Skip to main content
King County logo

CAD . An acronym for computer-aided design. Spell out on first reference.

calendar . Commonly misspelled.

call letters . Capitalize all letters. Separate the type of station from the call letters with a hyphen: KIRO-AM, KMTT-FM, KING-TV, NBC-TV. Use these formats for citizens band operators: KTE9136, KTEM1234. See channel, citizens band, station.

cancel, canceled, canceling, cancellation . Commonly misspelled.

can, may . Commonly confused. Can refers to the capability, physical or mental ability, or power to do something, and may refers to authorization or permission and sometimes possibility: They can finish the project by March. May I have an extra week to finish the project? You may lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. May is almost always the correct word to use in a question. See may, might entry.

cannot . One word.

can't hardly. Incorrect. "Not" is implied in hardly. Use can hardly, instead, or drop hardly: I can hardly wait. I can't wait.

capital, capitol . Frequently confused or misspelled. Capital is a city, the seat of government. Do not capitalize: Olympia is the capital of Washington. Capital city is redundant. Capital also refers to money. Capitol is the building in which the U.S. Congress or the state Legislature meets. Capitalize U.S. Capitol and the Capitol when referring to the building in Washington, D.C., and do the same when referring to state capitols: The Washington Capitol is in Olympia. Capitol building is redundant. See Capitol Hill.

capitalization . Avoid unnecessary capitalization. Begin proper nouns, sentences, headings and the important words in publication titles with capital letters. A proper noun is the formal, official, unique or popular name of a specific person, place or thing. A common noun, lowercased, is the name of a general class of people, places or things. A common noun may also be used to identify a particular person, place or thing, typically on second reference, also lowercased: Communications Manager Lottie Press, the communications manager; Green Lake, the lake; Webster’s New World Dictionary, the dictionary.

Metro operates buses, not busses Excessive capitalization for other purposes, such as highlighting words or stressing their importance, impedes reading and reverses the intended effect. Do not capitalize the first letter of a word (or words in a phrase) simply to highlight it or to express its importance. Check this or another style manual for a particular word or phrase or type of word or phrase. If not listed here, consult another style manual or your dictionary. And if still in doubt, lowercase.

Don't capitalize words simply to highlight their importance.

Except for acronyms and some abbreviations, avoid capitalizing all the letters in a word, phrase, sentence, heading or headline--including brand names, logos and trademarks. That guideline applies to e-mail messages, Web pages, print documents and most other material. If necessary for emphasis, try other typographical uses, such as boldfacing, italics, color, type size and different but complementary typefaces. See charts, tables; composition titles; headlines, headings; underlining.

For capitalization guidelines specific to King County, check individual items in this style manual and see these entries below advisory committees, council committees, facilities, independently elected officials, job titles and descriptions, King County organizational structure, Metropolitan King County Council and programs, projects and plans.

Follow differing capitalization styles used in government acts, amendments, bills, charters, codes, constitutions, laws, motions, ordinances, resolutions and statutes only when quoting them directly. Also see cities and towns; correspondence; titles.

Capitalize the first letter of the first word of every sentence, heading and headline, including quoted statements and direct questions. Even if a person, business or organization begins its name with a lowercase letter, capitalize the first letter of the name at the beginning of sentences, headings and headlines: Gary de Shazo won the design award. De Shazo expressed appreciation for the support of his colleagues. Similarly, capitalize the first letter of proper names like eBay Inc. and iPod when they begin a sentence, headline or heading. See brand names, service mark, trademark.

Capitalization of abbreviations and acronyms varies. For guidance, see abbreviations and acronyms, entries in this style manual for specific words and terms, and your dictionary. Although the abbreviation or acronym for some common or generic nouns and terms may be capitalized, lowercase the spelled-out form; for example, see environmental impact statement.

Capitalize proper nouns that specifically identify a person, place or thing, unless a person, business or organization requests a lowercase first letter. If a name begins with a lowercase letter, capitalize the first letter of the name at the beginning of sentences and headlines.

Capitalize the proper names of nationalities, peoples, races, tribes, etc.: African American, American Indians, Arab, Asian, Jewish, Latino, Muckleshoot, Tulalip, Puyallup. Lowercase black, white, red, etc. See race.

Capitalize common nouns when they're part of the full name for a person, place or thing. But lowercase common nouns when they're used alone in later references. Examples: Exchange Building, the building; City of Seattle, the city; Boeing Co., the company; Department of Natural Resources and Parks, the department; Webster's New World Dictionary, the dictionary; the Human Resources Division, the division; Vashon Island, the island; Green Lake, Lake Washington, the lake; Cascade Mountains, the mountains; Lincoln Park, the park; West Point Treatment Plant, the plant; Sammamish River, the river; the Brightwater Siting Project, the project; Northgate Shopping Center, the shopping center; Puget Sound, the sound; Seahawks Stadium, the stadium; Hanford Street, the street; Paramount Theater, the theater; University of Washington, the university; Woodland Park Zoo, the zoo. See county.

Lowercase the plural form of a common noun when listing more than one proper name: Democratic and Republican parties, Madison and Marion streets, routes 15 and 18, 108th and 110th avenues northeast. But don't lowercase the common nouns when the form is not plural: She can catch the bus on First or Second Avenue.

For King County documents, some common nouns are treated as proper nouns, typically on second reference, in these cases: if used in place of the official name of King County government; if used in place of the personal names of independently elected officials; and when used as shortened versions of some organizational names. This style applies only to words used as nouns, not to words (including nouns) used as adjectives modifying a noun: the County established …, but not the County budget or the County program; instead, the county budget, the county program.

