Share this entry

Share this page

5 Capitalization

5.10 Titles of office, rank, and relationship

Words for titles and ranks are generally lower case unless they are used before a name, as a name, or in forms of address:

Winston Churchill, the prime minister

Prime Minister Winston Churchill

he was elected prime minister

Yes, Prime Minister

the US president

President Obama

the king of England

King Henry

the queen of Castile

Queen Elizabeth

an assembly of cardinals

Cardinal Richelieu

the rank of a duke

the Duke of Wellington

a feudal lord

Lord Byron

a professor of physics

Professor Higgins

Miss Dunn, the head teacher

Head Teacher Alison Dunn

a Roman general

Good evening, General!

Exceptions to this principle are some unique compound titles that have no non-specific meaning, which in many styles are capitalized in all contexts. Examples are:

Advocate General

Attorney General

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Chief Justice

Dalai Lama

Foreign Secretary

Governor General

Holy Roman Emperor

Home Secretary

Lord Chancellor

Prince of Wales

Princess Royal

Regardless of their syntactic role, references to specific holders of a rank or title are often capitalized:

a letter from the Prime Minister
the Archbishop of Canterbury

Use of this style can lead to difficulties in contexts where titles of office appear frequently: in such cases it is generally clearer and more consistent to stick to the rule that the title of office is capitalized only when used before the office-holder’s name.

It is usual to capitalize the Pope and the reigning monarch (the King/Queen) but not all styles do. When it refers to Muhammad, the Prophet is capitalized (but note an Old Testament prophet). See also 5.11 for religious names.

Historians often impose minimal capitalization, particularly in contexts where the subjects of their writing bear titles: the duke of Somerset. This style can be distracting in works for a general readership.

Capitalize possessive pronouns only when they form part of the titles of a holy person, or of a sovereign or other dignitary:

Her/His Majesty

Their Excellencies

Our Lady

Your Holiness

Personal pronouns referring to the sovereign are capitalized only in proclamations: We, Us, Our, Ours, Ourself, etc.

Words indicating family relationships are lower case unless used as part of a name or in an address:

he did not look like his dad

Hello, Dad!

she has to help her mother

Maya tried to argue with Mother

ask your uncle

Uncle Brian

Share this entry

Share this page


Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

New Hart's Rules

Contents

Preface Editorial team Proofreading marks Glossary of printing and publishing terms