For Journalism and PR at Sunderland University
The ability to write clear, grammatical English is the key skill for anyone working in the communications industry. This guide is designed to help you communicate effectively. Let it be your guide whenever you write a piece of journalism or public relations copy.
Here, you will find advice on grammar and punctuation, and guidance on how to conform to our house style – the rules we have established within the Journalism and PR department to keep our writing consistent as well as clear.
Do we say the Government is, or the Government are? Is it while or whilst? Do we express numbers in words or digits? The answers to these questions and many more will be found here.
Style guides exist across the communications industry; by following our style guide you will be preparing yourself for the world of work.
HOW WE DO IT
Acronyms and Abbreviations
For instance, BBC, Nato, Ofsted, NUT
- Write the organisation’s name out in full the first time you refer to it, unless it’s so common you don’t need to:
- The National Union of Teachers voted for strike action last night.
- The BBC has released its autumn schedules.
Note: no full stops between the letters.
- If you can’t pronounce it as a word – BBC, NUT, UN, EU – then write it out in capital letters. If you can pronounce it as a word –Nato, Aids, Ofsted – then cap the first letter and use lower case for the rest.
- Use acronyms and other abbreviations sparingly, especially for groups that are not widely known (for instance, Pennywell Neighbourhood Centre, which calls itself the PNC). They can confuse the reader and slow a story down. It’s better to write the name out on first reference, then refer to it in more general terms: the community group, the teachers’ union.
- Don’t give street numbers – they make it too easy for people to be tracked down
- Do give road or street name in full, with capital letters for each part:
- Green Lane
- If you are writing for a national or even regional audience, add the county or metropolitan borough to show where a town or suburb is:
- Joan Smith, of Newminster Terrace, Heaton, Newcastle,
- Helps reader form a mental picture of the person in your story, so include age whenever possible
- Don’t say aged 42, just put age in commas:
- Joan Smith, 42, of Newminster Terrace,
- Note style for a 42-year-old woman – hyphens, and year not years
- Note descriptions for various ages:
- Up to 18 months – babies
- 19 months-3 years – toddlers
- 3-12 years – children or youngsters
- 13-17 – teenagers
- 18 or older – men or women, but not gentlemen or ladies (old-fashioned)
- Don’t say pensioner (many people have pensions by 50 or 60)
- Businesses, organisations and public bodies are single entities, so take a singular verb:
- Nissan is (not are), Oxfam is, Sunderland City Council is.
- Exceptions include police, sport and entertainment:
- Police are investigating …(but the fire service is)
- Sunderland are the only North East team in the top flight.
- Oasis are splitting up.
- January 1, 2010, not January 1st
- September 2009 (no comma)
- She last met her adopted sister in the 1950s. (not Fifties and no apostrophe)
- Use 14th Century (not 14th century) and note it is 200BC but AD 2004
- Use the First World War/Second World War (not World War One/World War Two)
Avoid offending readers, and bear in mind your wider responsibility not to reinforce negative and harmful perceptions.
- Don’t call a person mental or a mental patient, but you may need to say someone is mentally ill or is a psychiatric patient
- Don’t say someone suffers from a disability, say they have it:
- Sally has cerebral palsy.
- Don’t say someone is wheelchair-bound. You may need to say they use a wheelchair
- Do be specific about what someone’s disability is, and don’t use terms such as cripple, spastic or handicapped
- If someone is visually impaired, don’t wrongly call them blind.
- They might not be totally deaf, but might have a hearing impairment
- Deaf and dumb, and deaf mute, are inaccurate; use deaf without speech for those who have no useful hearing and whose normal means of communication is by signs, finger spelling or writing.
