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Use this guide for questions about abbreviations, capitalization, and other writing styles relevant to King County government.

Employees should follow these writing standards in all external and internal materials. Documents produced by consultants for King County also should follow these standards.

This manual is in alphabetical order. Click on the letter that begins the word or term you have a question about, and you will go to the appropriate page:

abbreviations. Abbreviations and acronyms must benefit your readers by making written text simpler and less cumbersome to read. Do not use an abbreviation or acronym that would confuse your readers. When in doubt, spell it out. See individual terms and abbreviations in this style manual for preferred uses.

Never abbreviate county or County. See other individual terms and abbreviations in this style manual for preferred uses.

Always spell out terms, common names and the complete proper name of an organization, project, process, program or document the first time you use them, and repeat the complete term or name at the beginning of sections in longer documents. Although abbreviations or acronyms are capitalized for some common or generic nouns and terms, lowercase the spelled-out form. 

If an abbreviation or acronym of the term or name would not be clear on second reference, avoid using it. Instead, use a shortened version of the name or a generic word, such as the agency, the committee, the department, the division or the company.

If using unfamiliar abbreviations and acronyms is necessary, an effective style on first reference is to follow the complete name with the abbreviation set off between commas: The Endangered Species Act, or ESA, affects many projects. Later references could use the abbreviation, a shortened version of the name or a generic word. Whenever possible, avoid following the name of an organization, project or program with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses: the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

active vs. passive verbs. A verb is active when it shows that the subject acts or does something: The woman caught the busThe council passed the resolution unanimously. A verb is passive when the subject of the verb is acted upon: The bus was caught by the woman. The resolution was passed unanimously by the council. The active voice is simpler, more direct and more forceful than the passive voice. Passive voice may be acceptable when the person or thing receiving the action is more important than the person or thing doing the acting. Also, avoid shifts between active and passive within a sentence. Change: The new manager majored in mechanical engineering and was employed by the Boeing Co. as a project engineer.To: The new manager majored in mechanical engineering and worked at the Boeing Co. as a project engineer. See headlinesClear and simple sentences in the county's Plain-language writing guide .

Boeing Field. See King County International Airport/Boeing Field.

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 bussesExcessive 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 boldfacingitalics, color, type size and different but complementary typefaces. See charts, tablescomposition titlesheadlines, headingsunderlining.

For capitalization guidelines specific to King County, check individual items in this style manual and see these entries below advisory committees, council committees, facilitiesindependently elected officialsjob titles and descriptionsKing County organizational structureMetropolitan 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 townscorrespondencetitles.

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 iPodwhen they begin a sentence, headline or heading. See brand namesservice marktrademark.

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 CouncilAlso see separate entries for countycouncilmemberindependently elected officialsjudgeKing County Executivesheriff, sheriff’s officeand 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 CommitteeThe Regional Transit Committee met last Thursday. Lowercase committee when it stands alone: The committee voted to adopt the measure. See subcommitteetask 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 correspondencejudgeKing County Executivecouncilmembercounty councilsheriff, 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 correspondencecounty executive and independently elected officials (above); judge;  King County Executivesheriff, 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 DivisionBuilding 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 departmentdivisionsectionunit and group--are acceptable: Public Health, Transportation, Wastewater Treatment. Lowercase department, division and so on if they stand alone. See countygovernmental bodiesKing CountyMetro.

  • 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, chairwomancountycouncilmemberdistrictsmotion, 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.

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 NorthendSouthend.

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.


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.

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 capitalizationcollective nounssubcommittee.

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.

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 capitalizationKing 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 capitalizationcities and townsdistrictsgovernmental bodiesKing 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 capitalizationchaircouncilmemberdistrictsmotion, ordinance. Also see council, counsel above.

countywide . One word, lowercase.

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