Proper Names

Q. The author has italicized the names of fashionable gowns (e.g., “the Primavera gown, inspired by Botticelli”), perhaps as a work of art. My inclination is to remove the italics. Do you have a guideline on this?

Q. Should the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual be italicized in the text? What about when it is referred to only as the DSM?

Q. I’m editing a translated interview transcription for publication by a university press. The sentence in question reads as follows: I asked, “Mr. agent, why don’t you do me a favor.” The speaker is addressing an unidentified agent of a Colombian paramilitary. The uncapitalized agent looks strange following the title of address, but then of course agent isn’t an actual capitalizable name. Should I go with “Mr. Agent,” or would “Mister Agent” take some of the formal edge off, or is “Mr. agent” preferable?

Q. I’m editing a biography of a WWII pilot. Would bomber training and fighter training be capitalized because they are referring to specific types of planes?

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?

Q. When writing about the town in Massachusetts, should I use Foxboro or Foxborough? The latter is the technical, legal name; the former is what everybody (USPS included) prefers and actually uses.

Q. Would you capitalize both terms in “Easter Bunny”? One of my coworkers argues that we should not capitalize the “bunny.” While she grants that, for example, we would capitalize “Santa Claus,” she argues that that is the character’s proper name. The same does not apply here. We’re talking about an unnamed bunny who happens to be active on Easter; hence, “the Easter bunny.” My feeling is that we should capitalize it, as we’re not talking about just any bunny, but a specific mythological figure. I think it falls under the penumbra of CMOS 8.34 and 8.35; whether or not “Easter Bunny” is the character’s proper name, it’s certainly used as such. What say you?

Q. I know that CMOS prefers theater to theatre, but when referring to degrees from the Department of Theatre (the university’s determined spelling), which should I go with?

Q. I am confused by how to style bacteria names. Merriam-Webster lists salmonella, streptococcus, and staphylococcus, as well as E. coli. Should they be treated as roman and lowercase (except for E. coli)? The bacterium Listeria is not listed. Is it inconsistent to style this as initial capped and italic if the other names are roman and lowercase?

Q. With reference to the NYPD crime data collection system, should I write COMPSTAT, CompStat, Compstat, or CompSTAT? All four seem to be used in journals.