Rowhani or Rouhani? AP adjusts its spelling for Iran’s president-elect

AP stories about the Iranian presidential election referred to one of the leading candidates as Hasan Rowhani, the spelling we’ve long used for this Iranian politician and former nuclear negotiator.

However, after he became president-elect, we noted that some publications have been spelling his name Rouhani. So we asked officials working with him what he prefers. Although both spellings are legitimate transliterations from Persian, “Rouhani” is the English rendering preferred by the president-elect himself, according to two officials working for him — one with his campaign, and the other at the Center for Strategic Research, where he still works. It is also the spelling used in the name of his website,

The AP Stylebook says we should “follow the individual’s preference for an English spelling if it can be determined.” Therefore, the AP is switching from Rowhani to Rouhani.

Rouhani is scheduled to become president Aug. 3.

Perhaps the greatest variety of English spellings for a world leader were those applied to the former Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi. Spellings of his name included Qaddafi, Qazzafi, Qadhdhafi, Qaththafi, Gadhdhafi, Khadafy. Even Libyan officials could offer no recommended spelling. Although the AP long used Khadafy, it eventually shifted to Gadhafi, based on the name’s pronunciation in Arabic and the spelling Gadhafi used in a series of English-language letters to American schoolchildren.

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About Tom Kent

Deputy managing editor and standards editor of The Associated Press, responsible for accuracy and balance across all AP news services. Frequent contributor to forums and conferences on newsroom ethics and organization. Adjunct professor at the School of International Affairs and Journalism School of Columbia University. Former AP correspondent or bureau chief in Russia, Iran, Belgium, Australia and the United States. Graduate of Yale University. Languages: French, Russian, Spanish. @tjrkent