Writing Style Guide
Last updated April 2023 by the Office of Public Affairs
The Episcopal Church writing style guide is a reference tool intended to provide professional guidance, consistency, and clarity in church-related publications, including newsletters, press releases, website copy, email announcements, video text, and other printed materials. The guide is designed especially for use by Episcopal Church Center staff and Episcopal communicators. It is a dynamic document, with updates made as needed.
Style guides: The primary source for The Episcopal Church writing style guide is the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, the preferred style guide for journalists and a key reference for writers, editors, and other professionals. Additional sources that have informed this style guide include An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, Chicago Manual of Style, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Style Guide, The Church Pension Group Guide to Rules of Address, National Association of Black Journalists Style Guide, National Association of Hispanic Journalists Cultural Competence Handbook, and Religion Stylebook, among others.
Dictionary: The primary dictionary for use by The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs is the fifth edition of Webster’s New World College Dictionary. The online Merriam-Webster dictionary is also a good resource.
Questions or suggestions? Email Candace Brown.
COMMON ITEMS FOR QUICK REFERENCE
- Only capitalize titles if they directly precede a name.
- Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby; the Most Rev. Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury; Presiding Bishop Michael Curry; the Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church; House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris; Julia Ayala Harris, president of the House of Deputies; Director of Spiritual Formation Jane Doe; Jane Doe, director of spiritual formation.
- Capitalize full, official names of departments and offices; lowercase other uses. Office of Public Affairs; public affairs office; public affairs. Department of Evangelism; evangelism office; evangelism department staff.
- Lowercase widely used generic organizational terms, such as board of directors, committee, staff, task force, unless part of a formal name.
- Do not capitalize “church” unless it’s part of a full church name.
- Capitalize Black and White when referring to race.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
- Capitalize “the” in any reference to “The Episcopal Church.” This is a trademarked name.
- The Episcopal Church, while headquartered and largely located in the U.S., is a multinational church, with dioceses in other countries. Refer to it as such, or as “the U.S.-based Episcopal Church,” not as a national church.
- The Episcopal Church is the only U.S.-based member of the Anglican Communion.
- Episcopal is the adjective form; use Episcopalian only as a noun referring to a member of The Episcopal Church: He is an Episcopalian. She is an Episcopal priest.
- Use one space between sentences.
- Use a double line between paragraphs; no indents.
- Preferred font: Times New Roman, 12 points
- Use serial commas (comma after each item in a series of three or more items) (Chicago style).
- When using an “em” dash within a sentence, do not include a space before or after (Chicago style). The parish—which launched its program last year—is inviting other churches to participate.
- Use quotation marks, not italics, around the names of articles, books, lectures, podcasts, podcast episodes, songs, speeches, and videos (for full list, see titles: composition). No quotation marks needed around the Bible; curriculum and course titles; and reference materials, such as catalogs, almanacs, dictionaries, handbooks.
- Only use a religious title on first reference. On subsequent references use last name.
- Use “the” before “Rev.” Capitalize “the” only if used at the start of a sentence or in a bulleted list of names (roster).
- The title “Dr.” is not used before the names of clergy or scholars who hold academic doctorates or who have honorary doctorates. If the academic degree is relevant to the context, it is better to explain as follows: Jane Doe, who holds a doctorate in education, will moderate the discussion. Any reference to an honorary degree should specify that the degree was honorary. Don’t combine “Dr.” with other titles, such as “the Rev. Dr.” (Religion Stylebook)
- Religious titles before names (for full list, see titles: clergy and religious)
- archbishop: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby; the Most Rev. Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury.
- bishop: Preferred form is to use and capitalize “Bishop” before the individual’s name. Substitute “the Rt. Rev.” if applicable and appropriate to the context. The title “the Rt. Rev.” also applies to assistant bishops, bishop coadjutors, bishop suffragans, and diocesan bishops.
- canon: If ordained, use the Rev. Canon (Name), or the Rev. (Name), canon to the presiding bishop for Mission Beyond The Episcopal Church. If laity: Canon (Name). Canon to the ordinary: the Rev. Canon (Name), or the Rev. (Name), canon to the ordinary
- deacon: On first reference, use Deacon (Name), or the Rev. (Name), deacon
- dean: the Very Rev. (Name), dean of the cathedral
- presiding bishop: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry; the Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church. Note that retired presiding bishops return to “the Rt. Rev.”
- priest: On first reference, use the Rev. (Name). Capitalize “the” only if used at the start of a sentence or in a bulleted list of names.
- religious orders: Capitalize brother and sister before a name on first reference. Spell out names of orders after a name instead of using initials.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION
The Episcopal Church strives to use language consistent with its inclusive welcome to all individuals as image bearers of God. With acknowledgment that terminology in these areas continues to evolve, the writing style guide contains expanded sections on disabilities; gender and sexuality; and race and ethnicity.