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Q. When making reference to western (occidental) cultures, western media, western identity politics, I prefer to use a lowercase w to de-emphasize the unity of the West (even though it is often convenient in argument to point to it as such) and because capitalization of w would further privilege the West. However, my copyeditor has changed every instance of my use of western to Western. Who is right and why?
A. It’s not necessarily helpful to think in terms of “right,” since stylebooks vary. Chicago uppercases “the West” and “Western” in the senses you describe; on the other hand, we lowercase “traveling west” and “western cowboy boots.” It’s likely that your copyeditor is following The Chicago Manual of Style or another source, and she might not have the authority to flout style. Sometimes these issues can be negotiated, however, so you should let her know your preferences and, if possible, show her that other sources in your field lowercase the term.