Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I have lots of issues that tend to attract Murphy’s Law into my life. Thankfully a very attentive NALS member brought to my attention that the last Grammar Nuggets article on capitalizing the word “state” had a glaring error. The Murphy’s Law part of that is that that article was correcting a 2014 blog post, so we are correcting it again and I’m hoping the third time is the charm. I apologize for getting the information wrong. The reference in the The State of Capitalizing “State” post to The Gregg Reference Manual should actually have been a reference to The Bluebook. This clerical error made a confusing topic even MORE confusing. Here is the correct information:
According to the Gregg Reference Manual ¶ 335:
- Capitalize state only when it follows the name of a state or is part of an imaginative name:
- The state of Arizona is known as the Grand Canyon State.
- One of my favorite places to visit is Washington State.
- Do not capitalize state when it is used in place of the actual state name
- She is an employee of the state. Note, however, that people who are actually working for state government will probably write it as “State.”
According to The Bluebook, capitalize the word “state”:
- When it is part of the full name of the state
- The State of Arizona is the 48th state admitted to the Union.
- When the word it modifies in capitalized
- In Michigan, the State Corrections Director is in charge of the correctional system.
- When referring to the state as a party to litigation or a governmental actor
- The State filed a Motion to Dismiss.
Obviously, The Bluebook is not a grammar guide—it is a style guide for legal citation. The only grammar guide that seems to disagree with part of the Gregg Reference Manual is the Chicago Manual of Style, which says “where the government rather than the place is meant, the words state, city, and the like are usually capitalized.”
- The State of Florida’s statutes regarding corporations are codified at Title XXXVI.
I have made and will continue to make mistakes and I will continue to learn right along with you. While I hate making errors and hate even more when others catch them, I am always happy that they are brave enough to bring it to my attention and give me the opportunity to fix it. So as I said in the original article, capitalization of the word “state” is very confusing. But hopefully we’ve made it a little clearer—and more accurate—this time.