AP Style Department

Should You Capitalize Department?

The following are the U.S. government departments:

  • Department of Agriculture (USDA acceptable on second reference)
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense (DOD or Pentagon acceptable on second reference)
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy (DOE acceptable on second reference)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS acceptable on second reference)
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS acceptable on second references)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD acceptable on second reference)
  • Department of the Interior
  • Department of Justice (DOJ acceptable on second reference)
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of State
  • Department of Transportation (DOT acceptable on second reference)
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA acceptable on second reference)

AP Style holds that it is preferable to list the subject first in stories, such as the Agriculture Department and Commerce Department. Exceptions are Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Veterans Affairs.

You should avoid acronyms when possible. Phrases such as “the department” are preferable on second reference because it is more readable and avoids alphabet soup.

Lowercase “department” in plural uses, but capitalize the proper name element. For example,

  • Yesterday, the departments of Defense and State made an announcement.

A shorthand reference to the proper name element is also capitalized. For example,

  • Kissinger said, “State and Justice must resolve their differences.”

-but-

  • Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state.

Lowercase “the department” when it stands alone.

Do not abbreviate “department” in any usage.

Titles

In stories with U.S. datelines, do not include U.S. before the titles of Secretary of State or other governmental officials, except where necessary for clarity. For example,

  • Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Eric Holder

In stories with international datelines, include U.S. before the titles. For example,

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
  • U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Exceptions are the President and Vice President.

  • President Barack Obama
  • Vice President Joe Biden

See also AP Style Academic Departments

Leave a Comment