- Don’t define an individual in terms of their partner
- Not John Smith and his wife Lynne, but John and Lynne Smith
- Don’t call someone a mother-of-two or refer casually to their appearance (eg blonde Jane) when it’s irrelevant to the story, ie when you wouldn’t refer to a man in the same way
- Do use gender-neutral terminology:
- actor (for both male and female), not actress
- air steward, not air hostess
- business people or executives, not businessmen
- firefighter or fire crew, not fireman/men
- journalist, not newsman/newsgirl
- nurse, not male nurse
- photographer, not cameraman
- police officer, not policeman/woman
- refuse collector, not dustman
- supervisor, not foreman
- Use metric measures rather than imperial, except for speeds and distance in miles not kilometres, and people’s weight (especially babies) in stones, pounds and ounces
- For temperatures, use Celsius first, then Fahrenheit in brackets, as in 20C (68F), but it is fine to use Fahrenheit for impact when, for example, the temperature reaches 100F
- Use the following abbreviations:
- inches in
- foot/feet ft (So, 5ft 9in)
- yard/s yd
- millimetre/s mm
- metre/s m
- kilometre/s km
- centimetre/s cm
- miles spell out, but miles per hour mph
- ounce/s oz
- pound/s lb
- stone/s st (So, 10st 6lb)
- milligram/s mg
- gram/s g
- kilogram/s kg
- tonne/s spell out
- pint pt
- gallon gal
- litre spell out
- Use £46.22 (not £46.22p)
- £7million (no space) on first reference then £7m; £7billion then £7bn
- Include a comma in thousands:
- It will cost £75,000.
- Use the euro in text but €200 when giving specific amounts.
You need a first name and a surname – a story (even a vox pop) can’t be published without both.
- Give a person’s name in full the first time your refer to them in a story, without using their title of Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss:
- Joan Smith has appealed for the return of her daughter.
- Thereafter, use Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms Smith (note, no point after them). Always check the title a woman prefers. If in doubt, use
- Mrs Smith, 46, said she was desperate for news about her daughter Kelly.
- But there are exceptions to this rule. Refer to children (under 18) by their first name after the first reference:
- Kelly Smith has been missing since Tuesday. Kelly, 17, was last seen at her friend’s home.
- In features and human interest stories, it is often appropriate to use first names throughout after the first reference.
- Fred Jones is celebrating today after winning the Lottery. Fred, 82, has won £2million.
- In business, sport and arts stories, use only surnames after the first reference:
- Beckham was jeered on the pitch last night.
- In sport, nicknames are acceptable in tabloid journalism:
- Fergie, Becks
- Refer to defendants in court cases and convicted criminals by surname only, whether male or female, after the first reference.
- Smith, of Alexander Terrace, Sunderland, denied three charges of child cruelty.
- Write one to nine in words, then 10 (not ten), 11, 12, 13 etc in digits:
- James, 22, has a sister who is only nine.
- Exceptions are percentages, weights, dates, time, temperature, sports scores, betting odds and votes:
- The meeting will be held at 9am on Monday, September 7.
- Another exception is when a number is at the beginning of a sentence. Spell it out, even if it is 10 or above:
- Two hundred people are feared dead after an earthquake in China
Not %, or pc, or percent. So 15 per cent or 68.6 per cent, or minus 4 per cent.
- Use North East, not North-East or northeast
- Newcastle upon Tyne has no hyphens. But for local use, just say Newcastle
- Distinguish between Durham City and County Durham
- Note the spellings of Middlesbrough, Edinburgh, Peterborough
- Never refer to skin colour or ethnic origin unless crucial to the story
- Try to avoid the word immigrant, which is often used incorrectly to describe people who were born in Britain and which has negative connotations. Don’t confuse illegal immigrant with asylum seeker (someone who has applied for refugee status). There is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker, and an asylum seeker can become an illegal immigrant only if he or she remains in Britain after having failed to respond to a removal notice.
- Only mention the word Gypsy or Traveller if absolutely relevant. Recognised as ethnic groups under the Race Relations Act, so take a capital letter.
- Use black for people of African and African-Caribbean origin, Asian for those of Asian origin and white for Caucasians
Use 0191 515 2000 (no hyphens, grouped by exchange).
With mobiles, leave a space between the five-digit network code and the number. So 07964 865443.
That can often be cut from a sentence to save words.
- He said that he would be leaving in half an hour.
- It is claimed that the defendant stabbed his partner after a row.
