How Do You Write AP Style Legislative Titles?

Staying on top of what is going on in your national and state legislatures is important to be an informed voter and to be involved in your community. Even if you do not consider yourself politically savvy, chances are high that you may need to write press releases or other online content that mentions members of legislature – or maybe you just want to be able to refer to members and organizations of government properly when having a healthy debate with friends. AP style legislative titles follow specific forms that are useful to remember.

So is “senator” capitalized? Should “congress” be capitalized? Read on to find out!

First Reference

Similar to referencing a formal title in AP style, when referring to a member of the U.S. House and Senate for the first time in a piece of content, it’s best to use Rep. (or U.S. Rep.) and Sen., respectively, before the individual’s name. Use Reps. and Sens. when mentioning more than one person.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • Reps. Trey Gowdy and John Ratcliffe

Using these legislative titles upon first reference is not mandatory when following AP Stylebook guidelines, but it is a common practice. If you don’t use the title upon first reference, you need to make sure it’s mentioned later in the story.

Capitalize assemblywoman, assemblyman, city councilor and delegate when used as formal titles before a name. In all other instances, they should be lowercase.

  • Assemblywoman Diana Richardson
  • City Councilor Ayanna Pressley

Using International Datelines

Put U.S. or state before the title only when trying to prevent confusion. Also, if the content or story includes international datelines, AP style legislative titles should include U.S. at the beginning.

  • U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • Former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan

Dropping the Legislative Title

Leaving off the initial legislative title is often appropriate if the individual is well-known.

  • The Secret Service confirmed that Barack Obama was placed under the agency’s protection. The Illinois senator declined to comment on the matter.

Second Reference

If you have already included a legislative title before a name on a first reference, you do not need to include the title again with the second reference. For additional references, spell out and lowercase representative and senator, as well as all other legislative titles.

  • The Indiana representative announced that he will be stepping down.

Using ‘Congressman’ and ‘Congresswoman’

It is also acceptable to use the lowercase congressman or congresswoman for subsequent references to U.S. House members that do not include the individual’s name.

  • The Wisconsin congressman’s vice presidential running mate is Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.

Quoting Sources

The only time you may need to include the legislative title when referring to an individual for a second time is if the title is part of a direct quotation.

Organizational Titles

When a title is used before a name for a formal, organizational office within a legislative body, be sure to capitalize the title:

  • Senate President Pro Tem Orrin Hatch
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley

Bonus: Using ‘Congress’

Sure, Congress is a branch of the United States government, not a legislative title like we’ve outlined in this article, but we wanted to share how to properly use the term when writing about members of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

Capitalize Congress and U.S. Congress when you’re referring to the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Congress is not a proper substitute for the House only.

Congress should also be capitalized when referring to foreign bodies that also use the term, such as the Argentine Congress. 

However, go with the lowercase congress when you are using it to mean convention. 

  • We first met at a medical congress.

AP Style Legislative Titles: You Can Do It!

AP style legislative titles, while intimidating at first, typically follow a straightforward format. Do you have any other questions about whether or not “senator” is capitalized? If you have any additional input on using legislative titles following AP style, share your thoughts in the comments below!


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