Ever since The Associated Press and other news agencies on Saturday called the election in favor of the Democratic challenger, we've heard from a number of readers about The Joplin Globe's use of the term "President-elect Joe Biden."
In doing so, the Globe is following a naming precedent set by the AP that has been in place for decades. It is the same guideline followed four years ago, when we started naming Donald Trump president-elect on Wednesday, the day after the 2016 election.
USE OF '-ELECT' IN THE AP STYLEBOOK
The Globe is a member of The Associated Press, and uses its stylebook to resolve many naming issues and conflicts.
For those unfamiliar with the stylebook: It is an ultimate reference for determining proper grammar and style when writing news stories. It deals with a variety of terms, including common nouns, company names, rules for state abbreviations and much, much more.
The stylebook entry for the use of "-elect" is simple: "Always hyphenate and lowercase ... For a newly elected candidate, the term can be used as soon as the race is called." The suffix "-elect" can apply to any elected office.
(The capitalization of the term is also ruled by the Stylebook's grammar rules that call for titles to be capitalized when written before a name. Therefore, we would write "President-elect Joe Biden" or "Joe Biden, the president-elect."
The term was used two days after the presidential election in 2016: The Globe's front page on that day included a story that named President-elect Donald Trump.
ELECTION RESULTS NOT OFFICIAL YET
Several readers note, accurately, that the presidential election is not official until the Electoral College proclaims the winner. There are actually even more steps before a presidential election is official: The colleges elector's will vote in mid-December. The House and Senate on Jan. 6 are set to hold a joint session for counting the electoral votes and announcing the winner.
Additionally, President Donald Trump's campaign has promised court actions regarding vote results in several key states. The campaign has several legal options available, including requesting recounts in certain battleground states.
SO WHY USE THE TERM AT ALL?
One of the main reasons for the use of the term "president-elect" is because a newly elected official commonly begins work toward a transition before an election is made official. For clarity's sake, there is a strong need to clearly identify a current officeholder and an incoming one.
Because the AP has called the race for Biden, and because no court actions have yet reversed any election results, it is accurate to describe him as president-elect. If court decisions or other actions reverse the election, only then would the use of that term be called into question.