Proper Names

Q. I’m editing a biography of a WWII pilot. Would bomber training and fighter training be capitalized because they are referring to specific types of planes?

Q. I am a government auditor who frequently issues findings to entities with long, cumbersome names (e.g., the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission for Widget Standards and Inspections). In my previous job, I was instructed to state the full name of the entity the first time it appeared in a report, followed by a capitalized abbreviated version (e.g., Commission) throughout the rest of the report. In my new job, I have been instructed to follow The Chicago Manual of Style, which has been interpreted to mean using lowercase for such abbreviations. Apparently, I am not the first person to question this practice, and it has become a source of contention in our office. Do you have any words of wisdom to help mediate this dispute?

Q. When writing about the town in Massachusetts, should I use Foxboro or Foxborough? The latter is the technical, legal name; the former is what everybody (USPS included) prefers and actually uses.

Q. Would you capitalize both terms in “Easter Bunny”? One of my coworkers argues that we should not capitalize the “bunny.” While she grants that, for example, we would capitalize “Santa Claus,” she argues that that is the character’s proper name. The same does not apply here. We’re talking about an unnamed bunny who happens to be active on Easter; hence, “the Easter bunny.” My feeling is that we should capitalize it, as we’re not talking about just any bunny, but a specific mythological figure. I think it falls under the penumbra of CMOS 8.34 and 8.35; whether or not “Easter Bunny” is the character’s proper name, it’s certainly used as such. What say you?

Q. I know that CMOS prefers theater to theatre, but when referring to degrees from the Department of Theatre (the university’s determined spelling), which should I go with?

Q. I am confused by how to style bacteria names. Merriam-Webster lists salmonella, streptococcus, and staphylococcus, as well as E. coli. Should they be treated as roman and lowercase (except for E. coli)? The bacterium Listeria is not listed. Is it inconsistent to style this as initial capped and italic if the other names are roman and lowercase?

Q. With reference to the NYPD crime data collection system, should I write COMPSTAT, CompStat, Compstat, or CompSTAT? All four seem to be used in journals.

Q. How do you handle real product names like Head & Shoulders Shampoo or Gorton’s of Gloucester? Do you italicize or put quotes around them, or just write them the way they are used on the product?

Q. The author of a journal article argues that the terms listed below should be capitalized because they are “descriptive units.” The terms are descriptive of the patterns seen on Native American rock art. However, they are not considered to be types of rock art and are capitalized unpredictably in published works. Should these terms be capitalized or not? Cross, Split Shield, Midpoint Band, Patterned Lines, Perching Crow, Teeth, Eyes, Face.

Q. I have a question related to proper names and varying scholarly conventions. I am editing a volume on Jews in the medieval Middle East and have to make some final copyediting decisions. The standard convention for Arabic names is to transliterate rather than anglicize (Ibrāhīm, not Abraham; Muḥammad, not Mohamed; Isḥāq, not Isaac; Sulaymān, not Solomon). But for Hebrew names, the convention in Jewish studies until a few decades ago was to anglicize (Abraham, not Avraham; Japheth, not Yefet; Isaac, not Yizḥaq; Solomon, not Shelomoh). This raises problems of consistency.

Now that English-language readers are accustomed to foreign-sounding names, anglicization seems outdated. I have stopped doing it in my own writing. But will transliterating Hebrew names alienate authors accustomed by long habit to anglicizing them, or readers who search the scholarly literature for Shelomoh ben Yizḥaq but find only Solomon ben Isaac? And in the short term, should I impose transliteration on my authors who anglicize?