Q. Why do you folks at CMOS continue to describe words whose initial letters are capitals as “capitalized.” I suppose it’s easier than the more precise formulation and could be defended as commonly understood—but it’s not. This usage is at best confusing. Words are often truly capitalized, and I’m sure that most English speakers unschooled in CMOS’s peculiar practice will take “capitalized” to mean what it says. And if “France” is said to be “capitalized,” what is “EPA”? Super-capitalized?
A. We, too, like precision. But the first definition of “capitalize” at Merriam-Webster.com is “to write or print with an initial capital or in capitals.” As you suggest, this is especially convenient for people like us who write and maintain a style guide. Rather than being obliged to write “spelled with an initial capital letter” each and every time we refer to the principle, we can simply say “capitalized.” And when we need to distinguish a word like “France” from an abbreviation like “EPA,” we have a handy go-to: the former is merely capitalized whereas the latter is in all caps.