For more information on these exceptions to the standard style for common nouns, see these entries below: County Executive, independently elected officials, Metropolitan King County Council. Also see separate entries for county, councilmember, independently elected officials, judge, King County Executive; sheriff, sheriff’s office; and other related entries in this manual:

  • advisory committees . Spell out and capitalize the full name of advisory committees: White Center Community Advisory Committee, Metropolitan Water Pollution Abatement Advisory Committee, Accessible Services Advisory Committee. Refer to the committee (preferred) or abbreviate on later references (all caps, no periods): CAC, MWPAAC, ASAC.
  • council committees . On first reference, spell out and capitalize the full name of the Metropolitan King County Council's committees. The standing committees are the Committee of the Whole; Budget and Fiscal Management Committee; Employment Committee; Growth Management and Unincorporated Areas Committee; Law, Justice and Human Services Committee; Legislative Steering Committee; Management, Labor and Customer Services Committee; Natural Resources, Parks and Open Spaces Committee; Transportation Committee; and Utilities and Technology Committee. The regional committees are the Regional Transit Committee, Regional Water Quality Committee and Regional Policy Committee. The Regional Transit Committee met last Thursday. Lowercase committee when it stands alone: The committee voted to adopt the measure. See subcommittee, task force.

  • County Executive . Always capitalize King County Executive and County Executive before a name and when used in place of the officeholder’s name: County Executive Ronald Michaels will be speaking. The County Executive will be invited to attend. See independently elected officials (below); King County Executive.

  • facilities . Capitalize the official proper name of all King County facilities: Northgate Park-and-Ride, Bellevue Transit Center, West Point Treatment Plant, Richmond Beach Pump Station. But lowercase common noun descriptions of facilities: the Bellevue and Renton transit centers, the park-and-ride lot, the transit center, the treatment plant, the pump station. See facility.

    When using part of a facility's name, capitalize only the proper noun. Lowercase the common nouns and adjectives when shortening the name: East Base, the transit base, the base; West Point Treatment Plant, the West Point plant, the treatment plant, the plant. If words are added to a facility name to explain, define or describe the function of the facility, lowercase all common nouns and adjectives in the description: Lake Union Tunnel, but the Lake Union sewage tunnel. See courthouse.

  • independently elected officials . King County's independently elected officials are the county executive, members of the King County Council, assessor, elections director, sheriff, prosecuting attorney, District Court judges, and Superior Court judges. Capitalize these titles when used immediately before the name of the person holding the office: Prosecuting Attorney Sam Duncan announced.

    Also capitalize these titles if used in place of the officeholder’s name: the Prosecuting Attorney announced …. Except for correspondence, lowercase the title when it’s set off from the officeholder’s name by commas: The prosecuting attorney, Sam Duncan, announced …; Sam Duncan, prosecuting attorney. Also lowercase these titles when used generically without reference to an officeholder. See related entries in this section and correspondence; judge; King County Executive; councilmember; county council; sheriff, sheriff’s office.

  • job titles and descriptions . Capitalize official job titles only when used immediately before a name: Natural Resources and Parks Director Virginia Schwieterman, Parks Division Director Billie Burke, Aquatics Section Manager Tim Wright, Property Agent Mary Munchkin, Administrative Specialist George Bailey. Except in formal business correspondence referring to specific individuals, lowercase titles when they're used alone or set off from a name by commas.

    Capitalize the full name of departments, divisions, sections, offices, units and groups when used with a job title: Virginia Schwieterman, natural resources and parks director; Billie Burke, director of the Parks Division; Tim Wright, Aquatics Section manager; Mary Munchkin, property agent; George Bailey, administrative specialist. Titles may be shortened or modified for clarity. Always lowercase job descriptions. See correspondence; county executive and independently elected officials (above); judge;  King County Executive; sheriff, sheriff's office.

  • King County organizational structure Capitalize the names of all King County departments, divisions, sections, offices, units and groups. For example, King County Department of Development and Environmental Services, Building Services Division, Building Plan Review Section, Fire Marshal's Office. Include the complete name on first reference; for later references, capitalized shortened versions of organizational names--without the words department, division, section, unit and group--are acceptable: Public Health, Transportation, Wastewater Treatment. Lowercase department, division and so on if they stand alone. See county, governmental bodies, King County, Metro.

  • Metropolitan King County Council . Capitalize Metropolitan King County Council on all references. If the full name of the county is clear, capitalize the short form, the County Council, when used in place of the full name. Avoid using the Council alone: The Council will meet next Thursday.

    Capitalize chair when used as a formal title before the name of a person in a council or committee position and when combined with Council in place of the councilmember’s name: Metropolitan King County Council Chair Isaac Lincoln; the Council Chair called the meeting to order. Lowercase the chair when it stands alone.

    Capitalize councilmember when used as a formal title before a person's name and when used in place of the officeholder’s name: Metropolitan King County Councilmember Joyce Klein; the Councilmember introduced the speaker. Lowercase councilmember when it stands alone after a name: Kathleen Williams, a councilmember, said .... The County Council and its members might have other styles for materials they produce. Also see chairman, chairperson, chairwoman; county; councilmember; districts; motion, ordinance.

  • programs, projects and plans . Capitalize the full official name of programs, projects or plans adopted formally by the Metropolitan King County Council. Otherwise, avoid capitalizing them. Always lowercase program, project or plan when the word stands alone or when using only part of the formal name.

