Thursday, September 23, 2004

American Lawyers?

References to U.S. attorneys, meaning federal prosecutors who hold that title, are fine when the context is clear, but use federal prosecutors when U.S. attorneys could be read to mean American lawyers. Your readers don't necessarily know that you scrupulously observe the distinction between lawyer and attorney.

Yes, capping U.S. Attorney would solve that problem, but it would be too drastic a break with the style principle that titles are not capped in isolation. Just as President Bush and Pope John Paul II are the president and the pope, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White is the U.S. attorney.


Paul said...

This matter came across my desk the other day in regard to the film Collateral. Instinct told me that it might mean federal prosecutor and after checking I changed it for clarity.

Matthew said...

How about "United States attorney"? Spelling it out may be unusual to cause the reader's brain to stop and realize that something other than "American lawyer" is meant.