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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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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