Capitol Hill . Not Capital Hill, for the Seattle district or site of the U.S. Capitol. See capital, capitol.

captain . Capitalize and abbreviate as Capt. when used as a formal title before a person's name: King County Sheriff's Capt. Helen Schwieterman. Lowercase captain when it follows a name or stands alone: Helen Schwieterman, King County sheriff's captain. After using the title on first reference, use only the last name in later references.

cardholder. One word, lowercase: ORCA cardholder. But credit card holder.

card reader. Two words, lowercase.

carpool . One word. It may be used as a noun, verb or adjective: The neighbors formed a carpool to save time and money. They carpooled to work to save time and money. She requested some carpool information. See high-occupancy, vanpool, VanPool.

catalog . Not catalogue.

CB. See citizens band.

CBD. See central business district.

CD-ROM . Acronym for compact disc read-only memory. The acronym is acceptable on first use. CD-ROM disc is redundant.

cease . Formal and stuffy. Consider simpler stop or end.

cellphone, cellular phone, cellular telephone . Cellphone is acceptable on first reference. Shortened as cell on county business cards.

Celsius . Use Celsius, not centigrade, when naming temperatures in the metric system. In texts, spell out and capitalize on first reference. The abbreviation C (capitalized, no period) may be used on second reference with a numeral: The temperature dipped to 5 C last night. See Fahrenheit, temperatures.

cement, concrete . Often confused. Cement is dry, powdery ingredient of concrete. Concrete--a mixture of cement, water and sand or gravel--is used to form blocks, driveways, pavement, sidewalks, walls, etc.

center around . Illogical and redundant. Substitute on, in or at for around, or use revolve around. Avoid center upon.

central business district . Usually, downtown (lowercase) is preferred. If necessary, spell out central business district (lowercase) on first reference. CBD is acceptable on second reference. See downtown.

Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority . The legal name of Sound Transit. On first reference, refer to the agency as Sound Transit--the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority. Use Sound Transit on second reference. Do not refer to the agency as the RTA or regional transit authority.

cents . For amounts less than a dollar, use figures and spell out and lowercase cents. For larger amounts, use the $ sign and decimal system: 25 cents, $1.01, $4.50. Don't use the cents symbol: 50¢. Do not use zeros if there are no cents: $6, not $6.00. Including double zeroes is acceptable, however, when aligning multiple dollar amounts in charts and tables when some amounts include cents. See dollars.

century . Lowercase. Spell out numbers less than 10: the first century, the 20th century, the 21st century. See decades, millennium.

chair, chairman, chairperson, chairwoman. Use chair as the title for the heads of the Metropolitan King County Council, council committees and citizens advisory committees, unless the person in the position prefers chairman, chairwoman or chairperson. Capitalize as a formal title before a name. Don't capitalize for temporary or informal positions. See capitalization: Metropolitan King County Council.

chambers . The name of the meeting place of the King County Council is the King County Council Chambers. Lowercase chambers when it stands alone.

changeable . Commonly misspelled

changeover .

channel . Capitalize when used with a figure. Lowercase elsewhere: He turned to Channel 7. No channel will broadcast the news conference. See call letters, station.

chapter . Capitalize when used with a number to name a section of a book or legal code: Chapter 5. Lowercase when standing alone.

character . Commonly misspelled.

charts, tables . Charts and tables are useful to present information concisely. Abbreviations not typically used in text are acceptable in charts and tables because of limited space. But abbreviations must still be clear to the reader and consistently used. Also, charts, tables and graphs should have titles. Capitalize the first letter of proper nouns and key words in the titles and headings of charts and tables. Type styles and formats used in charts should be consistent throughout a publication. When referring to a chart or table in the text, capitalize the word chart or table and use the numeral: As Table 4 shows, traffic is increasing.

check in (v.), check-in (n. and adj.).

check out (v), checkout (n. and adj.).

check up (v.), checkup (n.).

Chicano. See Hispanic, Latino.

chief . Capitalize before a name when part of an official job title: Vehicle Maintenance Chief Ira Zentin. Lowercase when used alone or after a name between commas: She called Joe Murdoch, customer relations chief, about the commendation. See titles.

child care, child-care. Hyphenate as an adjective: He uses a child-care agency in downtown Seattle. Don't hyphenate as a noun: She searched carefully for child care.

children's . The apostrophe always goes before the s when showing the possessive: the Children's Home Society. Don't use childrens' (with the apostrophe after the s); children is already plural.

chinook salmon . Lowercase chinook in all uses (unless it's the first word in a sentence or in a title, of course). See fish.

choice between, choose between . When between follows choice or choose, use and, not or, between the choices: The students had a choice between taking a mid-term exam and completing another homework assignment. We had to choose between a helicopter ride and a catamaran ride.

Christmas. See holidays.

citations. See bibliographies and notes; composition titles; footnotes, endnotes.

cities and towns . Capitalize the names of cities and towns in all uses. Capitalize city as part of a proper name: New York City, Kansas City.

Lowercase city when used as an adjective or noun: the city budget, mayor of the city. Capitalize city when it's part of the proper name of a governmental unit: He worked for the City of Seattle. Omit the redundant city of (or lowercase it) when naming cities in other uses: They visited Chicago. They visited the city of Chicago. See county.

Capitalize well-known names for the sections of a city. Local examples include Capitol Hill, University District, Magnolia, International District, Eastside, West Seattle. See Northend, Southend.

