How Do You Write AP Style Legislative Titles?
Staying on top of what is going on in your national and state legislatures is important to be an informed voter and to be involved in your community. Even if you do not consider yourself politically savvy, chances are high that you may need to write press releases or other SEO content that mentions members of legislature – or maybe you just want to be able to refer to members and organizations of government properly when having a healthy debate with friends. AP style legislative titles follow specific forms that are useful to remember.
So is “senator” capitalized? Should “congress” be capitalized? Read on to find out!
Similar to referencing a formal title in AP style, when referring to a member of the U.S. House and Senate for the first time in a piece of content, it’s best to use Rep. (or U.S. Rep.) and Sen., respectively, before the individual’s name. Use Reps. and Sens. when mentioning more than one person.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders
- Reps. Trey Gowdy and John Ratcliffe
Using these legislative titles upon first reference is not mandatory when following AP Stylebook guidelines, but it is a common practice. If you don’t use the title upon first reference, you need to make sure it’s mentioned later in the story.
Capitalize assemblywoman, assemblyman, city councilor and delegate when used as formal titles before a name. In all other instances, they should be lowercase.
- Assemblywoman Diana Richardson
- City Councilor Ayanna Pressley
Using International Datelines
Put U.S. or state before the title only when trying to prevent confusion. Also, if the content or story includes international datelines, AP style legislative titles should include U.S. at the beginning.
- U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren
- Former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan
Dropping the Legislative Title
Leaving off the initial legislative title is often appropriate if the individual is well-known.
- The Secret Service confirmed that Barack Obama was placed under the agency’s protection. The Illinois senator declined to comment on the matter.
If you have already included a legislative title before a name on a first reference, you do not need to include the title again with the second reference. For additional references, spell out and lowercase representative and senator, as well as all other legislative titles.
- The Indiana representative announced that he will be stepping down.
Using ‘Congressman’ and ‘Congresswoman’
It is also acceptable to use the lowercase congressman or congresswoman for subsequent references to U.S. House members that do not include the individual’s name.
- The Wisconsin congressman’s vice presidential running mate is Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.
The only time you may need to include the legislative title when referring to an individual for a second time is if the title is part of a direct quotation.
When a title is used before a name for a formal, organizational office within a legislative body, be sure to capitalize the title:
- Senate President Pro Tem Orrin Hatch
- House Speaker Paul Ryan
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley
Bonus: Using ‘Congress’
Sure, Congress is a branch of the United States government, not a legislative title like we’ve outlined in this article, but we wanted to share how to properly use the term when writing about members of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.
Capitalize Congress and U.S. Congress when you’re referring to the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Congress is not a proper substitute for the House only.
Congress should also be capitalized when referring to foreign bodies that also use the term, such as the Argentine Congress.
However, go with the lowercase congress when you are using it to mean convention.
- We first met at a medical congress.
AP Style Legislative Titles: You Can Do It!
AP style legislative titles, while intimidating at first, typically follow a straightforward format. Do you have any other questions about whether or not “senator” is capitalized? If you have any additional input on using legislative titles following AP style, share your thoughts in the comments below!
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This didn’t answer the questions it claimed it would in the beginning of the article. Wtf?
Hi! Thanks for your feedback. It helped us realize that the congress question needed more fleshing out. We’ve updated the article to better answer that question. However, the various ways to use senator are outlined in both the “First Reference” and “Second Reference” sections. If you have a specific question about usage, lay it on us! We’re happy to help.
When a legislator is also a doctor or a revered, which comes first? Dr. Senator XYZ or Senator Dr.? An easy workaround with “Dr.” is to say “Sen. XYZ, MD,” but this doesn’t work as well with a reverend. Help!
This is what AP says about this issue:
“News stories focus on the officerholder’s title, but will include a medical professional reference if relevant: Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. and a physician, is an expert on health care policy. In describing a candidate, a medical professional title might be relevant: Dr. Sarah Smith, a surgeon, is running for county coroner. More often, the title of the political office — either held or being sought — takes precedence over a professional title.”
This is the AP rule on using “reverend.”
“In many cases, the Rev. is the designation that applies before a name on first reference. Use the Rev. Dr. only if the individual has an earned doctoral degree (doctor of divinity degrees frequently are honorary) and reference to the degree is relevant.”
Thanks for reading!
Can you clarify how to address a Representative in Second References (in this case proper reference to tittle was used in the first reference) in an article or blog post for example?
Can you say just the person’s last name? “Among her many outstanding achievements, LASTNAME is the …”, or should you say “Among her many outstanding achievements, Ms. LASTNAME is the …” of something else is more appropriate? Thanks!
On second reference, use only the last name without “Ms.”
Are titles like “Minority Leader” and “President Pro Tem” capitalized when they aren’t followed by the person’s name? I learned that “Speaker” is always capitalized when writing about the Speaker of the House, even if you don’t follow it with the person’s name, but I don’t know if that applies to the other titles in Congress.
When those terms are not used before the name, do not capitalize them.
Ex: “Leahy, a Democrat, is the president pro tem of the Senate.”
Ex: “Senate President Pro Tem Patrick Leahy”
Hi Amber and Britainy. Thanks for this helpful post! Here’s another vexing question for you:
Should a possessive apostrophe be used when a state designation is part of the title? In other words, should it be Massachusetts’ Senator Elizabeth Warren or Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Thanks in advance!
Go with “Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.”
Britainy, thank you for this very informative article. I have a follow-up question. If I refer to “the speaker of the House” (or “the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives”) without following that legislative title with a specific name (i.e., “Speaker Nancy Pelosi”), but merely comment generally on who might be “the next House speaker” or “the next speaker of the House,” is “speaker/Speaker” capitalized or lowercase? I know “senator” and “governor” are lowercase if they are not followed by a person’s specific name, but I wasn’t sure about “speaker.” Thank you ahead of time if you’re able to clarify this.
Your general examples are correct: Always capitalize “House,” but keep “speaker” lowercase.