Titles, and Style

I’ve just made an interesting observation reading several articles from The New York Times.

It appears their stylebook dictates that an elected official’s title is only used with the first occurance of their name. After that, the title disappears and is replaced with their gender specific title (Mr. Mrs. Ms.) This, however, is only the case if the title is political. Rev. Al Sharpton remains a Reverend. Dr. Howard Dean, remains a doctor. Gen. Wesley Clark remains a General.

Locally, the St. Louis Post Dispatch uses a slightly different method. One I believe I see more often. After the first mention of the name with the title, the title disappears as well. But it isn’t replaced with the gender specifier. Only the last name remains. President Bush becomes Bush. Rev Sharpton becomes Sharpton. General Clark becomes Clark. And Dr. Dean becomes Dean.

I think I definitely prefer the Post’s style. It doesn’t give undue preference to titles based on how they were earned. (Who’s really to say that a title earned through election is somehow less worthy than one earned through a college degree — or a military career?) And it avoids the traps inherent in choosing between Mrs. Ms. and Miss.

(note: I have not read either stylebook. I am merely using deductive reasoning by reading several news stories, and noticing patterns.)

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