LawProse Lesson 373: On capitalizing “Black” but not “white”

LawProse Lesson 373: On capitalizing “Black” but not “white”

In June 2020, the AP Stylebook changed its policy to favor capitalizing Black whenever the word is used in a racial, ethnic, or cultural sense. Meanwhile, white would be lowercase even in corresponding senses. The change occurred after years of consideration and close study.

Here’s the reasoning. Most white people in North America can and do identify themselves as Irish, Scottish, English, French, German, Scandinavian, Italian, etc. The only people who think of a generic “white identity” tend to be white supremacists, who routinely capitalize the word white.

Black people, however, cannot identify themselves as descending from the people of Gambia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Sierra Leone, etc. Part of the centuries-long slave trade involved forcibly stripping Black people of their original cultures—their traditions, their customs, their languages, and their beliefs. When African people were violently uprooted from their ethnically diverse continent, their heritage was purposely and systematically obliterated.

So capitalizing Black merely recognizes that their descendants in the Americas have a shared experience—a certain commonality that transcends any particular African culture and includes all that has happened for many generations. Some may try to insist on the old way of treating Black and white as correlative words that are consistently lowercase. We at LawProse are not among them. We applaud the new policy of the AP Stylebook and the hundreds of publications that have followed suit.

Live seminars this year with Professor Bryan A. Garner: Advanced Legal Writing & Editing

Attend the most popular CLE seminar of all time. More than 215,000 people—including lawyers, judges, law clerks, and paralegals—have benefited since the early 1990s. You'll learn the keys to professional writing and acquire no-nonsense techniques to make your letters, memos, and briefs more powerful.

You'll also learn what doesn't work and why—know-how gathered through Professor Garner's unique experience in training lawyers at the country's top law firms, state and federal courts, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies.

Professor Garner gives you the keys to make the most of your writing aptitude—in letters, memos, briefs, and more. The seminar covers five essential skills for persuasive writing:

  • framing issues that arrest the readers' attention;
  • cutting wordiness that wastes readers' time;
  • using transitions deftly to make your argument flow;
  • quoting authority more effectively; and
  • tackling your writing projects more efficiently.

He teaches dozens of techniques that make a big difference. Most important, he shows you what doesn't work—and why—and how to cultivate skillfulness.

Register to reserve your spot today.

Have you wanted to bring Professor Garner to teach your group? Contact us at for more information about in-house seminars.

Scroll to Top