I learned something interesting recently. As much as you think you know about something, every once in a while it is good to check your resources. While I covered this topic according to the Gregg Reference Manual in the July 12 NALS docket in an article entitled “Things Are Coming to a Head(ing)” about exceptions to the “capitalize everything except articles, conjunctions, and prepositions shorter than four letters” rule, a recent search through The Bluebook showed me that rule was not correct for headings in a legal document done in “Bluebook style.” According to Section 8 of The Bluebook, in headings and titles, the first word in the heading or title and the word immediately following a colon in a heading or title should be capitalized. However, do not capitalize articles, conjunctions, and prepositions of four or fewer letters unless they fit the criteria in the immediately preceding sentence (they are the first word of the title or immediately follow a colon).
The Bluebook does, however, refer you to The Chicago Manual of Style or the Government Printing Office Style Manual if there are questions about specific capitalization issues not answered in The Bluebook. Here are the rules on capitalization according to The Bluebook:
- Always capitalize nouns identifying specific persons, officials, groups, government offices, or governmental bodies.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission was closed for the holiday.
- Members of Congress worked late into the night.
- The President lives in the White House.
- The congressional hearings seemed as if they would never end
- The presidential veto is a tool available to the President.
- Exceptions (you know there had to be some):
Act is capitalized when referring to a specific act.
The Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964.
Circuit is capitalized when used with the name or number of the circuit.
Arizona is part of the Ninth Circuit.
- The circuit court will not rule on that issue.
Code is capitalized when referring to a specific code.
The Internal Revenue Code
Constitution is capitalized when referring to the United States Constitution or naming any constitution in full.
- Court is capitalized when referring to the United States Supreme Court, when referring to any court in full, or when referring to the Court where your documents will be filed.
The Miranda court decided . . .
- The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals . . .
- This Court should deny the Motion to Dismiss.
Federal is capitalized when the word it modifies is capitalized.
The Federal Constitution establishes the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.
- High on the list of Congress’s priorities is federal spending.
Judge or Justice is capitalized when referring to a specific judge or justice by name or when referring to a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Did you know that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor sat as a judge in the Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona?
- The judge ruled against defendants in the White case.
State is capitalized when it is part of the full title of the state, if the word it modifies is capitalized, or when referring to the state as a party to a litigation or a governmental actor.
The State of California was the first to allow the use of medical marijuana.
- He brought an action against the State for unlawful imprisonment.
I guess I will have to read through The Bluebook
again just for good measure to see what other “rules” need to be adjusted.
Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, has been a member of NALS for over 30 years, is the current President of NALS of Phoenix, and is the Vice Chair of the NALS Editorial Board. Kathy has a blog on proofreading tips at http://proofthatblog.com. If you have specific grammar issues you would like covered in future issues, please send them to Kathy at email@example.com.