Knowing the correct rules for capitalization can be challenging, especially for words such as federal and state. As a result of this, the question of whether “federal” is capitalized often arises in different conversations both at schools and other places.
Should you capitalize “federal?”
When used as a proper noun or a title, the word can be uppercase. This means that in cases where it is used to refer to a government entity or institution its first letter should be capitalized. For instance, you can write “Federal Bureau of Investigation” or “Federal Trade Commission.”
However, you cannot write “Federal Courts.” When the word is used as a generic adjective you use lowercase letters. For example, you can write “federal laws” or “federal assistance.”
In some cases, the general rule above may not always be followed. For instance, when the word is used as part of a title of any published document, it has to be capitalized. This also applies in cases where one is using a quote from another published piece. Direct in-text citations require capitalization if the first letter is capitalized in the original text regardless of whether it is used as an adjective or noun.
Should you capitalize “Federal Government?”
Sometimes. When used as a proper noun and referring directly to the “Federal Government” in its official capacity, then you should capitalize it. In most cases, however, you should use lowercase “federal government” according to the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook since the government is composed of multiple branches and is not a singular entity.
The fact that most professional editors like to use the word in lowercase letters can add to the confusion about its correct capitalization. However, government guidelines and other writing styles can provide the best guidance.
To learn more about proper title capitalization rules, give our free title capitalization tool a try.
Regarding the capitalization of “federal government.”
Now, unless I’m mistaken, after reviewing the Chicago Manual of Style (known as CMOS) as well as the Associated Press Stylebook (known as AP Style) – (two of the most used English standards guides in the U.S.), it seems that “federal government” should not be capitalized in most situations.
Here is a brief version of the rule from CMOS:
“The government of the United States is not a single official entity. Nor is it when it is referred to as the federal government or the US government or the US federal government. It’s just a government, which, like those in all countries, has some official bodies that act and operate in the name of government: the Congress, the Senate, the Department of State, etc.”
Again, not a big deal, but as an editor, I often search and come across sites that I’m hoping to gain proper capitalization and punctuation information from (it’s quicker than searching the CMOS site).
It’s true that editors follow the rules of grammar and punctuation, but in many cases, you will see that advertisers use their own rules – the same goes for legal writing – words that aren’t normally capitalized will be capitalized (State, Federal, Court, et cetera).
All the best! Now, to notify all the millions of other websites that capitalize federal government!