Lowercase general designations such as south Seattle. And whenever possible, use more-exact descriptions instead: Rainier Beach or Madrona, for example, instead of south Seattle.

citizen . A citizen is a person who has the full civil rights of a nation through birth or naturalization. Cities and states in the United States do not confer citizenship. Use resident to include noncitizens who live in states, cities and communities. Member of the community is a wordy alternative. See people, persons; public.

citizens band . Don't put an apostrophe after the s. Spell out on first use; abbreviate as CB on second reference. See call letters.

city council . Capitalize when part of a proper name: The Seattle City Council scheduled a meeting. Also capitalize if the name of the city is clear: The City Council passed a motion. Lowercase in other uses: the council, the Seattle and Renton city councils.

citywide . One word.

class. See collective nouns.

clean up (v.), cleanup (n. and adj.). The cleanup lasted three days. It took three days to clean up the stream.

clearly . evident Hackneyed. A fact is no more evident when it is clearly evident. Use sparingly to mean obviously or decidedly. Drop clearly.

cliché. Avoid using cliché, such as "Doing more with less." They are typically stale from overuse, usually wordy, often vague and occasionally inane. Instead, use clearer, more direct words and expressions.

Co. . Acceptable as an abbreviation for Co. in company names. Don't use it as an abbreviation for county or County. See company names, county.

co- . Hyphenate when forming nouns, adjectives or verbs that show occupation or status: co-host, co-pilot, co-signer, co-worker. Omit the hyphen in other combinations, including coordinate, coordination, cooperate, cooperation, cooperative. See prefixes.

coach. See bus, buses.

coast . Lowercase when when writing about the physical shoreline: Atlantic coast, Pacific coast. Cruise ships sail along the Pacific coast. Capitalize when writing about regions of the United States along such shorelines: The Pacific Coast states all had good weather. The West Coast.

Don't capitalize when writing about smaller areas: The Washington coast is beautiful this time of year.

coed. Acceptable as an adjective (with no hyphen) to describe coeducational institutions. Use female student, instead, as a noun phrase.

coho salmon . Lowercase coho in all uses (unless it's the first word in a sentence or in a title, of course). See fish.

coliform bacteria . Lowercase.

collective nouns . Collective nouns name a group or collection of persons, places, things, ideas, actions or qualities, including board, class, committee, crowd, family, group, herd, jury, panel, public, orchestra, staff, team. Use singular verbs and pronouns for nouns that show a unit: The committee is meeting to set its agenda. The crowd is growing restless. To emphasize individuals in a group, use members of: Staff members responded to questions. Some members of the committee left early.

Some nouns are both singular and plural in meaning, including corps, chassis, deer, fat, fish, grease, moose, oil, public, sediment, sheep, soil, water and waste. The use of a singular or plural verb in a particular sentence conveys the meaning. Because these words are already plural, avoid adding s or es to make them plural: Scientists studied sediment from Elliott Bay. She took samples of soil from the site. When referring to various types or species, however, plural spellings may be used: Scientists studied Green Lake and Lake Washington sediments. The site contained both glacial and sandy soils. See it.

Follow the usual rules of subject-verb agreement when using the proper names of athletic teams and musical bands or groups: The Seattle Mariners are on the road. The Seattle Storm is an event sponsor. The Beatles were wonderful at the old Seattle Center Coliseum and so were the Rolling Stones. The Who is still terrific.

college names. See university names.

collide, collision. Two objects must be moving before they can collide. An accident involving a moving car and a stationary telephone pole is not a collision, for example; it's a crash. See near miss, near-miss.

colon (:). The colon has three main uses, all of which involve pointing the reader toward the words that follow the colon. The colon always follows a complete sentence in these uses. Don't combine a dash and a colon. Put only one space after a colon within a sentence or book title.

The most frequent use is to introduce a list, often after expressions such as the following or as follows: Loretta Schwieterman appointed three people to the committee: David Allen, Greg Edwards and Jean Rheinhard. The department has scheduled open houses in the following communities: White Center, July 5; Kent, July 6; and Duvall, July 7. Don't use a colon immediately after a verb. Incorrect: Loretta Schwieterman appointed: David Allen, Greg Edwards and Jean Rheinhard to the committee. Correct: Loretta Schwieterman appointed David Allen, Greg Edwards and Jean Rheinhard to the committee. For more information on creating lists, see lists. Also see semicolon for separating items in a sentence list that contain commas.

Second, the colon can be used to emphasize the word, words or sentence that follows it: He had only one thing on his mind: flowers. The news was good: No one would be laid off. When used this way, the colon replaces such words as that is, namely and for example. Capitalize the first word after a colon if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.

Third, use a colon to introduce a quotation longer than one sentence within a paragraph and to end a paragraph that introduces a quotation in the next paragraph. Use a comma, however, to introduce a quotation of one sentence that remains within a paragraph. See attribution, comma below, quotations, quotation marks.

In addition, use a colon to separate numbers in times (7:15 a.m.), to separate a title and subtitle, and after a business salutation (Dear Mr. Hyde:).

color . Usually wordy and redundant when naming a color. Simplify. Try dropping ...-colored, ... in color and the color ... from phrases like blue-colored brochure, green in color, the color red.

coming . Frequently misspelled. It contains one letter m, not two.

comma (,). The following guidelines treat frequent questions about eight essential uses of the comma.

