Episcopal Church Writing Style Guide


See the categories below for guidance on clergy, composition, event, and formal titles.

clergy and religious titles: The first reference to a clergy member (bishop, priest, or deacon) normally should include a capitalized title before the individual’s first and last names. On second reference, use only a last name. 

  • archbishop: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby; the Most Rev. Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury.
  • archdeacon: Archdeacon John Doe; the Ven. John Doe, archdeacon for the diocese
  • 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. Bishop Jane Doe of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi; the Rt. Rev. Jane Doe, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi; Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi Bishop Jane Doe. The title “the Rt. Rev.” also applies to assistant bishops, bishop coadjutors, bishop suffragans, and diocesan bishops. 
  • canon: If ordained: 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 (priest who heads a chapter or governing body of a cathedral): 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 list of names. Do not routinely use words such as father, curate, and pastor before a priest’s name. If the terms appear before a name in a quote, capitalize them.
  • religious orders: Capitalize brother and sister before a name on first reference. On second reference, use only the last name, unless the person is known by their title and first name. Rather than including initials after their name to indicate their order, spell out the order as part of their identifier. Sister Jean, a member of the Community of St. Francis, led morning prayer. Brother John Doe, a member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, invited us to visit. See also Religion Stylebook’s “religious orders” entry
  • warden: Lowercase all forms (e.g., senior warden, junior warden, rector’s warden, priest’s warden, people’s warden) unless used directly before a name. Preferred form is to set the lowercased title apart from the name by commas. Preferred: Jane Doe, senior warden, spoke to the congregation about the upcoming stewardship campaign. The people’s warden, John Smith, will hold a cleanup day at the church. Alternative: Rector’s Warden Jane Doe spoke to the group.

See also An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, Associated Press Style Guide, Guide to Rules of Address (Church Pension Group, 2007), Religion Stylebook

composition titles:

  • Use quotation marks (not italics) around the names of books, lectures, movies, operas, plays, podcasts, podcast episodes, poems, songs, speeches, radio and television programs, videos, and works of art.
    • Exceptions (no quotation marks needed): the Bible; reference materials such as catalogs, almanacs, directories, dictionaries, handbooks, and similar publications; software titles; game titles; curriculum and course titles.
  • Capitalize the principal words in a composition title, leaving lowercase all articles and prepositions with three letters or less: With, After, Through, That, a, an, and, but, for, in, of, on.
    • The first word of a title is always capitalized.
    • The subsequent parts of a hyphenated word may also be capitalized. 
    • The first word in a title after a full colon is capitalized: “The Adventures of Rambo the Cat: A Not-for-the-Faint-of-Heart Love Story.”

courtesy titlesWhile courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms.) are often included in committee rosters, the use of them in general writing can reinforce a gender binary.

event titles: Titles of special events are enclosed in quotes with primary words capitalized. Names of annually recurring events are capitalized without quotes. The Episcopal Church will host “The Way of Love: A Revival” this summer. The annual Winter Talk conference highlights contributions of Indigenous Episcopalians. 

formal titles: Capitalize and spell out formal titles when they precede a name but lowercase elsewhere: The librarian found the book, and the presiding bishop made an announcement. The announcement was made by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. It was met with enthusiasm by Bishop John Doe from the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Northwestern Gulf, the fifth bishop of that diocese. After the welcome, Chancellor John Doe addressed the crowd. John Doe, chancellor, spoke first.

  • Refer to individuals by first and last name, with clergy titles, on first reference: the Rev. Canon Susan Smith or the Very Rev. Robert Smith. Refer to individuals by last name only, without titles, in subsequent references. Please note that contact information given at the conclusion of a press release does not count as a subsequent reference; for contact information, please include the person’s full name and title. See also titles: clergy and religious above, The Church Pension Group Guide to Rules of Address
  • Lowercase terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles: astronaut Sally Ride, poet Maya Angelou. Worship will be led by singer Jane Doe.

  • 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.” See also doctor, Religion Stylebook