Pam’s question: “Please provide a simple explanation on when federal should be capitalized and when it shouldn’t. The question applies to other modifiers like state or national.”
BizWritingTip response: Years ago, when in doubt you were told to capitalize a word. Now the guideline is when in doubt use lowercase.
When it comes to words such as federal, state, provincial, government, or national, only capitalize the word when it is part of a proper noun. A proper noun is the official name of a person, place, or thing.
He wants a job with the federal government. (general category)
She will contact the Federal Trade Commission. (proper name)
I have worked for the Ontario government. (non-official name)
I worked for the Government of Ontario. (proper name)
Is the issue subject to federal, state, or local laws? (general categories)