- The event will take place at 7.30pm (no points between p and m, but a point distinguishes hours from minutes)
- For midday, use noon
- Seasons: autumn, winter, spring, summer – no caps – but events such as Christmas, Easter, Good Friday and St George’s Day do take caps
- Use a capital for the first letter of each word in the title of a book, film, play, hymn, song, newspaper, painting or the name of a ship, train or boat, but don’t put those names or titles in italics or quotes.
- Use lower case for job titles (apart from Government – see below), so it is headteacher and managing director. Local council posts are also lower case:
- chief executive Coun Dave Smith – even if the council itself uses capital letters for them.
- When referring to police forces, local councils and specific churches, cap up the title when you use it in full. But thereafter, use lower case for the council, the police, the church.
- Sunderland City Council met last night. The council decided to raise taxes.
- Northumbria Police have issued a new appeal. The police want to trace a missing man.
- St Peter’s Church was built in 674. The church has been nominated for a World Heritage Site.
Note – cap up Church when you are talking about the institution in general:
- The Church is much less liberal in Nigeria.
- Police. For police chief constable, use full title on first reference followed by Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss:
- Chief Constable Joan Smith, followed by Ms Smith.
- For lower police ranks, use full title on first reference followed by abbreviated form of title:
- Superintendent Joan Smith, followed by Supt Smith.
- More abbreviations:
- Chief Superintendent – Chief Supt
- Chief Inspector – Chief Insp
- Detective Chief Inspector – Det Chief Insp
- Detective Inspector – DI
- Detective Sergeant – DS
- Detective Constable – DC
- Sergeant – Sgt
- Police Constable – PC (note – don’t use WPC; women are police constables too)
- Council Abbreviate Councillor to Coun (note – no point afterwards), used for first and subsequent mentions. Remember, job titles are lower case
- Coun Joan Smith, cabinet member for housing,
- Government. The Government, the Cabinet, the General Election, and posts such as Prime Minister, Chancellor and Defence Secretary all take caps. But ministers and references to former governments and previous general elections, etc, are lower case
- Journalists commonly contract titles such as Secretary of State for Defence, to Defence Secretary, and Minister of State to defence minister. There is only one Secretary of State in a department, but there can be several ministers
- MPs: use Sunderland South MP Chris Mullin, or Chris Mullin, MP. In debate reports etc give party and constituency after the name on first mention, so Fraser Kemp (Lab, Houghton and Washington East).
- Courts. Judges are Lord Justice or Mr Justice Smith or, for County Court Judges, His Honour, Judge Smith. Then the Judge …
- Church of England clergy are referred to as the Rev John/Jane Smith, then Mr/Mrs/Ms Smith (note it is the Rev).
- Archbishop – First time refer to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, then Dr Williams.
- Bishop – The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Tom Wright, then the bishop or Bishop Wright.
- Roman Catholic parish priests are initially Rev John Smith, then Father Smith.
- Pope – Give his full name first time, so Pope Benedict XVI, then the Pope.
- Jews – religious teachers are rabbis (eg, Rabbi Lionel Blue).
- Islam – followers are known as Muslims, and their spiritual leaders are imams (eg, Hussein Ahmed, Imam of the Whitechapel mosque).
- Hindus – refer to a Hindu priest (eg, Nathubhai Patel, priest of the Southall Hindu temple).
- Sikhs – followers worship at a gurdwara (temple) and their religious teacher is a priest (eg, Surinder Singh, priest of the Barking Gurdwara).
- Army. Use full title on first reference, then abbreviated form. E.g., General John Smith, then Gen Smith. Other abbreviations:
- Field-Marshal – FM
- General – Gen
- Major – Maj
- Brigadier – Brig
- Colonel – Col
- Captain – Capt
- Lieutenant – Lt
- Sergeant – Sgt
- Lance-Sergeant – L Sgt
- Corporal – Cpl
- Private – Pte
- Guardsman – Gdsmn
- Trooper -Tpr
- Royalty. Refer to the Royal Family (note caps)
- the Queen
- the Prince of Wales
- the Duchess of Cornwall
- the Princess Royal (not Princess Anne)
- the Duke of Edinburgh or Prince Philip
- the Duke of York or Prince Andrew
- Honours. For Knights, Baronets and Dames – full name and title on first reference, then title and first name thereafter
- Sir Bobby Robson on first reference, then Sir Bobby.
