Are President, Prime Minister, Governor, and Mayor Capitalized?

Summary

Capitalize titles like president, prime minister, governor, and mayor when used before a name or to address a person. Don’t capitalize such words when they act as common nouns.

Examples
  • The charter was signed by President Washington in 1791.
  • Many policies implemented by Prime Minister Thatcher are still considered controversial.
  • but
  • Not everyone wants to be president.
  • We have a new prime minister.

Official and civil titles

Official and civil titles like president and prime minister are often capitalized in government publications and the in-house paperwork of organizations. However, such words are common nouns. In general, capitalize them only when they are used as part of a name or in place of one.

Examples
  • Anita worked under seven U.S. presidents and finally retired during President Obama’s term.
  • The prime ministers of three nations have called to congratulate Prime Minister Singh.

When to capitalize

Capitalize titles like president, prime minister, and governor when they are used as part of a name or to directly address someone. Otherwise, lowercase them in formal writing. Also, in certain styles, such titles are capitalized when used to refer to a specific person.

As title before a name

Capitalize words like president and prime minister when they form part of a name—that is, when they are used as titles before a name.

Examples
  • I was born the day President Kennedy was shot.
  • Here is a transcript of President Lincoln’s address to the nation.
  • Anita met President Reagan in the eighties.
  • She worked as a lawyer in President Obama’s office.
  • Your car is waiting, Madam President.
  • How can I help you, Mr. President?
  • Will Vice-President Harris be here today?
  • Thank you for joining us, Senator Clark.
  • We have invited Congresswoman Williams to speak on campus today.
  • New budget cuts were announced by Governor Schwarzenegger today.
  • This is a joint statement by Prime Minister Trudeau and President Poroshenko.
  • I look forward to hearing what Premier Horgan has to say.
  • The meeting was chaired by Minister of Finance P. Chidambaram.
  • The new literacy program was launched by Chief Minister Narayanan on Monday.
  • Through this announcement, Mayor Emanuel seeks to reassure tourists visiting the city.
  • Joe Biden was sworn into office by Chief Justice John Roberts.

In direct address

Capitalize a title like president or prime minister when it is used to address a person.

Examples
  • Yes, Prime Minister.
  • Of course, Mr. President.
  • Thank you, Madam Secretary.

In specific references

Words like president are often capitalized when used to speak of a specific person: for example, president may be capitalized for ceremonious or official reasons to refer to the current president but lowercased when speaking of the position of president in general.

Examples
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.
  • The President will address the nation tonight at 6 p.m. CT.
    the current president
  • Many have criticized the Prime Minister’s handling of the pandemic.
    the current prime minister

Official titles are also often capitalized in the in-house documents and publications of a government or organization, especially when used to speak of a specific person.

Examples
  • The President has called for a meeting of the Cabinet.
    to refer to the current president
  • Only the Prime Minister can authorize military action.
    to refer to the office of the prime minister

In formal writing, avoid capitalizing such titles unless used as part of a person’s name or to address a person: President Biden or Mr. President, but the president.

When not to capitalize

Don’t capitalize words like president, prime minister, senator, and governor when they are used as common nouns or descriptively instead of as part of a name.

As common nouns

Lowercase words like president when they are used as common nouns instead of as titles before a name.

Examples
  • The president is indirectly elected by voters.
  • In honor of which U.S. presidents is Presidents’ Day celebrated?
  • The vice-president reports directly to the president.
  • Two senators and three congresspersons attended the fundraiser.
  • Before serving as governor, Mr. Schwarzenegger worked as an actor.
  • The two prime ministers met in London today.
  • The outgoing premier was interviewed by Channel 4 this morning.
  • Here is a look at Rahm Emanuel’s tenure as mayor of the city.
  • Listed here are the qualifications required to become a justice of the peace.
  • The minister of home affairs handles internal security and domestic policy.
  • The prime minister should consult chief ministers on implementation of state policy.
  • but
  • In 2011, President Obama made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan.
  • This is a message from Vice-President Harris.
  • Many have lauded Prime Minister Ardern on her handling of the pandemic.
  • We have invited Governor Baker to address the students.

Also lowercase titles like president when used as plural common nouns.

Examples
  • The presidents met today at the summit in Prague.
  • The prime ministers of the two nations have signed a peace accord.
  • Many former governors and senators were seen at the convention.
  • Former ministers and their families will no longer live in government housing.

When used descriptively

Don’t capitalize words like prime minister and president when they are used descriptively as appositives instead of as titles. (An appositive is a noun that describes another noun beside it.)

Examples
  • At the summit, French president Emmanuel Macron met with British prime minister Boris Johnson.
  • The president of the United States, Joe Biden, addressed the leaders of other nations.
  • The new governor, Angelica Sanchez, has a doctorate in psychology.
  • Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush attended the inauguration.
Caution

The general advice is to capitalize titles before a name, but remember, this advice is only for when a word is used as a title and forms part of the name, not for when it is used in apposition.

Examples
  • Incorrect: We spoke with president Biden.
    Correct: We spoke with President Biden.
  • but
  • Incorrect: We spoke with former U.S. President Barack Obama.
    Correct: We spoke with former U.S. president Barack Obama.

Other official titles

Other job titles, including academic, military, religious, and royal, are also capitalized when used before a name or to address someone, but lowercased otherwise.

Examples
  • The students respect Principal Diaz: she’s strict but fair.
  • As you know, Professor Singh will deliver the keynote address.
  • The military’s plans to counter the alien invasion were reviewed this morning by General Green.
  • Have you spoken with Father Sebastian?
  • Yes, Father, the candles have been lit.
  • The longest reigning monarch in British history is Queen Elizabeth II.

Like you would with president, lowercase these titles when using them simply as common nouns.

Examples
  • The new school principal is Ms. Mary Diaz.
  • We have two professors and a doctor in the family.
  • Anita has written a book on the generals of World War II.

Quick Quiz

Which is better style in formal writing?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which is correct?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which is correct?
Choose from these answers
All done!

Did You Know?

Neither is used instead of both in negative sentences.
Know more:Both: How to Use Correctly