Usage and Grammar

Q. My question is about using a definite article before an attributive noun used to identify someone. For instance, “the photographer Ansel Adams took my picture,” as opposed to “photographer Ansel Adams took my picture.” Do you prefer to use the article? Newspaperese style seems to be to omit it, but I’m a holdout. Thanks for any guidance.

A. The version with the definite article is a bit more formal; the version without it is more common in casual prose and journalism, as you suggest. The latter treats the occupation “photographer” as an informal personal title (i.e., like “Doctor,” but without the honorific capitalization) rather than as a descriptive phrase placed in apposition to the name (see CMOS 8.30). Some of our editors, like you, would prefer to retain the “the” in your example (at least in formal prose), but either version is grammatically sound.