Titles and honorifics

Check the spelling of all names and check preferred titles (Mr, Ms, Mrs, Miss, Dr, Reverend, Professor, etc.).

You only need to fully introduce a person using first name and last name once, as in “Kevin Rudd” or “Brisbane dog-catcher Red Setter”. In subsequent mentions use the honorific and surname, “Mr Rudd” or “Mr Setter”.

For knights or dames, give full title and name at first mention, as in “Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen” or “Dame Joan Sutherland”, and title and given name at subsequent mentions, “Sir Joh” or “Dame Joan”.

If someone mentioned only once needs to be clarified by an honorific, use both, as in “Judge Fiona Bloggs”.

Note that some news organisations drop the honorific and use only the last name in second and subsequent references, particularly in sport, court and feature stories.

If you are dealing with people whose cultures or nationalities are unfamiliar to you, check the correct form of address. Organisational titles (work, honorary, religious etc.) require care with punctuation and order of use.

The preferred form is to state the organisation, then the position or occupation, then the name. “Brisbane City Council chief dog catcher Red Setter said” There are other options that could be more suitable in some circumstances: “Brisbane City Council’s dog catcher, Red Setter, said” or “The chief dog catcher with the Brisbane City Council, Red Setter, said”

Note the commas in each example. There are none in the first, as both the organisation and title describe the person. In the second and third examples the implied and actual use of the definite article (“the”) demands commas around the person’s name to qualify who fills the role being described. What is between the commas can be regarded as being in parenthesis. If it were taken out it would, technically, leave a complete sentence.

Titles should generally precede the person’s name rather than follow it. “Brisbane dog catcher Mr Red Setter” not “Mr Red Setter, the Brisbane dog catcher”.


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