First, use commas to separate elements in a series of three or more terms. In a complex series of phrases, a serial comma before the final conjunction can aid readability: She opened the closet door, grabbed a coat, and picked up an umbrella. In a simple series, a comma before the conjunction is optional: The van is economical, roomy and dependable. Also, put a comma before the last conjunction in a series if an item in the series also contains a conjunction: He likes jazz, rock, and rhythm and blues. Don't put a comma before the first item in a series or after the and in a series. In this example, the commas in brackets are incorrect: The van is[,] economical, roomy, and[,] dependable. See semicolon for separating items in a sentence list that contain commas. Also see lists.

Second, use a comma to join two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction. An independent clause is a group of words that could stand on its own as a complete sentence; it begins with its own subject. The most common coordinating conjunctions are but, and, for, nor, or, so and yet: The council's Utilities Committee will review the resolution Jan. 12, and the full council is scheduled to act Feb. 11. Don't create run-on sentences by combining two or more independent clauses with only commas. Either insert conjunctions after the commas or break the clauses into separate sentences. See sentence length.

Third, use a comma to separate an introductory phrase from the rest of the sentence: After graduating from college, he joined the Peace Corps. It may be omitted after short introductory phrases (less than three words) if no ambiguity would result: On Thursday the Metropolitan King County Council will decide the issue. When in doubt, use the comma, especially when it separates two capitalized words. Inserting commas after all introductory phrases can be especially helpful to language translators and readers with limited English proficiency--and it's never incorrect to use them.

Fourth, enclose parenthetic expressions between commas. Parenthetic expressions are word groups that are not essential to the meaning of a sentence. If a parenthetic expression is removed, the sentence would still make sense: The public health director, who toured the facility last week, will make her recommendations today. They took one of their sons, Travis, to the concert. His wife, Emily, is a middle school teacher. As shown in the examples, commas always go both before and after a parenthetic expression within a sentence. If you'd prefer to emphasize a parenthetic phrase, put it between dashes; you can play down such a phrase by placing it between parentheses. Also see this, that, who whom.

Use commas to set off a person's hometown when it follows the name: Rachel Solomon, Seattle, opened a new restaurant. If using a person's age, set it off by commas: Tom O'Rourke, 69, opened a new restaurant.

Do not use commas to set off an essential phrase from the rest of a sentence. Essential phrases are important to the meaning of a sentence: They took their daughter Jennifer to school. Their son Harold works at Ticketmaster. (They have more than one daughter and more than one son.)

Fifth, use commas to set off words and phrases such as however, meanwhile, in fact, in addition, moreover, nevertheless, as a result, thus, therefore, for example, finally and in other words. Usually, place a comma after such expressions when they begin a sentence, and place commas before and after the expressions when they are within a sentence. See however, in fact, in addition to, moreover, nevertheless.

Sixth, use commas to separate a series of adjectives equal in rank. If the adjectives could be rearranged without changing the meaning of a sentence or if the word and could replace the commas without changing the sense, the adjectives are equal: A sleek, new car. A thick, black cloud. See hyphen.

Use no comma when the last adjective before a noun outranks its predecessors because it is an integral element of a noun phrase: a silver articulated bus.

Seventh, use a comma to set off a direct one-sentence quotation within a paragraph: Theodore Roosevelt said, "It's not the critic who counts." Use a comma, before the second quotation mark, in a quotation followed by attribution: "No comment," said Jerry Carson. See attribution, punctuation, quotations, quotation marks.

And eighth, use a comma to separate the parts of numbers, dates and addresses. Use a comma for figures higher than 999: More than 1,000 people attended the event.

Use commas to set off the year in complete dates: The department released the report Nov. 16, 2002, for public review. But don't separate the month from the year when not using a date. They held their first retreat in January 1994.See dates.

Use commas to set off cities from names of states or nations: She went to Spokane, Wash., to tour the bridge retrofit program. He traveled to Paris, France, on vacation.

commence. See begin, commence, start.

commercial driver license (CDL). See driver license.

commitment . Commonly misspelled.

committee . Commonly misspelled. Capitalize if part of the proper name: the Metropolitan King County Council's Regional Policy Committee. Lowercase when used alone: The committee passed the motion. See capitalization, collective nouns, subcommittee.

community action grant . Lowercase. Avoid abbreviating CAG.

commuter aircraft. See air taxi, commuter aircraft.

commuter rail. Do not capitalize. Hyphenate commuter rail when used as an adjective: The commuter-rail system began operating. Refer to Sound Transit's Sounder commuter rail on first reference. Acceptable later references are the Sounder or ST Sounder. Do not use all uppercase letters.

compact disc . CD is acceptable on later references.

company names . For most proper names, capitalize the first letter of each word, or capitalize a different letter if preferred by a company: eBay. But capitalize the first letter if it begins a sentence. Don't use all capital letters unless each letter is pronounced: IBM, Subway (not SUBWAY). Don't use exclamation points, asterisks and plus signs that some companies use in logos and marketing materials for their company (and product) names: Yahoo, not Yahoo! Unless it's part of a company's formal name, replace the ampersand (&) with and.

Abbreviate company, corporation, incorporated and limited when using them after the name of a corporate entity: the Boeing Co., American Broadcasting Cos., Gulf Oil Corp. Do not abbreviate the words Company and Corporation in formal business correspondence. In business correspondence, spell out those words when part of the proper name: Boeing Company. Spell out and lowercase company, companies and corporation when used alone: The company showed a profit in the second quarter. See correspondence, incorporated.

