Change Has Come to Mother Jones’ Style Guide: Biden-Harris in, Trump-Pence Out

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It’s not every day, or year, or four years, that I’m booting a president from our newsroom’s style guide. On Saturday, after multiple news organizations declared Biden-Harris the winning ticket of the presidential election, what choice did I have but to open our style guide, click “edit,” and enshrine the people’s will?

Before:

Capitalize formal titles only when they precede a person’s name: President Trump, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Lowercase informal titles (e.g., special counsel Robert Mueller).

After:

Capitalize formal titles only when they precede a person’s name: President-elect Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Lowercase informal titles (e.g., special counsel Robert Mueller).

Before:

airstrike
a.m., p.m.
American Dream
“Amtrak Joe” Biden
antifa
Arafat, Yasser
archaeologist

After:

airstrike
a.m., p.m.
American Dream
“Amtrak Joe” Biden, President-elect Biden
antifa
Arafat, Yasser
archaeologist

Plus:

• President-elect Biden (lowercase “elect”) in running copy; President-Elect Biden in headlines
• Vice President–elect Harris (en dash, option+hyphen); Vice President–Elect Harris in headlines
• Lowercase titles when not preceding names: The president-elect tweeted. If a spoken quote has “Madam Vice President,” Madam not Madame.

Had to be done. Trump is still president for the next 10 weeks, so bear in mind that “lame-duck” gets hyphenated as an adjective, and stays open as a noun. And these things matter, like when Fox News told its anchors not to call Biden “president-elect” when it called the race, according to two internal memos, before the network changed its tune in the face of overwhelming facts. Read our style guide, and send suggestions, here.

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If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

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