JOHNSON. Sturgeon. Starmer. Rees-Mogg. Leonard. Blackford. You won’t see them in The Herald. Or you shouldn’t, at any rate.

The reason? As a quality newspaper, we use honorifics. Once first names have been established, it’s Mr Johnson, Ms Sturgeon, Mr Leonard; you get the picture. (An exception is the Labour leader: as a knight of the realm, he is styled Sir Keir Starmer, then Sir Keir.)
An honorific, according to Wikipedia, is “a title that conveys esteem, courtesy, or respect for position or rank when used in addressing or referring to a person”. And therein lies a problem. Do we ordinarily need to convey esteem, courtesy, or respect in this day and age?
I’m not so sure about esteem, but the latter two qualities seem to be sorely lacking in public discourse. At The Herald, we like the tone of civility they imply. It is only a matter of courtesy to refer to the subject of a report as Mr MacDonald rather than MacDonald; and respect for achievement to acknowledge Professor MacDonald.
There has to be a line drawn, however; the reader would soon switch off from a story if it was peppered with references to Jimmy MacDonald, OBE, FRCSE. (However, in a letter, we would be inclined to include the qualification if it added weight to the writer’s argument; it is useful, when weighing a contribution to a debate on health service resources, to know that it is being put forward by a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.)
There will be those who will argue that all this is antiquated. Should we be steering clear of distinctions of class, gender, marital status and academic achievement?
Our style guide for in-house journalists has this to say: “Generally, everyone aged 18 and over is referred to as Mr, Mrs or Ms (use Ms as a default if you don’t know if they use Mrs). The exceptions are famous people, criminals (but not someone charged with a crime) and people who have been dead for a reasonably long time. Common sense is key here depending on the tone of the piece. If it is a “soft” feature story (ie an interview with a frontline NHS worker) then first names are more appropriate, or if there are two people (ie father and son) in the story then first names avoid confusion. Under-18s should normally be referred to by their first name.”
For famous people, read “celebrity”; we’re talking here about entertainers, pop stars, sportspeople, reality TV personalities and the like. Our examples at the start of this piece are unlikely to feature in that category, so if our policy remains unchanged, their honorifics are safe. Unless of course, we ever have to run an item along the lines of “Johnson, Sturgeon, Starmer, Rees-Mogg, Leonard and Blackford all pleaded guilty; they will be sentenced next week.” Perish the thought.