Possessive spellings: the Boeing Co.'s headquarters, National Broadcasting Cos.' stations, Gulf Oil Corps.' profits.

Neither King County nor Metro Transit is a company.

comparable . Commonly misspelled.

compared with, compared to. Often confused. The more common phrase, compared with means "to examine the similarities or differences of two or more things": He averaged 25 points a game in 1992 compared with 18 points a game last year. The speaker compared Congress with the British Parliament. The less common compared to means "to liken two or more things, say they are similar or show a resemblance": The backhoe operator compared her work to climbing Mount Rainier. He compared life to a battle. Memory tip: Compared to is metaphorical while compared with is statistical.

compatible . Commonly misspelled.

complement, compliment. Often misused or confused. Complement is a noun or verb for something that fills up or completes: The base has a complement of 200 drivers, 50 mechanics and 15 office workers. The two ideas complement each other well. A hat may complement a suit, but you would compliment the wearer on her or his hat.

Compliment is a noun or verb for a flattering remark or something free: The supervisor complimented the staff for a job well done. The supervisor's compliment boosted morale.

complete (v.). Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try finish or end unless you're writing about filling in missing or defective parts.

comply with . Try replacing with simpler follow or obey.

compose, comprise, include. Compose is not synonymous with comprise. Compose means to create or put together: The division is composed of six sections. Compose takes of, but comprise never does.

Comprise means to contain, consist of or embrace. The whole comprises the parts. Use it in the active voice and name all the parts that make up the whole after the verb: The division comprises six sections. The zoo comprises mammals, reptiles and birds. Don't use comprised of.

Use include when what follows is only part of the whole: King County includes the Human Services and Health departments. See constitute.

composition titles . Capitalize the main words in titles of books, long poems, long musical compositions, magazines, movies, newsletters, newspapers, plays and works of art such as paintings and sculpture. Italicize the names of such works, or underline them if italic type is not available.

Use a colon between a book's title and its subtitle: Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English.

Capitalize the main words and enclose in quotation marks the titles of dissertations, essays, lectures, short musical compositions, short poems, short stories, songs, speeches, radio and television programs, articles in periodicals and chapters of books. If the title is part of a sentence, commas and periods go inside the closing quotation mark. Other punctuation, such as the question mark and the exclamation point, goes inside the quotation mark if it's part of the title; if it applies to the entire sentence, it goes outside the quotation mark.

Capitalize--but don't italicize, underline or enclose in quotation marks--the names of brochures, bulletins, reports, software, websites, and catalogs of reference material, such as almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications.

When capitalizing hyphenated words in a title, choose a style and follow it consistently. Simplest is to capitalize only the first word unless later words are proper nouns or adjectives: Unique Benefits for Part-time Violinists, All-American Flag-waving Techniques. Second is to capitalize all words except articles, short prepositions and short conjunctions: Over-the-Counter Acid Reducers for Sale Here, A Matter-of-Fact Approach to Guitar Tuning, A New Park-and-Ride Lot for Commuters. Optional exceptions to the the second style are to lowercase the word after a prefix unless it is a proper noun or adjective and to lowercase the second word in a spelled out number: Anti-intellectual Conduct, Twenty-first Century Values. See compound words below, hyphen.

Also see entitled; headlines, headings; magazine names; newspapers.

compound words . Compound words are formed differently for different parts of speech. When forming a compound, such as start up or start-up, first determine the part of speech you want, such as a noun, adjective or verb. Then check this style manual and your dictionary for the correct spelling. If not listed in either source, follow these guidelines: Except for compound nouns formed with a verb and preposition, use two words for unlisted compound nouns: car stop. Use a hyphen for unlisted verb-plus-preposition compound nouns: start-up. Hyphenate unlisted compound verbs. Though there are exceptions, use a hyphen for most unlisted compound adjectives (or compound modifiers): rush-hour service. No hyphen is necessary within a single proper noun (a King County project), a single expression contained in quotation marks: (a "better than promised" attitude), foreign-language phrases (the ad hoc committee), percentages (the 2 percent tax increase) and dollar amounts (a $2 million budget). See capitalization above, hyphen.

compound adjectives, compound modifiers. See hyphen.

computer terms. See Internet.

conceal . Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try hide.

concerning . Pompous. Try replacing with about.

concluded. See attribution.

congress . Capitalize U.S. Congress and Congress when referring to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Lowercase when used as a synonym for convention or in second reference to a group that uses the word as part of its formal name.

congressional districts. See districts.

congressman, congresswoman. Use only when referring to members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

conscience, conscious . Commonly misspelled or confused.

consensus . Commonly misspelled. Means "general agreement or opinion of all or most of the people concerned." It does not necessarily mean unanimous agreement. Avoid using the redundant consensus of opinion and general consensus. Broad consensus is acceptable.

consolidate . Try replacing with simpler combine or join.

constitute . Overstated. Simplify. Try form or make up: Five men and seven women make up the jury. See compose, comprise, include.

constitution . Capitalize references to the U.S. Constitution, with or without the U.S. modifier: Congress is considering an amendment to the Constitution. If you're referring to the constitution of other countries or states, capitalize constitution only if it's preceded by the name of the country or state: the Norwegian Constitution, the country's constitution, the Washington Constitution, the state constitution. Lowercase constitution in other uses: the chapter constitution. Follow differing editorial styles used in amendments, charters and constitutions only when quoting them directly.

construct . Try replacing with simpler build, make or erect.

contact . Preferred verb to mean get in touch with or communicate with--through e-mail, fax, telephone and postal mail. But if you mean call, write, see or similar actions, use the specific verb.

