House style: job titles, positions and ranks

We're currently overhauling our house style so that it is consistent across two print publications and one online publication, and the issue of job titles has come up. Currently, on one of the print publications at least, we use lower case for job titles but initial caps for "positions of public office and police ranks", for example:

  • senior reporter John Doe
  • Prime Minister John Doe
  • Police Constable John Doe

(I know, that John Doe has had a very checkered career...)

This approach has several drawbacks, notably a) it can look inconsistent to readers who don't understand the rules behind it, and b) it leads to interminable discussions as to whether local councillors really should get initial caps.

So we're thinking of taking the lead of The Guardian and using lower case for all job titles and positions of public office. However The Guardian does use initial caps for police ranks (I don't know how it treats military ranks, but I imagine it also gives them initial caps).

What do you think? And if you work for a publication, what approach does it take?

Incidentally, I really like The Guardian for putting its style guide online and making it so clear and easy to use. The guide also displays both wit and grumpiness, which I think are necessary components of any style guide (or sub)...


TootsNYC said...

We cap true job titled when they're in front, but I hate it.

I mean, usually a job title is just a description--and I don't have any problem with "dentist Jane Doe." I don't see any distinction between "director of marketing Jane Doe" and "marketing executive Jane Doe."

I know there are people who make a big fuss about putting words like "dentist" in front of the name, or other sorts of fake titles, but I just cannot be bothered with that. Is it clear? Yes, crystallinely so.

Beyond that, who cares?

Jacqueline said...

I think lower-casing all titles makes the most sense. That's 'fair' to everyone and why be elitist about it? What makes a police chief better than a marketing director--only the caps in my opinion.

TootsNYC said...

But then you have "President Bill Clinton" vs. "president Jack Welch"--you rely on context to establish the facts, I guess, but there are times when i do like those proper nouns.

JD (The Engine Room) said...

Why not 'president Bill Clinton'? The Guardian would write 'prime minister Gordon Brown' (there is more than one prime minister in the world, after all).