AP Style Legislative Titles

First Reference

AP Style holds that you should use Rep., Reps., Sen., and Sens. as formal titles when they appear before one or more names. Spell out and lowercase representative and senator in all other uses. For example,

  • I met with Sens. McCain and Kerry yesterday.
  • At lunch, I saw Rep. Charles Rangel.

-but-

  • I met with the senators yesterday.
  • At lunch, I saw the representative.

All other legislative titles (aside from Representative and Senator) should be spelled out.

Formal titles, such as mayor, governor, councilman, delegate, etc., should be capitalized when they appear before a name. They should be lowercase in other uses. For example,

  • I saw that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had been quoted in the paper.
  • The mayor and his council members met over lunch.

Add U.S. or state before a legislative title only when it is necessary to avoid confusion. For example,

  • U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts had a strong primary challenger last year in state Rep. Colleen George.

Also include “U.S.” in stories that have international datelines.

First Reference in Practice

It is not natural in all stories to use the titles Rep. and Sen. in the first reference. To do so isn’t mandatory provided an individual’s title is given later in the story, however.

It is also acceptable to eliminate the title on first reference when an individual has become well know. For example,

  • George W. Bush gave the school’s commencement address. The former President was met with applause at his Alma matter, Yale.

Second Reference

Unless they are part of a direct quotation, you should not use legislative titles before a name on second reference.

Congressman or Congresswomen?

The preferred first-reference forms are Rep. and U.S. Rep. before the name of a U.S. House member. The words “congressman” and “congresswomen” can be used in subsequent references if they do not use the individual’s name, just as senator is used in references to members of the Senate.

“Congressman” and “Congresswoman” should appear as capitalized formal titles only when they precede a name in a direct quotation. For example,

  • John Smith once told me, “Never trust what Congressman Hills says to you.”

Organizational Titles

Capitalize titles for formal, organizational offices within a legislative body when they are being used before a name. For example,

  • Speaker John Boehner
  • Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
  • Majority Leader Harry Reid

For information on AP Style party affiliation, AP Style President or more information on AP Style titles, please see our full pages.

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