contiguous to . Commonly misused and pompous. Does not mean "close to" or "near" but "abutting, sharing a boundary." Consider using next to instead.

continual, continuous. Often misused or confused. Continual means "repeatedly, frequently recurring or intermittent, with breaks in between": She has to repair the car continually. Periodically or intermittently are useful, clear synonyms for continually to describe something that starts and stops. Continuous means "uninterrupted, in an unbroken stream": Sales have been growing continuously for the past five years.

contractions . Contractions can speed reading and assure accuracy. They also can soften the tone of your writing by making it more personal and conversational. Contractions, however, may be too informal for some documents. Avoid overusing contractions, especially I'd and he'd, because they can mean both I had and I would, he had and he would. Also avoid uncommon contractions, especially in documents that may be translated for or used by readers with limited English proficiency. They include could've, mightn't, might've, mustn't, must've, should've, that'll and would've. See Eight Myths of Writing.

control, controlled, controlling

controversial. See noncontroversial.

Convention & Trade Center . On first reference, use state Convention & Trade Center. For later references, Convention & Trade Center or Convention Center are acceptable.

convince, persuade . Frequently confused. Convince involves thought, trying to affect a person's point of view. Persuade involves action, trying to get a person to do something. Convince usually goes with of or that: He convinced his boss of his value to the company. She convinced her colleague that she was right. Persuade usually goes with to: The students persuaded their teacher to extend the deadline.

cooperate . Consider replacing with simpler help.

copy edit, copy editing, copy editor. Two words each.

corp., corporation. See company names.

Corps of Engineers . On first reference, use U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Corps of Engineers is acceptable on later references.

Place the comma before the closing quotation mark correspondence. The following exceptions to the King County Editorial Style Manual apply to only formal business correspondence for King County. Besides a few exceptions for preprinted county stationery, all other King County style standards apply to business correspondence. See guidance below on formatting county correspondence.

County correspondence follows these exceptions to the style manual.

These guidelines follow U.S. Postal Addressing Standards (2006, external link) and the Gregg Reference Manual (Overview, 2004, external link):

  • The U.S. Postal Service prefers various abbreviations, all capital letters, limited punctuation, and sans serif fonts (like Arial) in mailing (or delivery) addresses, especially for computer-generated labels and bulk mailings. See abbreviations, addresses, capitalization, punctuation.

  • In mailing addresses, abbreviate all compass points (or directionals): E, SW; and generic parts of street names (or suffixes): AVE, BLVD, CIR, CT, DR, LN, PL, RD, RTE, ST. Use numerals for numeric street names in mailing addresses: 123 4TH AVE S, 5678 NE 9TH ST. Spell out highway names in mailing addresses: 23905 HIGHWAY 99, 22729 STATE ROUTE 9. See highway designations. See highway designations.

  • In mailing addresses, eliminate all punctuation except slashes in fractional addresses: 101 1/2 MAIN ST; required hyphens in hyphenated addresses: 112-10 BRONX RD, KSC-NR-0505, BOX 19-2B; and the hyphen in the ZIP+4 code: 98104-3855. Don't put periods after abbreviations, and don't separate parts of the address with a comma.

  • When a mailing address is a post office box, abbreviate post office (with no periods and no spaces): PO BOX 1968, PO BOX GL. If a recipient uses both a street address and a mailing address, such as a post office box, use only the mailing address if possible. Put the mailing address on the line above the line with the city name, state name and ZIP code. Following post office guidelines, don't include the ZIP+4 digits in return addresses printed on envelopes, postcards and publications.

  • When giving a King County mailing address, put the mail stop on the line above the street address. In other mailing addresses, put designations like apartment, room and suite numbers after the street name if all the information fits on the same line. If the designation must go on a separate line for space reasons, put that line immediately before the street address. Use these common abbreviations for designations in mailing addresses: APT, BLDG, STE, RM. Avoid using the pound sign (#) or NO (for number) as designations; if the pound sign is needed, separate it from the following number with a space. See mail stops, No., pound sign, room numbers.

  • Official job titles for King County elected officials and other specific individuals may be capitalized when they're used alone or set off from a person's name: Sue Chin, Attorney General, spoke at the meeting. The Attorney General spoke at the meeting. Don't capitalize job titles used generically: We began advertising for an environmental planning manager last week. The work group has three transit planners. Also, spell out the titles Governor, Senator and Representative before names. See capitalization: job titles and descriptions; governor; legislative titles; titles.

  • If it's available, follow a company's letterhead for abbreviation, capitalization, punctuation and spelling of its name. If letterhead is not available, follow this exception and the other guidelines in the King County Style Manual. Don't abbreviate the words and (as an &), Company and Corporation in company names, unless necessary for mailing addresses. Spell out those words when part of the proper name: Boeing Company. See ampersand, company names.

  • Spell out the names of all months when used with dates: November 16, 2006, not Nov. 16, 2006. See dates, months.

  • The courtesy titles Miss, Mr., Mrs. and Ms. may be used in business correspondence, depending on a person's preference. If you do not know if a person is male or female, don't use a courtesy title; use the person's full name in the salutation. Plural forms of these titles: Misses, Messrs., Mmes., Mses. See Miss, Mr., Mrs., Ms.

  • Except for ZIP code abbreviations in mailing addresses, always spell out state names when used with the names of cities, counties, towns or villages. Put two spaces between the state name and the ZIP code in mailing addresses. See state names, ZIP code.

