January 20, 2021

Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 is inauguration day, but between the Jan. 6 insurgency, a sitting president who won’t attend and a raging pandemic, it’s not looking like any we’ve seen. 

You know what hasn’t changed…much? AP Style. The grammar and usage guide used by journalists around the country put out a 2021 Inauguration Guide, which includes some useful reminders. The AP also has guidance on the coronavirus, terrorism and, from Jan. 6, how to describe the insurrection.

National Guard

“Capitalized. Lowercase the guard on subsequent references. For people, say National Guard members or guard members.”

Inauguration Day

“Capitalize only when referring to the collection of events that include the inauguration of a U.S. president; lowercase in other uses: Inauguration Day is Jan. 20. This is the 59th inauguration.”

national anthem

“Lowercase. But: ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.'”


“Add D.C. only if the city might be confused with the state. In most references in stories about the presidential inauguration, D.C. is unnecessary because the context is clear. Avoid calling it the District of Columbia in most cases.”

And perhaps controversially…


“…Do not use Dr. before the names of people who hold other types of doctoral degrees. Instead, when necessary or appropriate: …Incoming U.S. first lady Jill Biden, who has a doctorate in education, plans to continue teaching. Incoming U.S. second gentleman Doug Emhoff, a lawyer, is joining the faculty of Georgetown Law.”

Here are a few other AP Stylebook reminders that might come in handy. 


“…Do not use as a synonym for conviction or removal from office.”


“Capitalize U.S. Capitol and the Capitol when referring to the building in Washington: The meeting was held on Capitol Hill in the west wing of the Capitol. Follow the same practice when referring to state capitols: The Virginia Capitol is in Richmond. Thomas Jefferson designed the Capitol of Virginia. Use capital for a city or town that is the seat of government.”


“The city where a seat of government is located. Do not capitalize.”

state names 

“SPELL OUT: The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. No state name is necessary if it is the same as the dateline.” 

first lady, first gentleman (for the spouse of the president); second lady, second gentleman (for the spouse of the vice president)

“Not an official title, always lowercase. Should the individual hold or have held an official title of high office, that title takes precedence: former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, not former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Congress, congressional

“Capitalize when referring to the U.S. Senate and House together. The adjective is lowercase unless part of a formal name.”

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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