LawProse Lesson # 88

LawProse Lesson # 88

What are the rules on initial capitals? ANSWER: Most of the first letters of words in the titles of books, articles, songs, etc. are capitalized. The exceptions are articles or prepositions of four or fewer letters (unless they begin the title). So The Great Escape and Much Ado About Nothing, but Hope Is the Thing with Feathers. Proper names are always capitalized. People’s titles and ranks are usually treated as ordinary nouns and capitalized as proper nouns only when they accompany a person’s name (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) or are used as a direct form of address (“If I may say so, Judge, my opponent’s statement is misleading“). Other proper nouns and adjectives are used in those of businesses (Purity Bakery, Inc.), trademarked business products (Kleenex; Mountain Dew); educational institutions (Matlock High School; the University of Arizona); government bodies and agencies (Department of Motor Vehicles; Homeland Security); public or private organizations (Peoria Chamber of Commerce; Lowell Street Coffee Klatch). Adjectives derived from proper nouns, such as nationalities, languages, or religions, are also capitalized (Australian-rules football; Hindi songbook; Jewish holiday). Legal writers follow some additional rules. Constitution is capitalized when referring to the United States Constitution or even to a particular state constitution (but the adjective constitutional is lowercase). So revered is our Constitution that its parts, when written out in full, are capitalized: Article, Section, and Amendment (as well as Due Process Clause). But when abbreviated, such terms usually aren’t capitalized (eg., art. III); consult the Bluebook or your local style guide. A prosecuting entity’s name such as State or People is capitalized when used as part of or as a shortened form of a full name: State of New Mexico, People of New York. When referring to a prosecuting entity, State or People may be used as the short form of reference, e.g.: “The State claimed that Martin was driving the car”; “Livingston objected that the People’s evidence was insufficient.” Source: The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (2d ed. 2006).
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