English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

When referring to a U.S. state in a formal document, is it correct to capitalize "State," or should it remain uncapitalized?

For example:

This school is accredited by the State of Maryland OR This school is accredited by the state of Maryland

share|improve this question

If you wanted to follow the State of Maryland's lead, you should say State of Maryland. Also, I would say if you're using the phrase as an honorific symbolizing deference (as is the case in law), use "State of Maryland."

But really, unless this is to be used in financial, governmental, or official records, both are acceptable and used.

share|improve this answer
I'm having trouble seeing how the link to the website supports the notion that the state of Maryland uses "State of Maryland." I couldn't find anything there that used the phrase, except in a title, and we can't judge correct capitalization practices based on a title. – J.R. Apr 11 '14 at 22:26
@J.R. Well I posted because while browsing the website for a bit most instances I saw capitalized "State." I've updated the link to show the pages with examples. I thought linking to the site would be better than linking 50 of the subpages with examples. – jboneca Apr 11 '14 at 22:36
I didn't ask for 50 links, but one or two would've been nice :^) (I think your new link does the trick.) – J.R. Apr 12 '14 at 10:16

If it's a "formal document", OP should probably be accurate, and write...

This school is accredited by Maryland State Department of Education

...since they're presumably the relevant authority, and that's what they call themselves. The general principle being that the "referent" of any proper noun is the primary authority in such matters.

But in more general contexts where we don't know (or don't care) which particular "arm" of the state is involved, or what they call themselves, capitalisation is gradually falling out of favour...

share|improve this answer
The good old 'height is popularity' metaphor. Graphically illustrated. I'm nicking 'The general principle being that the "referent" of any proper noun is the primary authority in such matters.'. Though [FumbleFingers] won't look as convincing as [Pullum] or [Chomsky]. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 12 '14 at 6:36
As the "primary authority" in my own case, I think [FumbleFingers] looks extremely convincing (I see no [PullUm] or [ChomSky] to contradict me! :) And I trust you will defend to the death my right to insist on FFing awkward capitalisation for my own nick! – FumbleFingers Apr 12 '14 at 11:46
He Who Must Not Be Named. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 12 '14 at 14:56

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.