Is “President” Capitalized?

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Some of the most confusing grammar rules for many students and adults surround the use of proper capitalization, and the frustration lies with recognizing what is and is not a proper noun.

Titles are considered proper nouns and are used to provide respect to the person it is referring to. What defines a title, however, depends on what the word being used represents and where the word is placed in a sentence.

The word president, for example, is an excellent example, and I find many people incorrectly capitalizing it when they shouldn’t and forgetting to capitalize it when it counts. Let’s take a closer look at when and when not to capitalize president, and how it should be used in a sentence.

What Is a Proper Noun?

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All nouns are either classified as common or proper.

A noun is a person, place, thing, and occasionally an idea. A common noun is a generic name for a group of nouns. A proper noun is a specific name for a person, place, thing (or idea).

For example:

  • The common noun is school; the proper noun is Pierce School.
  • The common noun is girl; the proper noun is Mary.
  • The common noun is continent; the proper noun is North America.

This seems easy enough to remember, but sometimes it can become confusing when referring to titles and their placement in a sentence and what they are referencing.

For example:

  • The common noun is aunt; the proper noun is Aunt Sarah.
  • The common noun is principal; the proper noun is Principal Kaney.

Is the Word President Capitalized?

As seen above, how you use president in a sentence depends on whether it is capitalized or not.

The word president is subject to the same rules as any other title. A title describes a specific person’s job, rank, office, or position, and when “president” is used as such, it requires capitalization.

Let’s look a little closer at this rule so you know when to capitalize president.

When to Capitalize President

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There are many instances in which it is appropriate to capitalize president. But as a writer, it is important you know that it is not a word to capitalize by default. Take a look at these capitalization rules to apply to your writing. 

At the Start of a Sentence

Let’s begin with the obvious. Any word that begins a sentence is capitalized, “president” included.

For example:

  • President Lincoln is one of the most interesting subject studies I’ve ever researched.
  • President or not, he needs to take some responsibility for the mess his club members made.

Before a Person’s Name

When the word “president” is placed before a person’s first or last name, it needs to be capitalized. This follows the rules of giving a specific title to the person, whether they are a current president or a former president.

For example:

  • The last few years have truly allowed President Davis’ leadership skills to shine.
  • The last president we had, President David Jones, was crucial in organizing the club’s parliamentary procedures.

President should also be capitalized when used in place of a specific president’s name (including non-governmental presidents such as school presidents, or presidents of institutions and community groups). It also is capitalized when used in conjunction with an office of high rank, such as the President of the United States.

For example:

  • Tonight, the President of the United States joins us to discuss the economy.
  • “Good evening, Mr. President. I hope things find you well?”
  • The President is heading out on his morning walk.
  • Those books belong to the President.

When Used in a Published Title

Movie titles, books, journals, poems, and the like have very specific rules of title capitalization as well. Common and proper nouns alike are capitalized in a title, as are most other words four or more letters long.

For example:

  • All the President’s Men
  • The Fall of the Greatest President
  • Exploring the Presidents of the Past

When Not to Capitalize President

In any other use than those mentioned above, “president” is not capitalized. Capitalization occurs when “president” refers specifically to a person or recognized office of high rank.

For example:

  • We will be swearing in a new president next weekend.
  • Our past presidents have each left behind a legacy of responsibility and trust.
  • The president of the local Republican party is holding a meeting next Wednesday.

Let’s Review

The word president can work as both a common noun and a proper noun. Unless it refers to a specific person or office of high rank, it should not be capitalized. When preceding a name or when used in place of a name, it is capitalized.

It also is capitalized at the start of a sentence and when included in a title.

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