Capitalization in References to U.S. States

Here’s what The Chicago Manual of Style 8.55 has to say about use of initial capitals in references to political divisions:

Words denoting political divisions—from empire, republic, and state down to ward and precinct—are capitalized when they follow a name and are used as an accepted part of the name. When preceding the name, such terms are usually capitalized in names of countries but lowercased in entities below the national level.

CMOS gives as an example “Washington State; the state of Washington.”

In my experience, 99.6 drafters out of 100 would say the State of Washington. It’s generally best to follow standard English usage in such matters, so I’m inclined to join the 0.4 for purposes of contract references to, for example, a certificate of good standing from the secretary of state of the state of Delaware. Any thoughts?

Oh, the lowercase letters in secretary of state? See CMOS 8.21.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

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