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When to Capitalize Articles (Such as "the") in Publication Names

Whether you captialize the word "the" when it's part of a publication name depends on which style guide you follow.

By
Mignon Fogarty ,
May 22, 2018

The word "the" circled in the New York Times name.

Recently, readers wrote in to question why I capitalized "the" as part of the newspaper name in the sentence "Yesterday I read The New York Times." For example, Jim T. wrote,

"According to the Chicago Manual of Style 8.170 'When newspapers and periodicals are mentioned in text, an initial "the," even if part of the official title is lowercased (unless it begins a sentence).'"

Jim is right about Chicago, but how to treat articles such as "the" in publication names is a style choice. For example, although Chicago recommends lowercasing the word “the” in names of newspapers, journals, and magazines when you write them in a sentence, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage and The Associated Press Stylebook recommend using an uppercase "the" in the same situation.

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I use a house style that is a mix of Chicago and AP, and in this case I decided to use AP style and capitalize the word “the.” There’s one exception that makes sense if you think about it though. If you are using the publication name as a modifier, you can just omit the “the.” For example, the official name of The New York Times is The New York Times, so if you are following AP style and writing something like “I had a book review in The New York Times,” you capitalize the word “the.” But, if you are writing something like “I’m a New York Times best-selling author,” you leave out the word “the” from the name. It would sound weird to say “I’m a The New York Times best-selling author.” Just leave it out.

Even if “the” sounds normal though, you leave it lowercase if the publication name is a modifier. For example, if you’re writing, “I emailed the New York Times reporter,” keep the word “the” lowercase because “New York Times” is modifying the word “reporter.” I emailed the reporter. I emailed the happy reporter. I emailed the tall reporter. I emailed the New York Times reporter. The word “the” goes with “reporter,” not with “New York Times.”

Also, it's important to note whether the publication you are writing about actually considers "the" to be part of the name. For example, as a copy editor with the handle JD pointed out on the Grammar Girl website, the official name of a newspaper in Britain is Daily Mail, even though when people refer to it they usually call it "the Daily Mail." He says it's so hard to keep the official names straight he made a list of publication names noting those that include "the" and those that don’t. That’s a good idea! Also, when I’m not sure whether a publication name officially includes the word “the,” I usually look at the “About Us” page or the company press releases or SEC filings—any place they would be sure to use the full official name.

That’s your Quick and Dirty Tip: 

  • Make sure you know what the recommendation is of the style guide you follow for capitalizing the word “the” in publication names.
  • No matter what style you follow, you can keep the word “the” lowercase when the publication name is modifying a noun (as in “a New York Times reporter” or “the Chicago Manual of Style recommendation”). 
  • If you aren’t sure whether the official name includes the word “the,” check places where the publication would be likely to use the full official name.

Image by Alquiler de Coches at Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Mignon Fogarty is Grammar Girl and the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips. Check out her New York Times best-seller, “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

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