- Dame Jennifer Jenkins, then Dame Jennifer.
- Trade Names
- Follow a company’s style of referring to itself, right down to use of capitals:
- easyJet, adidas, Bhs, Coca-Cola, MetroCentre, One NorthEast and PlayStation
- Don’t use a company name or trade name as a generic term. So
- ballpens, not Biros
- condoms, not Durex
- cash dispenser, not Cashpoint
- sticky tape, not Sellotape
- vacuum cleaner, not Hoover
- whirlpool bath, not Jacuzzi
- adventure holiday, not Outward Bound
Keep your writing as concise and concrete as you can. Avoid jargon and words that are redundant, too formal or imprecise. Some examples (and preferred options) are:
- adjacent to – near
- approximately – about
- as a result of – because
- as yet – yet
- at an early date – soon
- at present – now
- at this moment in time – now
- cause injuries – injure
- concerning – about
- the deceased – use the name
- despite the fact that – although
- during the course of – during
- exceeding the speed limit – speeding
- for the purpose of – to
- gale-force winds – gales
- gathered together – met
- head up – head
- in attendance – present
- in connection with – about
- in order to – to
- in the near future – soon
- in the event of – if
- managed to is always redundant, so he escaped, not he managed to escape
- park up – park
- pass away – die (pass away is also a euphemism – an indirect, unnecessarily polite way of referring to something. Whenever possible, we avoid euphemisms.)
- per annum – a year
- resides at – lives at
- the police – police
Avoid tautology – using words to say the same thing twice. Examples are past history (history is always past), free gift (a gift is by definition free), creating 20 new jobs (if they’re being created, then they must be new), still remains, link together, completely full, etc.
Also avoid currently – it rarely adds anything useful. And steer clear of recently, especially in intros, because it is too vague to be of much use.
Clear, accurate writing is at the heart of good journalism and PR. Sentences are the building blocks of that writing.
- A sentence expresses a complete thought.
- A sentence makes complete
- Make sure your sentences are clear and complete.
We can have one-word sentences. Commands such as “Jump!” or “Stop!” are sentences, as are exclamations such as “Never!” or “Unbelievable!”, and questions such as “Who?” or “Where?”
However, most of the sentences we use in journalism and PR must have a verb and a subject.
- The verb expresses the action in a sentence. It is the most important word; it gives a sentence its power. Sometimes that action is obvious – when we talk about walking, eating, jumping, shooting, for instance; sometimes it is less obvious – as in being, becoming, feeling.
- The subject carries out the action.
Example: The journalist writes a story for the newspaper.
- The journalist is the subject
- Writes is the verb
- The sentence makes complete sense: we have a clear mental image of the journalist writing a story.
A sentence can have more than one main verb:
- The journalist writes a story and sends it to the news editor.
- The journalist wrote a story, sent it to the news editor and left the office.
Subject and main verb can be seen in complete journalistic sentences:
- Estate agent Carole Bohanan will brew up some toil and trouble after winning an X Factor-style witch hunt. (Daily Mirror)
- A Cambridge physicist who pioneered the idea that everything in the universe is made up of tiny vibrating strings of energy is to succeed Stephen Hawking in the most prestigious academic post in the world. (Guardian)
If you’re writing full sentences like this, check that they have a subject and a main verb. Read them through; if possible, read them aloud.
We can think of a subordinate clause as a group of words forming part of a sentence. A subordinate clause adds information to that sentence but cannot stand on its own.
- Estate agent Carole Bohanan will brew up some toil and trouble after winning an X Factor-style witch hunt.
- The words in bold form a subordinate clause. On its own such a clause does not form a sentence; it is merely a fragment (sentence fragment).
