I read state laws, they always refer to the town clerk in lower case.

    Thank you.

    • As the post states, when you use the complete names of departments, capitalize. Bedford Town Clerk’s Office is a full proper name of a specific governmental body; therefore, it is capitalized.
      If a term such as town clerk is referred to generically, it is generally not capitalized.

  38. Moses Kibuuka says:

    A child was answering a question according to the passage “which district has the highest population ?”
    The answer was Kampala.
    Should it be Kampala district or, Kampala District…………

  39. Bert says:

    What is the proper capitalization of a specific, shortened, non-governmental body as opposed to a generic, shortened, non-governmental body?

    Example: The Rivendell Chamber of Commerce met last week.

    I understand that chamber would be lowercase when used generically, such as: A chamber of commerce represents local businesses.

    But what about this: The Rivendell Chamber of Commerce met last week. Every local business should know that the Chamber ( or chamber?) is working on its behalf.

    Does the Cub Scouts Scholarship Fund remain “The Fund awards…” or does it become “The fund awards…”?

    I always used to capitalize in these situations as I thought shortening did not change it from proper to common. But I’ve now become suspicious of vanity capitalization and tend to use lowercase.

    • As the post states, “When you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize it.” Since the examples in your questions are shortened forms of proper nouns, you may capitalize the shortened version. In other words, you may use author’s discretion. (We favor minimizing capitalization when it is discretionary.)

  40. palmi says:

    When talking about federal agencies is the word Agency capitalized?
    ie Comparing agencies…
    ie The Agency says….

    • The word “agencies” is used generically in your first example; therefore, do not capitalize. As the post states, “When you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize it.” Therefore, if the word “Agency” in your second example is a shortened form of a proper noun that has been clearly identified, you may capitalize the shortened version. In other words, you may use author’s discretion. Also note that “ie” in your examples should be “e.g.,”:
      e.g., Comparing agencies …

  41. Wendy Shang says:

    This is the best explanation I’ve found on when and when not to capitalize government agencies. Thank you!

  42. Ruth Gonzalez says:

    Are you supposed to capitalize government agency if it is in between a sentence?

    • We assume that by “in between a sentence” you mean “within a sentence.” We see no reason to capitalize the generic term “government agency” in a sentence.

  43. Meredith says:

    I am editing an article that lists a collaborations among several government agencies. I believe CMOS recommends capitalizing “City” in the construction “the City of Springfield,” but I assume if we have two cities, it would be referred to as “the cities of Eugene and Springfield.” Or should I just reword and say “the City of Eugene, the City of Springfield, and Lane County.” Thoughts?

    • This is a tricky area. The key words in your question in regard to applying Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) guidance are “government agencies.” If your intent is to refer to these cities as government agencies, CMOS 8.52 would have you write We met with the City of Springfield (or the City of Springfield staff). However, if referring to them simply as places or cities, according to CMOS 8.51, you would write, for example, We had a meeting in the city of Springfield. Our interpretation, therefore, is that if you are referring to them as government agencies, you could capitalize: We met with the Cities of Eugene and Springfield and with Lane County. Your rewording would also be correct.

  44. Kelley Q says:

    What are the rules when writing about Executive Orders? Always capitalize or only when referencing a specific Executive Order?

  45. lisa says:

    In the ordinance “An Ordinance of the City of Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, to Allow the Operation of Golf Carts on Certain Public Roads and Streets Within the City,” would the word Within be capitalized as in this title it is a main and defining word?

  46. Jackie G says:

    When I am writing about a form that needs to be filled out, should the word, “form” be capitalized? An example for my question is “Warehouse Movement Form” or “Warehouse Movement form.”

  47. DeeDee says:

    When typing the sentence “Please accept our congratulations on your retirement from the position of Accountant after 24 years of State service,” should State be capitalized?

    • When used in such generic contexts in formal writing, we do not recommend capitalizing either accountant or state. However, The Chicago Manual of Style would allow capitalization in the context “… after 24 years of State of Illinois service.” Since you are writing a congratulatory statement for a retirement, not an official governmental document, we won’t say anything if you wish to take liberties with capitalization. (See our posts Capitalization of Job Titles and When to Capitalize People’s Titles.)

  48. Shoshana says:

    This article as well as the comments are very helpful!
    I have a question regarding capitalizing “representative offices” or “foreign branches” when using in a title. I understand it is capitalized; but when referring to it in a sentence is it capitized as well, for example, “the Mercedes representative office in Canada”?

  49. Eileen Allen says:

    Please explain why “George Washington was President.” and “John Adams was the second president.” are correctly capitalized regarding “president.”

    • Our Rule 4 of Capitalization says, “Capitalize titles when they are used before names, unless the title is followed by a comma. Do not capitalize the title if it is used after a name or instead of a name.”
      Since the word president is not used before either of the names in your examples, we do not recommend capitalizing. We also noted that, out of respect, some writers and publishers choose to capitalize the highest ranks in government, royalty, religion, etc.