For guidance on formatting county correspondence, consider using the Gregg Reference Manual (Overview, external link), or check Instructions for Preparing Correspondence for Executive Signature. Please note that editorial style guidelines in the King County Editorial Style Manual supersede style guidelines in those correspondence instructions. Also see Mailing Instructions in the Mail Services Guide (internal link) of the Archives and Records Management Program.

See type fonts for approved fonts in King County correspondence. See the King County Graphic Standards for preprinted letterhead, memos, notepads, business cards, and envelopes and correct use of the county logo. Also see King County Guidelines for Using King County E-mail (internal link).

council, counsel. Sometimes confused. A council is "a group of people elected to represent residents of a town, city or county" and "a group of people who make decisions for an organization." Usually used as a verb meaning "to advise," counsel is also a noun meaning "a lawyer or group of lawyers who give legal advice and represent clients in court." Also, council is a singular noun that should take singular verbs; the articles a or the should usually come before council. Counsel can be either singular or plural, followed by the appropriate verb form. The articles a and the are not usually needed before counsel.

Correct uses: We have received the legal opinion from counsel. Counsel has suggested we go to trial now. We brought this matter before the council. The council has advised us of its position. Incorrect uses: We brought this matter before council. Council has advised us of their position. We go before council at noon. See councilmember and county council below.

council districts. See districts.

councilmember . Use the non-gender word councilmember instead of councilman or councilwoman. Capitalize when used as a formal title before a person's name and when used in place of an officeholder's name: Metropolitan King County Councilmember Steven Fujita attended the meeting. The County Councilmember spoke at the meeting. See capitalization: Metropolitan King County Council.

counsel. See council, counsel above.

county . Capitalize when part of a proper name: King County, Pierce County. Also capitalize the short form, the County, if used alone as a proper noun in second references to King County government (or another county government): He attended the community meeting to represent King County. The County is in good financial health. He represented the County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks [possessive use of the County].

Capitalize the full name of county governmental units: the Metropolitan King County Council, King County Department of Executive Services, King County Facilities Management Division, King County Hazmat Program. When they stand alone, lowercase the department, the division, the section, etc. Exceptions: Always capitalize County in County Council, County Executive and the titles of other elected county officials if used in place of an officeholder’s name, See capitalization, King County Executive.

Lowercase county when used as an adjective to identify or describe a department, program or other element of King County: He represented the county Department of Natural Resources and Parks. The county budget is scheduled for adoption next week, reported county Finance Manager Bill Drake. The ordinance affects all county employees. She will contact the county consultant for the project. See capitalization, cities and towns, districts, governmental bodies, King County.

Also lowercase county when referring to the geographic entity: Population is increasing in the county. The county population is increasing. Lowercase plural combinations: King and Snohomish counties.

Never abbreviate County or county.

county council . Capitalize when part of a proper name: The King County Council scheduled a meeting. Also capitalize if the name of the county is clear in the context: The County Council passed a motion. Avoid use of the Council alone. Lowercase in plural uses: the King and Snohomish county councils. See capitalization; chair; councilmember; districts; motion, ordinance. Also see council, counsel above.

countywide . One word, lowercase.

course names. Capitalize the subject when used with a numeral: Algebra 3, U.S. History 250. Lowercase subjects that aren't proper names when used without a numeral: biology, systems theory, French.

course of. See in the course of.

court decisions . Use numerals and a hyphen: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4, a 5-4 decision.

courtesy titles. See correspondence, Miss, Mr., Mrs., Ms., names.

courthouse . One word. Capitalize when naming the jurisdiction: the King County Courthouse, the U.S. Courthouse. Otherwise, lowercase: the county courthouse, the courthouse. See capitalization.

court names. Capitalize the full proper names of courts. Also capitalize the name if the county name, city name, state name or U.S. is dropped: King County Superior Court, Superior Court; Des Moines Municipal Court, Municipal Court; state Supreme Court, Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, Court of Appeals. Lowercase court when standing alone unless using in in place of the full name of a specific King County court, usually on second reference: He appeared before the Court at the Maleng Regional Justice Center. See judge.

co-worker . See co-.

criteria, criterion . Frequently confused. As the plural form of criterion, criteria is a plural noun that takes plural verbs and pronouns: The criteria are listed on the board; we will use them to evaluate the product. Don't use the criteria is. Criterion is a singular noun that takes singular verbs and pronouns: One criterion is ease of maintenance; it is the first priority for mechanics.

criticize . Commonly misspelled.

crosstown . One word, no hyphen.

crowd. See collective nouns.

cul-de-sac . Always hyphenate and lowercase. Cul-de-sacs is preferred plural form.

currently . Redundant, overstated or imprecise. Omit, use now or be more specific about time element. See presently.

customary . Consider replacing with simpler usual if no meaning is lost.

Customer Assistance Office . Spell out and capitalize.

cut and cover . Hyphenate when used as an adjectival phrase: Using the cut-and-cover method was less expensive than tunneling.

cut back (v.), cutback (n. and adj.). He cut back spending. The cutback will require increased efficiency.

cut off (v.), cutoff (n. and adj.). The other vehicle cut off the bus. The cutoff date for permits is the last Friday of the month.

cyber-. Usually, no hyphen after this prefix: cybercafe, cyberspace. See prefixes.

Back to Top

Quick links

How to use this guide

Select the letter that begins the term you’d like to look up, then scroll down to find the term (or use your browser’s Find function).

Learn more