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The Cold War instilled a fear of nuclear war in the public; additionally, the [war] was responsible for an extreme anti-Communist sentiment that lingers to this day.

Should the bracketed instance of "war" be capitalized? Can it be capitalized, possibly as an abbreviation of the war's full name?

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Google Ngrams shows that the general rule is not to capitalize "war", except if you are talking about the Great War, and are writing between 1920 and 1939, in which case you may capitalize "War" if you so desire. Compare the Depression. – Peter Shor Oct 3 '11 at 19:09
up vote 11 down vote accepted

I generally would not capitalize it. A similar case would be the following sentence:

The Red Sox play at Fenway Park. Located in Boston, the park is the oldest in Major League Baseball.

where the second "park" is not capitalized.

I think you might be able to capitalize it as an abbreviation of the war's full name, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you make it clear that it is a shortening of the war's full name and you plan to continue using it throughout the rest of the (dialogue/paper/article).

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My own preference would be to leave it as it is, since 'war' on its own is not a proper noun, even if it refers to something that is.

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