  50. Steno says:

    What about departments within a city: Parks and Rec Department, Planning and Zoning Department, then just generally police department, fire department? Do we cap all those?

    • How you refer to the department may depend on context. As the post states, “When you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize it.” If your first two examples are shortened forms of full names, such as “Springfield Parks and Recreation Department,” or “Brookfield Planning and Zoning Department,” you may capitalize the shortened version. In other words, you may use author’s discretion. If you are referring to a full proper name of a specific department, such as “Springfield Fire Department,” it should be capitalized. References to departments generically, such as “police department” or “building and zoning department,” are generally not capitalized.

  51. Claudia says:

    In a narrative, if Pearl Harbor is mentioned in partial form after it’s already been fully named, is it “the harbor” or “the Harbor”? (From your notes, I see “the” should not be capitalized either way.)

  52. Emily says:

    Do you need to capitalize executive order in any type of situation? If so what kind of situation?

  53. Cynthia J Rice says:

    When writing about a specific tax, in this case a franchise and excise tax, should the words be capitalized? i.e. The Franchise and Excise tax or The franchise and excise tax

    • If the full proper name of the tax is “The Franchise and Excise Tax,” it is considered a proper noun and should be capitalized. If referred to generically, do not capitalize.

  54. nicolette says:

    Should the word legislative be capitalized when writing about the legislative branch of government?

  55. Spencer A Leonard says:

    In general, I try to keep to Chicago Manual guidelines, but I am editing something that deals heavily with British parliamentary politics and running into some difficulty. For instance, the word cabinet is, of course, used to refer to the executive council of the prime minister, as in the following: “It was only last year that every member of his cabinet in this House supported a bill.” Similarly, the word “government” refers to the ministerial coalition that governs. “The government faced a no-confidence vote in last night’s session.” (Which reminds me that the word “ministry” often refers to the same thing.) My question is about capitalization, for which I find CMOS rather too inattentive to British usage. Your advice?

    • For an American audience we would recommend lower case when referring to these governmental entities generically. Therefore, we would agree with the text as written. However, if you need to follow British rules, you may wish to consult style guides such as
      The Oxford Guide to Style (formerly known as Hart’s Rules)
      The Guardian (also done according to an index)
      Copy-Editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Authors and Publishers
      The Times Style and Usage Guide
      The Telegraph Style Guide
      The Modern Humanities Research Association Style Guide (mainly for writing theses)

  56. Wendy says:

    Is it ever appropriate to capitalize Social Security? For example, “Jane Smith’s primary source of income is social security payments.”

  57. david ebeling says:

    Is the word navy supposed to be capitalized in “…a Navy base in Guam.”

    • Writing “a navy base” does not refer to a proper noun; therefore, it is not capitalized. Formal titles, such as U.S. Navy and Naval Base Guam, are capitalized.

  58. Erika says:

    What about a title that has the name of a place in it, when not referring to a specific person, ie Harford County executive. If it were the specific person, I would capitalize executive, but if only referring to the position, I would lowercase executive. Is that correct?

  59. G. Wilson says:

    Do you capitalize the words “Labor Agreement”?

    • When the title itself of a contract or agreement is long, the agreement may state that it will be referred to therein by a shorthand term, such as “Labor Agreement.” Otherwise, we see no reason to capitalize the phrase “labor agreement.”

  60. Chris Ploch says:

    Do you capitalize the “a” in the phrase “presidential administration”? What about in the phrase “Trump administration”? Finally, what if you say “the administration” and are referring to President Trump’s executive administration?

    Please explain the difference and where your basis comes from. Thank you!

    • The word administration is not a proper noun in your examples. Unless the word is part of the formal name of an administrative body, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, we see no reason to capitalize. Please see our Capitalization Rules for more information.

  61. Mallory says:

    I am writing an ordinance for local government and am wondering if I capitalize Ordinance within a sentence when referencing applicability of said ordinance.

    The Council hereby adopts the following provisions for the collection of fees. This Ordinance does not repeal, abrogate, annul, or in any way impair or interfere with existing provisions of other resolution, ordinances, or laws except as expressly stated herein and to modify the fees reflected below. The fees listed in this Ordinance supersede present fees for services specified, but all fees not listed remain in effect. Where this Ordinance imposes a higher fee than is imposed or required by existing provisions, resolution, ordinance, or law, the provisions of this Ordinance shall control.

    • As the post states, “When you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize it.” If the name of a specific ordinance is clearly stated (such as Parking Meter Ordinance), you may capitalize Ordinance thereafter. When referring generically to “ordinance” or “ordinances,” we see no reason to capitalize ordinance(s).

