Nancy Edmonds Hanson, APR

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Mass Communications 210
Media Writing

AP Style: Courtesy and Professional Titles


Professional and Honorary Titles

Capitalize brief titles when used before the individual’s name. Never capitalize titles used after the name or titles that stand alone.

bulletNever capitalize a title used alone, no matter how important it seems.
   The president signed the bill. The pope blessed the multitude.
bulletJob titles used before an individual's name are capitalized. Avoid using long, bureaucratic, elaborate titles before names, however; instead of "State Forensic Pathologist and Director of State Laboratories Gus Grissom," paraphrase and lower-case: "lab director Gus Grissom" or "state pathologist Gus Grissom." The alternative is to place the full title after the name, set off by a comma. (Since it's behind the name, it wouldn't be capitalized.)
bulletNever capitalize a job title that stands alone. If it isn't followed by a proper name, it's lower case.
    She was promoted to vice president for market development.
bulletMost job descriptions are not considered titles and are not capitalized: astronaut John Glenn, actor Zac Efron, teacher Nancy Hanson.
bulletFormal titles are those the denote a scope of authority, professional rank or academic rank: professor, judge, mayor, doctor, king, emperor. Remember, they're capitalized when used with a proper name, but not when used alone.

bulletMost formal titles are not abbreviated when used with a proper name. Only a few titles can be abbreviated:
bulletGov. Pawlenty
bulletLt. Gov. Dalrymple
bulletSen. Conrad
bulletRep. Pomeroy
bulletDr. Dreamy
bulletthe Rev. Boilerplate
bulletMost military and law enforcement titles, including Gen. Patton, Lt. Fuzz, Cpl. Klinger, Sgt. Friday, Pvt. Beetle Bailey
bullet NEVER ABBREVIATED: President, Vice President

Courtesy Titles: Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms.

bulletBoth men and women are introduced with their first and last names — and without a courtesy title — on first reference.
bulletUse courtesy titles (Mr., Miss etc) only in direct quotations. Refer to all adults by last name on second reference. First names are generally used for children (usually those under 16, depending on context).
bulletIf the person's gender isn't clear from his or her first name (Pat, Lesley), make this clear by referring to him or her by the appropriate pronoun soon after the first reference.



Last updated on 08/25/08 by Nancy E. Hanson