A Guide to Proper Nouns

The names of companies and other institutions are capitalized and spelled out as proper nouns. Abbreviations are sometimes used for ‘company’, ‘corporation’, ‘incorporated’, ‘limited’, etc.


Administrative, legislative, judicial, educational, political, and special interest groups’ names (including departments, bureaus, and offices) and abbreviations are capitalized when they are used as proper nouns. Generic terms such as ‘agency’, ‘bureau’, or ‘department’ are capitalized when they stand alone only in an organization’s own literature. Derivative adjectives and shortened or incomplete designations are lowercased.

Other guidelines:

  • The names of higher courts are capitalized in all but very general writing. Any reference to the Supreme Court is capitalized. References to lower courts, even when specific, are lowercased e.g. ‘traffic court’. When the word ‘court’ is used in reference to a specific judge, it is capitalized.
  • ‘Administration’ is capitalized when referring to a specific body serving a U.S. president.
  • Political parties’ (and other national and international organizations) names and designations of members are capitalized, though ‘party’, ‘movement’, etc. need not be. Political factions are usually lowercased, e.g. ‘conservative’, ‘right-winger’, except for ‘the Right’ and ‘the Left’. Philosophies are capitalized if derived from a proper noun, as ‘Marxism’.
  • Derivatives referring to organizations’ members are capitalized, e.g. Kiwanian.
  • Names of associations, societies, meetings, and conferences are capitalized when used as proper nouns, as ‘LaPorte Historical Society’. A meeting or conference with a theme is enclosed in quotations, e.g. “Using Corpora,” 7th Annual Conference of the University of Waterloo Centre for the New OED and Text Research.
  • Abbreviations and nicknames of organizations are capitalized, as ‘Big Brother’ for the U.S. government, and ‘Big Blue’ for IBM.

Capitalize the names of languages and dialects.

Trademarks and Trade Names
Trade/brand names, registered trademarks, and service marks are capitalized.

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