Don’t Use Initial Capitals When Referring to Parts of a Statute

Those who consult MSCD will be familiar with the notion that it’s unnecessary and distracting to use initial capitals (“nitcaps,” to those in the know) when referring to the parts of a contracts. In other words, in cross-references the words section, exhibit, and schedule (among others) should be all lowercase.

It follows that one should also use all lowercase letters when referring to parts of a statute:

“Bankruptcy Code” means Title [read title] 11 of the United States Code, 11 U.S.C $ 101 et. seq., as amended from time to time.

Frio LP shall effect a divisive merger (the “Merger”), in form and substance reasonably acceptable to SXE, in accordance with Chapter [read chapter] 10 of the Texas Business Organizations Code …

You might find it harder to break the initial-capitals habit when it comes to referring to parts of a statute. After all, with contract cross-references, you’re referring to private documents, whereas the entire world refers to statutes, and you’re used to seeing initial capitals. For example, here’s something from a recent item in the New York Times:

“We are all concerned about Title IX issues,” said Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella in a telephone interview.

But no matter how prevalent the initial-capitals habit, it’s contrary to recommended usage.

First, consider the general guidance provided by The Chicago Manual of Style 8.178, which says, “The words chapter, part, appendix, table, figure, and the like are lowercased.”

And more specifically, U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual 3.9 (here) says, “A common noun used with a date, number, or letter, merely to denote time or sequence, or for the purpose of reference, record, or temporary convenience, does not form a proper name and is therefore not capitalized,” and it offers among its examples “chapter III,” “section 3,” and “title IV.”

That is all.

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.