Capitalization

Q. I’m copyediting a nonfiction book that has several names with titles in running text, such as “President George W. Bush,” “National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley,” and “Ambassador Charles Freeman.” According to CMOS 8.21, do I lowercase the title before the name (president George W. Bush) in running text? It just seems a bit odd to me.

Q. I am an editor of a nineteenth-century writer’s manuscripts. We are trying to determine whether we should regularize certain capitalizations, as they are not consistent even within contemporary editions and impressions; the manuscripts provide hardly any evidence because we cannot tell whether the writer’s letters are capped or lowercased. Problems include North/north, South/south, Union/union, etc. It is our feeling that since we are dealing with no clear pattern, even within an edition, we should probably retain copy-text renderings, and include justification for this choice in our textual introduction. Any insights? Many thanks.

Q. Hi. I’m trying to find out if you should always initial cap a subsequent reference of a proper noun when the full name is not used. The specific term in question is Rock of Cashel. On second reference, where this is referred to as “the rock,” I don’t want to cap it, but the author of the piece does. I looked at the Q&A and under 8.57 but didn’t see a specific reference so I felt better to ask.

Q. For front matter, we have eleven or twelve endorsements from prominent deans, presidents, and directors of various international programs. I realize that we generally leave those titles lowercased unless we’re talking about a Named Chair of So and So, but this one is killing me: Senior Fellow at the Blah-Blah Institute. Should I lowercase “senior fellow”?

Q. Please explain the difference between CMOS 8.32 and 15.21 regarding capitalization of degrees. Section 8.32 says, “Names of degrees . . . are lowercased when referred to generically . . . master of business administration (MBA).” But 15.21 shows “Master of Business Administration.” When is a name of a degree “generic”?

Q. If etc. falls at the end of a title of a work, should it be capitalized or left lowercased? The argument against capitalization is that the et part of the abbreviation is a conjunction and the c part represents the final word (cetera). No one here argues for etC., of course, but my argument is that once et cetera is abbreviated to etc. the two words become one, so that etc. is therefore the last word, not the last two words, in the headline or title, and that it should be capitalized as Etc.

Q. I’m editing a textbook that references a play. Should it be “Act 3,” “act three,” or “act 3”? A solution to this mystery would be greatly appreciated. I’ve looked at CMOS a hundred times for help with this issue.

Q. I doubt I will have the power to change this, but coworkers have insisted that common nouns like “incidents” and “requests” be capitalized in all communications because they are capitalized in the original contract. So folks are to “report Incidents or submit Requests,” and “high-priority Incidents” must be reported a certain way. I think the capitalization is unnecessary. Is it correct? I really just want personal and internal vindication, but I’d accept being corrected.

Q. CMOS says that you’re supposed to capitalize after the colon when the colon introduces (1) a quotation or (2) multiple sentences. But when sentences follow the colon how do you know if they’re sequential enough to warrant the capital? It’s usually really hard to tell.

Q. When an author refers to a chapter in the text, such as “You can read more about this in chapter 2,” the word “chapter” isn’t capped, I believe, since the title of the chapter isn’t itself “chapter 2” but something else. What about if the author refers to an appendix whose title is “Appendix A”? Thanks heaps.