Capitalization in Titles of Works

Q. Help! I’m teaching a grammar and usage class to my coworkers. I was sailing along, pointing out that it’s correct to use a lowercase s when referring to Washington the state. My next sentence, however, used capitals in this way: “the City of Olympia.” I did so, I admit, out of habit. So when does a name become official? Thank you.

A. If you are talking about the official powers of the city or state (the authorities who can sign contracts and pass laws) or the exact geographical entity, uppercase.

The City of Chicago regularly auctions used vehicles and equipment.

The new school is not technically located within the Village of Victor.

The state of Illinois has many tourist attractions.

Obviously there will be times when the meaning is blurred, and in those cases be sure to keep track of your choices in order to maintain consistency.