Q. Every institution for which I have worked seems to have a different practice relating to the capitalization of college or university when referring to the specific institution while dropping the proper name. I used to work for Cornell University’s admissions office. That office insisted on not capitalizing university when using the word without Cornell but still referring to CU specifically. For example,
Once I visited Cornell, there was no choice left for me to make. I fell in love with the university—the people were so friendly and helpful. It didn’t hurt that the campus was gorgeous either!
I had previously been told that one should capitalize university or college when referring to a specific institution. If Cornell’s practice is correct, could you please explain why?
A. Cornell’s practice strictly follows the recommendations set forth in The Chicago Manual of Style. Most institutions (including the University of Chicago itself) do not follow our rule, however. The purpose of a university’s literature about itself is to promote itself. Each university is, to itself, the only University in the entire world that matters. That’s fine. The recommendations in CMOS are intended to promote objective analytical writing—a mission that’s not always convenient in promotional settings. But maybe more universities (including ours) should follow the example of Cornell—especially if they want to attract more prospective copyeditors.