Should Titles Be Capitalized?

When crafting a press release, publication, or letter, the rules for when and how to use academic or job titles can seem confusing. Virginia Tech follows the Associated Press Stylebook for guidance. Here are some general guidelines and examples to follow.

Academic Titles

The rule of thumb is to capitalize academic titles that precede an individual’s name but lowercase academic titles that follow a name.

  • Capitalize academic titles that directly precede individual names. Note: Capitalizing “professor” or “assistant professor” before a name is an exception to AP Style. Ex: Dean Vernon Wormer, Professor Severus Snape
  • Lowercase academic titles when they are used without a specific name. Ex: the dean, a professor of potions
  • Lowercase academic titles that follow the name of an individual. Ex: Vernon Wormer, dean of Faber College; Severus Snape, professor of potions

Exceptions:

  • Capitalize University Distinguished Professor and Alumni Distinguished Professor whether or not they precede a name. If an area of study is included, capitalize it.
  • Capitalize all professorships and endowed chairs, whether or not they precede a person’s name.

Job Titles

With job titles, capitalize formal job titles that directly precede a person’s name but lowercase job titles that follow a person’s name, are used without name, or are more like job descriptions than formal titles.

  • Capitalize formal job titles that precede an individual’s name. Ex: President Frank Underwood, Sen. Jefferson Smith
  • Lowercase job titles used without a specific name. Ex: the president, the senator, the director, a department head
  • Lowercase job titles that follow a person’s name. Ex: Frank Underwood, U.S. president; Jefferson Smith, senator
  • Lowercase informal job titles that are more like job descriptions. Ex: attorney Atticus Finch, teacher Helen Crump

Doctor

AP only uses “Dr.” for doctors of medicine, dental surgery, veterinary medicine, optometry, and osteopathic medicine.

  • After the first use of “Dr.” with a name, refer to the individual by last name only. Ex: Dr. Marcus Welby (first mention), Welby (subsequent mentions)
  • Do not use the title “Dr.” before the names of people who hold Ph.D.’s, Ed.D.’s, or honorary degrees.

Courtesy Titles

  • Do not use courtesy titles such as Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms.
  • Refer to men and women by their first and last name the first time their name is used. After that, use the last name only. Ex: Bruce Wayne (first mention); Wayne (subsequent mentions)

For additional guidance on using titles, review the Virginia Tech Identity Standards and Style Guide.

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