titles: Formal titles before names are capitalized
By Dick Thien
Chips Quinn Writing Coach
1. Formal titles (president, pope, senator, professor, mayor, city engineer)
are not capitalized or abbreviated when used after a name or without a
2. Formal titles used before a name are capitalized and sometimes are
3. Informal titles -- those that describe jobs -- are not capitalized.
4. When used before a name and out of direct quotation, the following
titles are abbreviated: Dr., Gov., Lt., Rep., Sen. and many military and
religious titles (see those entries in The Associated Press Stylebook).
5. On second reference, drop the title and use the person's last name
6. Do not use long titles (three or more words as a rule of thumb) in front of a name, except when the name is set off from the title by commas.
NOT: Secretary of State Colin Powell . . .
1. On first reference, use a man or woman's first and last name but do
not precede with Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms.
2. On second reference, refer to men and women by their last names only.
If they prefer, you may precede married women's last name by either Miss,
Mrs. or Ms., (that means you have to be sure to ask). If they prefer,
you may precede unmarried women's last name by either Miss or Ms., (again,
that means you have to be sure to ask). AP says never use Mr.
3. If a married woman prefers, or if her first name cannot be learned,
use Mrs. on first reference with husband's first name.
Note: A newspaper's own style overrides any other, including AP. Most newspapers have a local style book or entries in their computer system. When in doubt, go with local style.
Also note: The preceding rules have obvious problems. Many newspapers are trying variations. Some do not use Ms., Miss, Mrs., thus treating men and women alike in the news columns. A few others (The New York Times, for example) solve the treat-alike problem by going the other direction: They use Mr. before a man's last name on second reference.
And note: When you write about young people in a light vein, the use of their last name on second reference sounds odd. So, too, does use of the formal first name (such as William) instead of nickname (Bill). In such instances, exceptions can be made to the formal rules -- but too many exceptions give a newspaper an amateurish tone.
Titles of things
1. Put quotation marks around (not a line under) the titles of books,
movies, operas, plays, poems, songs, TV programs, lectures, speeches and
works of art.
2. In composition titles, capitalize principal words, as well as prepositions
and conjunctions if they contain four or more letters. Do not capitalize
prepositions or conjunctions having fewer than four letters.
3.. Always capitalize the first word of a title, no matter of its size
4. Do not use quotation marks around the names of newspapers, reference
books or magazines.
Precede and Proceed
Precede means to go before.
Proceed means to continue, to go forward, to move along a particular
Rebut and Refute
Rebut means to reply to an argument, without necessarily proving the point. Dictionaries ascribe to the word a certain formality of form, as in a legal argument or debate.
Refute, on the other hand, means a successful attack on another's position. Journalists should use this word carefully. As a rule, it is beyond the scope of reporting to declare one side a winner over another.
USAGE TRICKS AND TRAPS
Pronoun Gender Avoid, when you can, assigning a masculine or feminine character to pronouns standing for general occupations or types. Often, you can change the noun to a plural so the sexless they can stand as the pronoun.
When the plural is inappropriate, however, writers divide into two camps. Half opt for the masculine he and half for he or she. In a survey of more than 100 editors, 55 percent approved of the simpler he over he or she; you can use he or she alone, rather than the awkward he or she.
Occasionally, you will see an attempt to create a new ungendered word, such as s/he, but these efforts have gained little support.
NOT: An American has a right to be proud of her country.
Collective Nouns Collective nouns describe an entity made up of separate parts. Examples: family, jury, committee. Experts are divided over whether such nouns can be plural sometimes and singular others. The Associated Press is on the always-singular side -- as is the average ear (the jury ARE divided sounds odd to most of us). As a writer, you have to be alert to questions of subject-verb agreement and pronoun-antecedent agreement when using collective nouns.
NOT: A Lincoln family was honored for their contribution to . . .
BUT: A Lincoln family was honored for its contribution to . . .
The last solution, while wordy and awkward, is the writer's most common solution to the problem: make the noun plural by adding members or another appropriate word.