Headings By The (Blue)Book

BluebookI learned something interesting this week. As much as you think you know about something, every once in a while it is good to check your resources. While I covered this topic according to the Gregg Reference Manual in a post entitled Things Are Coming to a Head(ing) about exceptions to the “capitalize everything except articles, conjunctions, and prepositions shorter than four letters” rule, a recent search through The Bluebook showed me that that rule was not correct for headings in a legal document done in “Bluebook style.” According to Section 8 of The Bluebook, in headings and titles, the first word in the heading or title and the word immediately following a colon in a heading or title should be capitalized. However, do not capitalize articles, conjunctions, and prepositions of four or fewer letters unless they fit the criteria in the immediately preceding sentence (they are the first word of the title or immediately follow a colon).

The Bluebook does, however, refer you to The Chicago Manual of Style or the Government Printing Office Style Manual if there are questions not answered in The Bluebook about specific capitalization issues. Here are the rules on capitalization according to The Bluebook:

  • Always capitalize nouns identifying specific persons, officials, groups, government offices, or governmental bodies.
    • The Securities and Exchange Commission was closed for the holiday.
    • Members of Congress worked late into the night.
    • The President lives in the White House.
  • BUT:
    • The congressional hearings seemed as if they would never end
    • The presidential veto is a tool available to the President.
  • Exceptions (you know there had to be some):
    • Act is capitalized when referring to a specific act.
      • The Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964.
    • Circuit is capitalized when used with the name or number of the circuit.
      • Arizona is part of the Ninth Circuit.
      • The circuit court will not rule on that issue.
    • Code is capitalized when referring to a specific code.
      • The Internal Revenue Code
    • Court is capitalized when referring to the United States Supreme Court, when referring to any court in full, or when referring to the Court where your documents will be filed.
      • The Miranda court decided . . .
      • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals . . .
      • This Court should deny the Motion to Dismiss.
    • Constitution is capitalized when referring to the United States Constitution or naming any constitution in full.
    • Federal is capitalized when the word it modifies is capitalized.
      • The Federal Constitution establishes the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.
      • High on the list of Congress’s priorities is federal spending.
    • Judge or Justice is capitalized when referring to a specific judge or justice by name or when referring to a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
      • Did you know that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor sat as a judge in the Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona?
      • The judge ruled against defendants in the White case.
    • State is capitalized when it is part of the full title of the state, if the word it modifies is capitalized, or when referring to the state as a party to a litigation or a governmental actor.
      • The State of California was the first to allow the use of medical marijuana.
      • He brought an action against the State for unlawful imprisonment.

I guess I’ll have to read through The Bluebook again just for good measure to see what other “rules” need to be adjusted.

Grammar Giggles – Pleadings and Headings

I found this on Twitter and have removed the details to protect the . . . ridiculously stupid. This proves my point that proofreading headings and captions is just as important as proofreading the guts of a document. Apparently, there were many grammar errors throughout this document, but I couldn’t get past the first heading. And just think about what the judge who gets this document thinks. Actually, I believe they think this document is not worth wasting time reading.

Pleading header

Things Are Coming to a Head[ing]

I learned more about headings last week than I thought I already knew about headings. Now I get the pleasure of passing all of that new knowledge on to you!

There are two types of headings—a run-in headingand a freestanding heading. A run-in heading is one where the substance of the paragraph starts immediately after the heading. Run-in headings are usually set off by bold font and/or underlining. A freestanding heading is one which is on a line by itself, sometimes as part of an outline in a document.

run-in heading will always be followed by a form of punctuation depending on the type of heading. If the heading is a question, it will end in a question mark. However, in a freestanding heading, use no punctuation unless you need to use a question mark or an exclamation point because the heading demands it.

As for capitalization, you are supposed to capitalize all words in the heading over four letters and capitalize all words in the heading under four letters EXCEPT:




















Of course, as in all things grammar, there are exceptions to that rule. If a word on the “don’t capitalize” list begins or ends the sentence, it should be capitalized. If a word on that list comes after a dash or a colon, it should be capitalized. Capitalize short prepositions like upinon, and for when they are used with prepositions having four or more letters.

Rafting Up and Down the Colorado River

Driving In and Around the City

New Store Opening On or About March 1

I have printed this list of words that should not be capitalized except in the special circumstances and taped it to my work computer so that it is easier for me to remember. I honestly think titles look better with each word capitalized, but who am I to argue with Gregg? If that’s the rule and my attorneys don’t have a problem with formatting headings “by the book,” then I will adjust. Will you?