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NABJ Style Guide
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NABJ Statement on Capitalizing Black and Other Racial Identifiers

June 2020


For the last year, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has been integrating the capitalization of the word "Black" into its communications.

However, it is equally important that the word is capitalized in news coverage and reporting about Black people, Black communities, Black culture, Black institutions, etc.

NABJ's Board of Directors has adopted this approach, as well as many of our members, and recommends that it be used across the industry.

We are updating the organization's style guidance to reflect this determination. The organization believes it is important to capitalize "Black" when referring to (and out of respect for) the Black diaspora.

NABJ also recommends that whenever a color is used to appropriately describe race then it should be capitalized, including White and Brown.


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As journalists, we are called upon to use words every day. Correctly and appropriately.

Most of us were indoctrinated in the Associated Press Stylebook somewhere early in our journalistic education and rely on it daily, and many of us work for news organizations that are ruled by stylebooks of their own that supplement or supplant other stylebooks.

NABJ Style is offered as a stylebook for newsrooms and others on terms and language usage of special interest or relevance to our membership and our community. It is meant to be as much a resource for our own members as for anyone else in newsrooms and journalism classrooms as well as other students, educators and researchers, etc.

Many NABJ members, including those from the associations Copy Editors Task Force, have been instrumental in helping shape and produce this document. Former NABJ Region X Director Jerry McCormick and former NABJ Secretary Angela Dodson, in particular, provided valuable leadership along the way.

They and a core group of people offered ideas on what NABJ Style should include and why. Many are involved in different aspects of news coverage and production and so have vast experience with different terms, names and issues that arise in newsrooms.

We certainly don't expect universal agreement on what's in this document. There are bound to be differences of opinions on the acceptability or style for a given name or term. There also may be items that should be included that are not. Maybe there was a good reason. Or maybe we just forgot and need to be reminded.

All of this is OK. This is an evolving document to which all members and users are now asked to review. Additional entries, words, research and clarifications are welcome. Comments from copy and news desk heads, slots and those who may have worked on other stylebooks are especially solicited, as well as more samples of stylebooks used by your news operation or other organizations.

If your publication has a style or wording we should consider please forward that to us so we can credit it where possible. Keep in mind that our emphasis is on accuracy, clarity and providing information, not on restricting usage or airing pet peeves without guidance.

NABJ Members are now able to edit the NABJ Style Guide similar to that of Wikipedia. Please submit proposed entries with supporting documentation [citations from reference books, examples from stories, etc.] 


Sources consulted in developing NABJ Style include other media stylebooks; those from NABJ's alliance partners (Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Native American Journalists Association), and various encyclopedias and dictionaries.


The Associated Press
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Hartford Courant
The San Diego
The Star-Ledger (N.J.)

Microsoft Encarta Africana


Remembering the jheri curl, the hairstyle we'd love to forget, by Andrew Guy Jr., Houston Chronicle


The American Heritage
Merriam-Webster Online
Urban Dictionary
Webster's New
World College

Other sources:

Alpha Kappa Alpha
Alpha Phi Alpha
Delta Sigma Theta
Iota Phi Theta
Kappa Alpha Psi
Maynard IJE
Omega Psi Phi
Phi Beta Sigma
Sigma Gamma Rho
Zeta Phi Beta
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