Realtor is a trademark — that's why it's capitalized

Job titles are not generally capitalized. Even when referring to senators, pastors, doctors, even the president, we capitalize only when referring to a specific individual, such as President Obama. Yet I understand that the word "Realtor" is expected to be capitalized in all circumstances, and apparently America's publishers have acquiesced. Can someone tell me what's so special about a Realtor that his job description should be capitalized?

— Jim A., by email

Well, Jim, if you go by the book, Realtor is capitalized.

By the "book," we mean The Associated Press Stylebook, which is the primary go-to source for papers such as ours that use Associated Press style. The Stylebook covers everything from the proper way to describe military units to dimensions and, yes, capitalization.

The stylebook says Realtor is supposed to be capitalized. However, lest you think we've caved in to some kind of outside influence, please allow us to share the entire passage in the Stylebook regarding use of the word:

"Realtor: The term real estate agent is preferred. Use Realtor only if there is a reason to indicate that the individual is a member of the National Association of Realtors."

Our secondary source, which we use when the AP Stylebook is silent, is Webster's New World Dictionary, which also says Realtor is upper case. The dictionary definition says, "Trademark for a real estate broker or appraiser who is a member of the National Association of Realtors."

According to the National Association of Realtors, the word was coined in 1916 by Charles Chadbourne, a past president of the Minneapolis Real Estate Board, to describe members of the National Association of Realtors. The term was patented until 1948.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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