Capitalization

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”?

A. One rough guide to generic usage is whether you put a, an, or the in front of a term. If you do, it’s probably generic and you should lowercase: she received a master of arts degree. Cap a degree on a résumé, business card, or diploma, in an alumni directory, or wherever it looks like a title rather than a description of what degree you have. Lowercase it in running text. You can’t go too far wrong with this if you’re consistent within a given document.