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Respect for the cloth

We’re going to go over this once more, just one more time, in the ever-fading expectation that newspapers might get it right.

An obituary in The Sun for the Rev. Harry L. Holfeder, a Presbyterian divine, referred to him throughout as "the Rev. Holfeder." (The Sun, like many papers that have dropped courtesy titles elsewhere, continues to use them in obituaries.)

The word Reverend is an adjective, not a noun like Colonel or Bishop or President, and therefore is not supposed to stand alone with a name. The traditional form, when the title is used with the last name, is "the Rev. Mr. Holfeder." If that seems a bit much, "Mr. Holfeder" suffices. (Since Mr. Holfeder was not Roman Catholic, Anglican or Eastern Orthodox, Father doesn’t enter into the discussion.)

While the point may be a trifle obscure to the larger population, reporters and assigning editors and copy editors, who have access to a stylebook, might be expected to grasp it.

Now, we know perfectly well that many, many people would say or write Rev. Harry L. Holfeder without the definite article and call him Reverend Holfeder without the trace of a blush. It is also manifestly the case that many denominational publications follow the same careless practice. And it should be dawning on you by this point that very few people fixate on this issue the way that cranky old fussbudget your humble blogger does.

But if you insist — God save the mark — on using archaic titles, you ought to be using them correctly.

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