Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The AG's o

Few capitalization errors rankle me more than the ones that the word attorney seems to engender. The Attorney General's office! The U.S. Attorney's office!

No!

Assuming you call the president and the pope "the president" and "the pope" when there's no name attached, and not "the President" and "the Pope," you should not be calling the attorney general and the U.S. attorney "the Attorney General" and "the U.S. Attorney." But doesn't the addition of "office" change things? It can. If you want to capitalize such an institution, fine: Attorney General's Office. U.S. Attorney's Office. If you don't, also fine: attorney general's office. U.S. attorney's office. But the caps need to match. If the pope isn't sacred, neither is the goddamned attorney general.

And if you're worried that a lowercased U.S. attorney will be mistaken for a simple American lawyer, random variance in capitalization is not the solution.


2 comments:

Stephen Jones said...

Assuming you call the president and the pope "the president" and "the pope" when there's no name attached,

But I don't think I ever do. If I am referring to a specific person I would always captialize, even if the name isn't mentioned.
I'm having dinner with the Queen.
I will refer the matter to the Managing Director.
The Pope will be visiting Australia next year.


The Guardian Style Guide
http://www.guardian.co.uk/styleguide/page/0,5817,184841,00.html
distingushes between jobs and titles
The Prime Minister of England but the prime minister
but strangely enough insists on
the Pope, the Queen
Presumably as a secular republican organ it does not consider either of them to have a proper job.
The BBC appears to do the same
http://newsrss.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2653403.stm

On the other hand the Churchill Centre
http://www.winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=392
and our current job-holder
http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page1.asp
both consider the job to be worth capitalizing.

I suspect as the Guardian Style Book says it is a question of deference, the lack of capitalization reflecting more egalitarain beliefs. I must have morphed into a Tory in my old age.

Sarah Sol said...

Even AP style treats nobility differently from regular occupational titles. The distinction is whether a title is replacing a name. Arthur, Duke of Wellington, is one example given. If it's not replacing a name and is simply a common noun, why uppercase it?