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I'll be very grateful if you could help me solving this problem: Should a definite article be used before the name of the non-goverment organization? In a printed poster of an event, should an organization be mentioned as "The Smiths Cultural Foundation", or rather, "Smiths Cultural Foundation"?

Thanks a lot!

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If you are using a proper name, do not include an article (unless it is part of the proper name). If you are not, so that you are in effect describing the organization, then use an article.

For example:

  • Smiths Cultural Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (proper name)
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The David and Lucille Packard Foundation (proper name with The as part of the name)
  • The cultural foundation of the Smiths or A cultural foundation of the Smiths. (no proper name)
  • Another aspect of my initial question is this: In which cases a title of the non-goverment organization should contain a definite article? Is there any particular rule? – Elena Oct 14 '14 at 16:28
  • If you are asking for criteria for including "the" in a proper name, then no, there are no rules. You can call your foundation (or other organization, product, etc.) anything you like (modulo the name already being copyrighted, etc.). – Drew Oct 14 '14 at 16:30
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Ask the Smiths Cultural Foundation (The Smiths Cultural Foundation? the Smiths' Cultural Foundation?) what their preferred orthography is.

As with governmental bodies, business organizations, academic and other institutions— and countries and regions and various other proper nouns, there is no reliable single rule. Each organization has its own preference for how it shall be referred to, and outsiders (competitors, the press, the public) may have their own preference as well.

  1. In the simplest case, if the article is considered part of the name, it should always be included and capitalized (e.g. They won a grant from The Andrew K. Mellon Foundation).

  2. Where the type of organization is considered part of the name but the article is not, the article is usually included according to conventional rules (e.g. She is a fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington).

  3. In still others, the official and/or common usage is to omit the article (e.g. Proceeds benefit Catholic Charities USA not Proceeds benefit the Catholic Charities USA).

  4. In yet others the organization's full or official name uses the article, but it uses a shortened or abbreviated name that does not (e.g. The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, but Pew and Knight Foundation: View a copy of Pew’s application for tax exemption and Our goal at Knight Foundation is to preserve the best aspects of journalism).

  • Dear Choster, thank you for such an encompassing and exhaustive answer, it really helped! – Elena Oct 16 '14 at 1:56

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