I'm editing copy for a nine-part educational series about a non-profit organization that I will call Foo Society here. They do admirable work and I'm happy to help more people learn about them. However, I'm a little conflicted about the way they have asked us to represent their name. On their own website, they use all caps, and they've asked us to do the same. They do this not only in headlines and in their logo, but even in ordinary sentences. For example:

FOO SOCIETY was recently commended by a United States Senator.

Obviously, it's their name and they can choose to write it as they like in their own materials. And I certainly understand that in logo treatments, it is common to use different capitalization for stylistic purposes.

However, when a third party is referring to the organization, is it acceptable to use all caps if the name is not actually an acronym?

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    Related: William Safire's 1984 note ("A clever and pernicious trick is being played by image makers, and the print media are being duped. The trick is the use of typography to make a name stand out and sell in editorial copy.") and a later NYT Mag. essay (in the context of camel case) on whether third parties (in that context, newspapers) are compelled to use a company's preferred formatting of their name. Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 23:24
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    I am sure an organization may use whatever name, in whatever form it wishes. A responsible person writing about that organization will respect that form.
    – J. Taylor
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 23:30
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    @J.Taylor Are you sure about that? Suppose a company were named 𝕽𝕰𝕯⸗𝕭𝕷𝕬𝕮𝕶 𝕷𝖊𝖙𝖙𝖊𝖗, and they “required” that their name always be written in a bold black-letter typeface colored red, including all caps for the first two words separated by an old-fashioned double-oblique hyphen set at an angle? Are you supposed to “respect” that request just because they want you to? Robert Bringhurst in The Elements of Typographic Style suggests that this is nonsense, that ɴᴏ ᴇɴᴛɪᴛʏ gets to dictate how its name “must” be set into type.
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 2:20
  • @ tchrist,, the responsibility has practical limits. The question concerned all caps. Not using all caps when proper and practical would not be responsible. The example you use is not of a name, but a logo. In any Common Law Court it would be an exhibit , not a name Of course no entity can dictate how another may set type- and a typesetter is free to be irresponsible . By setting "france" or "united kingdom" the typesetter is making a statement, the same as when not using caps with a name that the entity with that name says is caps.
    – J. Taylor
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 10:54
  • @tchrist - could you post this as an answer so I can upvote it? Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 16:18

1 Answer 1


As has been commented, it's quite likely that Foo Society prefer capitals in order to emphasise the name by unbalancing it within the page. A name like FOO SOCIETY stands out in a block of text. One way round this (while respecting their typographic preferences) might be to use small caps and write ꜰᴏᴏ sᴏᴄɪᴇᴛʏ instead. Where small caps exist in a typeface, they are generally designed not to unbalance the page and over-emphasise the word within the body of text. This paragraph is intended to provide a block of text illustrating the point.

TL;DR: use small capitals.

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