  62. BM says:

    What is the correct usage: city of Cloquet or City of Cloquet when the subject is the municipal government. Example. The city of Cloquet will purchase the vacant lot

    • Whether to capitalize would be determined by the context of the phrase. If the city is being used as part of the proper name, capitalize it: The City of Cloquet now mandates permits for overnight parking on streets. When the context is more referential or generalized, lowercase it: Have you been to the city of Cloquet?

  63. Cathy says:

    When referring to a specific voting precinct, such as voting Precinct 2, should the word “precinct” be capitalized? Thank you!

  64. Cathy says:

    Should the word ordinance be capitalized if the number follows it, such as Ordinance 20.115?

    Thank you!

  65. nobody says:

    Is naval base capitalized, like the U.S. naval base?

    • says:

      Writing “the U.S. Navy base” does not refer to a specific proper noun; therefore, “base” is not capitalized. A formal title of a specific base, such as Naval Base Guam, is capitalized.

  66. Matthew says:

    Should the word “member” be capitalized in the bylaws of an organization?

    “Any such individual who applied and pays the required dues shall become a Member of the Association.”

    (In this case “Association” was the shortened version of the longer name for the association.)

  67. Cindy St. Jean says:

    In writing articles or a book about a particular town, a sample first sentence of a chapter may be, “Francestown has enjoyed many years of prosperity.” Subsequent sentences may state, “The Town does a nice job of keeping things in character.” or “A recent article about the Town included many notable facts.” My understanding is that “town” would not be capitalized in the subsequent sentences as it is not itself a proper name, even though the uses of the word “town” do refer to one particular town. Which is correct, capitalizing all references to “town” or not?

    For that matter, if a sentence has used “Francestown Fire Department” or “Francestown Police” earlier in the book, would “fire department” or “police” need to be capitalized in a sentence like, “Stan Hurley was the long-tenured Chief of both the Police and the volunteer Fire Department.” It would seem Chief, Police, and Fire Department are not proper names in this usage and therefore are not capitalized.

    When there is a reference to a particular piece of municipal equipment, such as the town plow or town fire truck, would it be capitalized if the reference occurred after a sentence identifying the town as Francestown? Such as “To keep the roads clean, the Town plow works early in the morning.” or “The fire department needs a new Town fire truck.”

    • says:

      As the post states, when you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize it; however, if you are not working on government documents or are not representing a government agency, do not capitalize generic or shortened terms. Therefore, we recommend the following:
      “The town does a nice job of keeping things in character.”
      “A recent article about the town included many notable facts.”

      We would not capitalize in any of the following examples:
      “Stan Hurley was the long-tenured chief of both the police and the volunteer fire department.”
      “To keep the roads clean, the town plow works early in the morning.”
      “The fire department needs a new town fire truck.”

  68. Jennifer says:

    Greetings. I have a very specific example for which I am seeking opinion. We are a CMOS-preferred agency. Regardless of government-entity status, I redline anyone who seeks to capitalize “the Department” unless it is context of the complete formal agency name. That said, in discussing divisions within the department, I struggle with capitalization. One document I am creating mentions that the form does not need to be approved by the Labor Relations Office. As Labor Relations Office is not the official name, I lowercased it. I received some kickback on that, and before I could find the specific answer within CMOS, the user changed the request to just say Labor Relations (still capitalized). I think (but can’t prove) that the official title within the agency is Office of Labor Relations, and in that category only would it be capitalized. ****Is my belief correct?

    I think my main issue is standardizing the official names in our department. My division is the Office of Publications Management, but we are under the Communications Office, which is under the Director’s Office. Are all of these divisions capitalized? The Account Processing Bureau is the umbrella for Business Processing Division (BPD), Individual Processing Division (IPD), and Document Control and Deposit (DC&D). Under BPD, you might have Unitary Section, ERII Section, WIT Section, Claims Section….are all of these really capitalized?

    And yes, I understand that it quite possible to set a standard within our style manual, as long as we can back up the rationale. But you would not believe (well, maybe you would), the number of people who think they are grammar gods and goddesses (or the number of people who would argue with you just because they have nothing better to do). No, it’s better to have a solid foundation behind the standard (CMOS) and stand firm.

    Thanks for your help and opinion.

    • says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style Rule 8.68 says, “The full names of institutions, groups, and companies and the names of their departments, and often the shortened forms of such names (e.g., the Art Institute), are capitalized.” Therefore, you cannot go wrong with capitalizing full department names. CMOS does not address “divisions” specifically; however, they do have the Manuscripts Division of the library capitalized in the list of examples.

  69. Victor Quebec says:

    Do we need to capitalize the titles of ministries/departments when they follow each other in a sentence as follows:

    “… the troops of the Guatemalan ministries of defense and internal affairs entered the city on…”


    “… the troops of the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Internal Affairs entered the city on…”

    Thank you!

    • says:

      If Guatemalan Ministry of Defense and Guatemalan Ministry of Internal Affairs are official titles of departments, they should be capitalized.

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