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Pedants' corner

Magistrate or magistrate?

45 replies

fireflyfairy2 · 07/11/2007 20:48

I am trying to get this court report written up for class tomorrow & just as I have printed it out I realise I might have done it wrong.

It's Magistrates' court isn't it? But the magistrate has a small m?

At least that's the way we were taught & it is in all my notes like that...

As in Co.Kerry Magistrates' court.

Resident magistrate Mr Colin Farrow.

But this evening, idly flicking through the local paper I see they have a capital M for both Magistrate court & resident magistrate....

Where's Cod????

OP posts:
fireflyfairy2 · 07/11/2007 21:21



I was convinved you lot would know......

Crap.. maybe if I choose a capital M or a small m & just do them all the same???

Bloody hell, why couldn't I have noticed this yesterday & asked my lecturer today???

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ladymixalot · 07/11/2007 23:16

Probably too late and not much use... but this sort of thing can vary and depends on the house style, if you have one. I would go for initial caps only when using the entire, official name (Co. Kerry Magistrates' Court) and lower case for "the magistrates' court" and "resident magistrate Mr Colin Farrow". Use nowadays tends towards lower case much more than even a decade ago. Normally the important thing is to have a consistent system and stick with it.

Are you a student journalist? The Times Style and Usage Guide is quite handy to have around.

fireflyfairy2 · 07/11/2007 23:20

Hi, thanks a lot.

I am a journalism student, yes.

I do have a style guide & in that it suggests Co.Kerry Magistrates' Court. Later it says magistrates' court.

But in the local paper, the one that has reported all the court cases also, they use the capital M for everything.

I have it printed out now to hand in tomorrow but what I will also do is email a copy to my university email address & try to find out from my class mates what they have done.. then print it out at university.

Thanks for reading & replying

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fireflyfairy2 · 07/11/2007 23:22

I have a Newspaper style book here from the NCTJ & they say Magistrates' court. Resident magistrate.

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controlfreaky2 · 07/11/2007 23:22

i think how you've done it is right.... if its not i suspect it's because it's a style thing and no right / wrong as such. don't worry about it. life's too short.

fireflyfairy2 · 07/11/2007 23:26

it may be short, but I need good marks

I'm slightly anal. Why the hell can't they have hard & fast rules instead of changing things all the bloody time?

I changed it all to capital M's & I am now doubting myself.

OP posts:
fireflyfairy2 · 07/11/2007 23:28

Thing is, I only mention the Co.Kerry Magistrates' Court once & resident magistrate Colin Farrow once. So I would like to get it right.

Resident will have a capital R only because it is the first word in the sentence.

Crap bag. Why is it not easier.

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controlfreaky2 · 07/11/2007 23:31

leave it how it was (if life isnt too short! .
think the Magistrates Court is because is proper noun / title of building as it were..... like Kings Cross Station. but mr bloggs the magistrate because is description of role / job / one of many. ..... like it would be the train stopped at the station.....
Sideways School..... my ds goes to school....

fireflyfairy2 · 07/11/2007 23:39

God... I think I'll print them out both ways & take 2 cover sheets.

Why is there no concrete answer?


I like rules.

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ladymixalot · 07/11/2007 23:42

I agree with CF2. IMO lots of initial caps make it look like you're writing in the 18th century, or are German.

Rules schmules. It's all fashion.

fireflyfairy2 · 07/11/2007 23:47

Ok, I have written:

"North Antler Magistrates' Court sitting at Canterly heard how Lindus tried to purchase alcohol in the XXXXXX on the XXXXXXX etc...."

The I have written:

"Resident magistrate Colin Farrow said "You are a disgrace to your parents......"

So are the m's correct??

Ladymixalot, are you a journalist?

I just found another style guide here but it doesn't even mention magistrate.

Bugger, it's only worth 30% but I do like to get as many marks & not lose them for stupid things.

Obviously I have made up both the names of the court & the magistrate

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ladymixalot · 07/11/2007 23:50

No, I'm a freelance editor (books). For what it's worth, I'd be happy with those Ms. I'm not your lecturer, though.

fireflyfairy2 · 07/11/2007 23:56

Thanks for your help girls

I have printed them out both ways & will see if I can grab my lecturer tomorrow morning before hand in time.

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controlfreaky2 · 08/11/2007 22:52

well ff??
and the right answer was......

fireflyfairy2 · 08/11/2007 23:23

I'm still none the wiser!

I did them both ways & went looking for my lecturer today. I went looking for him but could only find the course director who is a lovely woman, very easy to talk to!

I asked her...& she wasn't sure! Said her experience was on radio/tv & it didn't matter if magistrate had a capital or a small m

But she flicked through a few books for me & we decide it was Magistrates' court and the magistrate

A guy in my class said he did his with capital M's in both places... so now I'm worried

I'll let you know as soon as I hear back

OP posts:
FluffyMummy123 · 11/11/2007 13:54

Message withdrawn

fireflyfairy2 · 11/11/2007 22:00

Never mind!

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edam · 11/11/2007 22:10

There's no definitive answer because it's a style issue - you just need to know the style of the publication you are writing for. So, if your essay is supposed to be for the, say, Oxford Times, and they use Oxford Magistrates' Court and Magistrate John Barlow you should do the same. If not, don't.

Personally I'm with ladymixalot, usage generally tends towards lower case these days (job titles don't often take initial caps any more, for instance). But you have to adapt your style to your title.

edam · 11/11/2007 22:14

For instance, I was always taught that Mr Dixon said: 'Usage tends towards lower case these days.'

But some titles I write for don't introduce speech with a semi-colon. They go for 'Usage tends towards lower case these days,' says Mr Dixon. Or Mr Dixon says style is changing. 'Usage tends towards lower case these days.'

Swedes2Turnips1 · 11/11/2007 23:27

I was trained by the National Council for the Training of Journalists - speech introduced with a semi-colon. However, the vast majority of publications have their own house-style booklet.

Swedes2Turnips1 · 12/11/2007 11:00

Except I mean colon.

FluffyMummy123 · 12/11/2007 11:01

Message withdrawn

FluffyMummy123 · 12/11/2007 11:04

Message withdrawn

edam · 12/11/2007 12:34

Snap Swedes - both to colon/semi colon confusion and being taught by NCTJ to use a colon!

edam · 12/11/2007 12:36

Entertaining blog, Cod, but don't think it has any relevance as a guide to style for journalists.

Like the bit about 'tough' community sentences, though. Suspect he is dead right.

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