President (capitalization)

President is capitalized when it comes immediately before the name of a president of a country. It is not capitalized when it refers to a president but does not immediately precede the name. For example, note the contrast in these sentences:

House Speaker John Boehner criticized President Barack Obama Thursday. [CNN]

Maybe people will now believe New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie when he insists he’s not running for president. [NPR]

Europe tightened the noose on President Bashar al-Assad Monday, imposing its first sanctions on the Syrian leader. [Sydney Morning Herald]

The death of Salvador Allende, the former Chilean president, during the 1973 coup that deposed him may not have been suicide. [Telegraph]


Vice president

In the first and third examples, the word is capitalized because it comes right before the name of the president. In the others, it is uncapitalized because it does not function as a title.

For presidents of companies and organizations, some publications (including many American ones) capitalize president when it’s a title immediately preceding the person’s name—for example:

NCAA President Mark Emmert checked into the Hilton beach resort hotel Wednesday morning. [USA Today]

Other publications (including most British ones) do not capitalize president when it applies to presidents of companies or organizations—for example:

But last night in a bad tempered briefing, Fifa president Sepp Blatter shrugged off the row. [Express]

In general, it’s safer not to capitalize president unless it applies to the leader of a country.

There is no good reason to capitalize presidential, except when it begins a sentence or is part of a multiword proper noun such as Presidential Award for Math and Science.

20 thoughts on “President (capitalization)”

    • That’s a clear-cut case of noncapitalization, as the word is not a title immediately preceding the name. You have it right as written.

  1. What should I do in the case of president used before two names, as in the example, “We are currently researching presidents Roosevelt and Coolidge”?

  2. What about when you are referring to the title of a specific person without the surname: e.g., the President responded to the allegations through his press sevretary

    • This is interesting, because I was taught that you do capitalize the title in that instance because the title takes the place of the actual name. However, it seems that rule may have changed.

      • The problem is that the word “president” isn’t actually replacing his name in this example. We wouldn’t say, “THE Barack Obama was in town.” The word “the” is creating the problem in this example.

        This particular rule can best be seen in sentences containing “mom.”

        CAPITALIZE: I am taking Mom to the airport in the morning.

        NOT CAPITALIZED: I am taking my mom to the airport in the morning.

        I can only think of one instance when “president” is actually used to replace the person’s name, and that is when you say, “Mr. President” and seems to only be used when the person is being addressed directly.

        • What about an instance where the title is used in place of the name, as in this dialogue example–“The president wants to see you.”

          • Again, as aforementioned, “the” is creating the “problem”. In your sentence, president is being used as a noun and not a proper noun. Better yet, it is a descriptive noun, which is a word that is used to describe a SPECIFIC person, place, or thing. Hope this helps.

        • You capitalize President because you are referring to President Obama or the President of the United States. You would say “The President is in town.”

          Langdon Elsbree and Frederick Bracher, Brief Handbook of Usage (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath and Company, 1968), 286, says, “When used without proper names, titles of officers of high rank should be capitalized; other titles should not.” One of the examples is, “The postmaster of our town appealed to the Postmaster General.” The Postmaster General used to be a head of a U.S. government department and a member of the President’s cabinet, whereas the manager of a local post office—its postmaster—might be the only person who worked there. The Postmaster General was subordinate to the president but still an “officer of high rank.”

          By any stretch of the imagination, in the U.S. the President of the United States is an “officer of high rank,” so by this rule his title would be capitalized whether it is followed by his name or not. “President Obama will visit our city next month.” “The President will visit our city next month.” That does not mean that the president of anything should be capitalized. I held the office of “president” in my community association of 309 homes but I would not have capitalized “president” in a sentence like, “The president chairs meetings of the association’s board of directors.”

          Under this rule, whether you capitalize “P/president” depends on how important you think that particular official is. I would capitalize “President” without a name when referring to the head of state of any country. I wouldn’t capitalize it when referring to the chief executive of a private corporation, even a very large one, but you might have to if you worked there. It’s probably “off topic” to give a list of other officials or “levels” of officialdom whose titles should be—or sometimes are—capitalized when not followed by their names.

  3. It’s just like “Mr.” or any other title. If you are saying Mr. John went to the store, you capitalize it. If you’re saying the mister went to the store, even if you’re referring to John, it doesn’t matter.
    “Doctor/Dr. Malade is getting sick!” —> “The doctor is getting sick!” Unless of course you mean THE Doctor…

  4. Do you capitalize the titles of committees someone has been on? She serves as a member of the Finance Committee and Administrative Board?


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