Church/church - Lower case for the actual buildings; otherwise Church. No human being should be referred to as "Head of the Church"...


Lower case for the actual buildings; otherwise Church. No human being should be referred to as "Head of the Church". The Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Pope is the Supreme Pontiff, Chief Pastor or leader of the Roman Catholic Church; he should not be referred to as the "Holy Father" (unless you are quoting somebody).


Spell in full - do not use "Xmas", even for headlines. And remember that not all Christians celebrate Christmas on 25 December. The Eastern Orthodox Churches mark the festival on 7 January.

Church of England

is not the only Anglican body in the British Isles. There is also the Church in Wales, as well as the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and the Church of Ireland.

General Synod

(the governing body of the Church of England) ie capped, a change in style from 2017. It may also be referred to as the Church’s parliament. It is made up of three houses: bishops, clergy and laity. It can make decisions on doctrine and worship without reference to Parliament at Westminster.

Church titles (Anglican)

Archbishops are the Most Reverend, but we usually say eg: the Archbishop of York or Dr South. Later references can be either to the archbishop (lower case) or, again, to Dr South

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Primate of All England
  • The Archbishop of York is the Primate of England
  • The Archbishop of Armagh is the Primate of All Ireland
  • The Archbishop of Dublin is the Primate of Ireland.

Bishops are the Right Reverend, or the Rt Rev if space is short. At first reference, say eg The Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend John Smith or, if he has a doctorate, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr John Smith. Afterwards, Bishop Smith or Dr Smith. If in doubt, check in Crockford’s Clerical Directory or via the diocesan website. Bishops are consecrated (whereas priests are ordained, and deacons made).

Archdeacons are the Venerable - or the Ven if space is short. Later references: the archdeacon or, eg Archdeacon West.

Vicars/rectors are eg the Reverend Edward East - or the Rev Edward East if space is short. After first mention, you can say just Mr East (or Dr East if he has a doctorate). Some Anglicans prefer "Father" to "Mr"; the safe rule is to follow local practice. Under no circumstance should you say "Reverend Smith", "the Reverend Smith", "the Reverend Mr Smit"’, or just "the Reverend". It is fine to speak of someone being eg: the vicar of Bray. But do not describe someone as being a "vicar" without immediately naming the parish. In the absence of the parish name, say instead a member of the clergy.

Deans/provosts are the Very Reverend or the Very Rev. At later reference eg: Dean Johnston.

Canons are eg Canon Dennis Moore. Later Canon Moore or the canon.


Do not automatically equate "Catholic" with ‘Roman Catholic’. There are Catholics who are Anglicans or members of other denominations not in communion with the See of Rome. Always "Catholic", ie with initial cap, in the religious context. Lower case in the sense of "catholic taste", or similar.


Always use an initial cap for the Pope, whether or not his name is attached. But use lower case in any reference to the pontiff - also when referring to popes in general, or using the terms papal or papacy. Do not refer to the Pope as "the Holy Father" - a term that might offend some non-Catholics.


A priest officiating at Mass is celebrating Mass, and not "offering" or "giving" it (Mass being an act, not an object). When there are a number of priests involved, they are concelebrants. When the Pope is one of that number, he is the chief celebrant or principal celebrant. Some Anglican churches hold services that they refer to as "Mass".

Church Titles (RC Church)

The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is headed by the Archbishop of Westminster, initially referred to with full title and name eg: The Archbishop of Westminster, Jeremy Montague. Afterwards: Archbishop Montague or the archbishop. Other archbishops are eg: the Most Reverend John Jones.

  • The Archbishop of Armagh is the Primate of All Ireland
  • The Archbishop of Dublin is the Primate of Ireland
  • The Archbishop of Westminster can be referred to as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Bishops are the Right Reverend, which may be abbreviated to the Rt Rev. Afterwards, Bishop Smith or Dr Smith (if appropriate). If in doubt, check via the diocesan website or the Catholic Media Office. Bishops are consecrated (whereas priests are ordained, and deacons made).

Abbots are eg: Abbot Fred Sales. Later, Abbot Sales or the abbot.

Provosts are eg: Provost John Smith. Later: Provost Smith or the provost.

Canons are eg: Canon Michael Harris. Later: Canon Harris or the canon.

Priests are eg: The Reverend Eric Cook, or Father Eric Cook. At later reference, Father Cook or Fr Cook.

A glossary of terminology can be found here.



The mainstream groups are Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims (who should not be described as "Shiite"). Our style for the founder of the faith is the Prophet Muhammad (at second reference, Muhammad or the Prophet). The Sunnis have no institutional clergy, although each mosque has an imam (often addressed by the honorific Sheikh) who teaches, leads prayers etc. The highest religious authority in a Sunni Muslim country is the mufti, who issues fatwas, or religious edicts. Shia Muslims do have a clergy, whose members are known generically as mullahs. The highest Shia religious authority is an ayatollah.

The term Islamist has come to refer to those who derive a political course from Islam, so, where appropriate, we can talk in terms of eg: "Islamist militants", "extreme Islamists" or "radical Islamist groups". But best used as an adjective rather than a noun and in any case specific descriptions are generally better than broad labels.

The Islamic concept of unbelief, of being outside Islam, is kufr. An unbeliever is a kafir - the plural is kuffar. However, in a direct quote "kafirs" is acceptable.


is our spelling of the Islamic sacred book - not Quran or Qur’an.


and not "Moslem" - always capped.

Allahu Akbar

is our preferred spelling and the translation should be "God is greatest" rather than "God is great".


is our favoured spelling for this form of Islamic veil, which covers the entire face and body.


(the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) ie initial cap and double "j".


Means permissible under Islamic law - usually refers to dietary rules relating to food consumption.


is our preferred version of the spelling for these Islamic schools or colleges.

Supporters of Shariah

(radical Islamic group) Our policy is to run stories about this group and others like it (eg: al Muhajiroun) only if we can make it clear that they are regarded by the majority of British Muslims as unrepresentative - ideally, through a quote to that effect from a leading mainstream Muslim group, such as the Muslim Council of Britain. Preachers associated with these groups should not be described simply as "Muslim clerics", but should be labelled as radical, fringe, or something similar. Do not confuse the mainstream Muslim Council of Britain with the more radical Islamic Council of Britain - which should be labelled as self-styled.


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