Dealing with religious terms: One faith

Dealing with religious terms: One faith

November 22, 2021 By Erin Brenner Resources

In the EAE Backroom an editor asked a question on styling a religious term: “Who would capitalize ‘holy family’ in Chicago style?”

The ensuing conversation brought to light some issues concerning religious terminology:

How can editors resolve these issues? Start by determining whether the audience is of one religion or a mix (or no religion). This article looks at a target audience of one faith.


When the text is aimed at people of a specific religion, you’ll want to respect the traditions and beliefs associated with that religion. While the assigned dictionary and a mainstream style guide can help, you’ll want to look at resources focused on that religion.

Consider, too, whether you’re dealing with a specific sect, or denomination, of that religion. For example, while Christianity is thought of as a whole (and once was), there are many belief systems within it. Catholicism is distinct from Calvinism and Lutheranism. And even within Catholicism, there are divisions between Roman (those we typically think of as “Catholic”) and Eastern (e.g., Greek and Armenian).

Each of these religions could treat terms differently based on what they see as holy or on traditions that have developed over the years.

Other major world religions, such as Islam and Judaism, also have different denominations within them. Islam includes Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, and Kharijites, as well as several schools of theology and jurisprudence. Judaism includes Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform denominations.

And those are just the main monotheistic religions!

Once you’ve determined your audience, seek out resources that cover terminology meaning and usage. What follows is just a sampling.


Roman Catholicism



This article was originally posted to on 10/19/18.

Header photo by Rachel Strong on Unsplash.

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