Proper Names

Q. I am a government auditor who frequently issues findings to entities with long, cumbersome names (e.g., the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission for Widget Standards and Inspections). In my previous job, I was instructed to state the full name of the entity the first time it appeared in a report, followed by a capitalized abbreviated version (e.g., Commission) throughout the rest of the report. In my new job, I have been instructed to follow The Chicago Manual of Style, which has been interpreted to mean using lowercase for such abbreviations. Apparently, I am not the first person to question this practice, and it has become a source of contention in our office. Do you have any words of wisdom to help mediate this dispute?

A. Although Chicago style is to lowercase generic terms like commission in reference to a named organization, CMOS (always insistent upon flexibility in the application of its guidelines!) does offer support for capitalizing shortened forms of organization titles:

8.67. The full names of institutions, groups, and companies and the names of their departments, and often the shortened forms of such names (e.g., the Art Institute), are capitalized. . . . Such generic terms as company and university are usually lowercased when used alone (though they are routinely capitalized in promotional materials, business documents, and the like). (emphasis added)