AP Style Governmental Bodies

The AP Stylebook holds to the following guidelines.

Full Name

Capitalize the full proper names of governmental agencies, departments, and offices. For example,

  • the U.S. Department of State
  • the Georgia Department of Human Resources
  • the Boston city Council
  • the Chicago Fire Department

Without Jurisdiction

Retain capitalization in referring to a specific body if the dateline or context makes the name of the nation, state, county, city, etc. unnecessary. For example,

  • the Department of State (in a story from Washington)
  • the Department of Human Resources or the state Department of Human Resources (in a story from Georgia)
  • the City Council (in a story from Boston)
  • the Fire Department or the city Fire Department (in a story from Chicago)

Lowercase further condensations of the name. For example,

  • the department
  • the council

For additional guidelines, please see, AP Style Assembly, AP Style City Council, AP Style Committee, AP Style Congress, AP Style Legislature, AP Style House of Representatives, AP Style Senate, AP Style Supreme Court of the United States, and AP Style Supreme Court of the States.

Flip-Flopped Names

Retain capital names for the name of a governmental body if its formal name is flopped to delete the word “of.” For example,

  • the State Department
  • the Human Resources Department

Generic Equivalents

If a generic term has become the equivalent of a proper name in popular use, treat it as a proper name. For example,

  • Walpole State Prison

Even though the proper name of this institution is the “Massachusetts Correctional Institute-Walpole.”

For additional examples, see AP Style Legislature, AP Style Police Department, and AP Style Prison, Jail.

Plural, Nonspecific References

All words that are capitalized when part of a proper names should be lowercase when they are used in the plural or do not refer to a specific, existing body. Here are a few examples,

  • All states except Nebraska have a state senate.
  • The town does not have a fire department.
  • The bill requires city councils to provide matching funds.
  • The president will address the lower houses of the New York and New Jersey legislatures.

Non-U.S. Bodies

The same principles also apply here.

Capitalize the names of the specific governmental agencies and departments, either with the name of the nation or without it if clear in the context. For example,

  • French Foreign Ministry, the Foreign Ministry.

Lowercase “the ministry” or a similar term when standing alone.


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