- Don’t write: Estate agent Carole Bohanan will brew up some toil and trouble. After winning an X Factor-style witch hunt.
- Some fragments look very much like sentences – they have subject and verb but they begin with a subordinating conjunction, or linking word, that is clearly part of a previous sentence.
- Some fragments create quite strong images but do not work as sentences because they are incomplete – they leave questions unanswered.
The following words in bold are not sentences. They are fragments. In each case the fragment is part of the previous sentence and should be preceded by a comma, not a full stop. Don’t make the mistake of writing fragments like these instead of full sentences:
- James Smith has been back to his home town many times. Although it is more than a decade since he visited the club where he played his first gig.
- He has just released his second album. Produced by studio wizard Trevor Horn at his state-of-the-art recording complex.
- Brown has had much experience of life in the Championship. Playing in midfield for Wolves and Ipswich before his transfer to Reading.
- Sentences can start with and
- Sentences can start with but
- And and but are not subordinating conjunctions; they are coordinating conjunctions.
These are sentences:
- To pay his university fees John worked every night of the week in a supermarket. And for the next three years he studied hard to get a good degree.
- Many of the students battled through the snow to get to their lectures, arriving cold but ready to work. But some of them, who lived a long way from the campus, were unable to get to classes on time.
While sentence fragments should be avoided in formal writing, they are sometimes used by expert writers to create a particular effect. However, it is rare for these fragments to be merely snapped-off subordinate clauses.
Here’s an example from Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, by the celebrated journalist and author Hunter S Thompson, which first appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971:
- “About 20 miles east of Baker I stopped to check the drug bag. The sun was hot and I felt like killing something. Even a big lizard.”
In examples like this, the subject and/or verb is usually understood. Such formations are often used in speech.
- “I’ve never had any ambition, or thought of what I should be doing or had any idea of what I’d like to do. And still don’t.” (Joanna Lumley interviewed in the Guardian).
- In both cases the subject and the verb are understood – (I have) Never (had). And (I) still don’t (have).
The Comma Splice
Another common mistake in sentence construction is to splice two sentences together with a comma.
- A junior minister who fiddled his expenses has resigned from his post after an investigation by the Daily Telegraph. He will, however, stay on as an MP.
- These are two crisp, complete sentences. They tell two distinct parts of the story.
- Don’t make the mistake of joining them with a comma.
- Don’t write: A junior minister who fiddled his expenses has resigned after an investigation by the Daily Telegraph, he will, however, stay on as an MP.
Make sure it all adds up
- If your sentence has two subjects with one verb, make sure your verb is plural.
- Punctuation and grammar do make a difference to the quality of a piece of writing.
- Don’t write: Punctuation and grammar does make a difference to the quality of a piece of writing.
- If you have a singular subject, don’t have a plural verb.
- “Anyone who thinks I will resign from my job is”
- Don’t write: “Anyone who thinks I will resign from my job are”
Make sure your nouns and pronouns match up.
- The North East fishing coble is rarely seen off the coast these days because it has been superseded by larger boats.
- Don’t write: The North East fishing coble is rarely seen off the coast these days because they have been superseded by larger boats.
Sentences are combined in paragraphs. In news and online writing keep paragraphs short, carrying one or two, at the most three, crisp sentences of related material. Sentences and paragraphs must follow a logical progression; don’t write a series of unconnected statements. It is unusual for a news paragraph to exceed 50 words. In feature and magazine writing paragraphs can be longer.
Verbs – Past Participles
- Usually when we turn a present tense verb into a past tense we add –ed
- I walk
- I walked
- I have walked
- I had walked
- However, many everyday verbs don’t follow that pattern, and they often cause trouble for students.
- I write, I wrote, I have/had written
- I run, I ran, I have/had run
- I go, I went, I have/had gone
- I take, I took, I have/had taken
- I get, I got, I have/had got (not gotten)
- I speak, I spoke, I have/had spoken
- I have, I had, I have/had had
- I ring, I rang, I have/had rung
- The past participle of lead is
- I led a simple life.
- I have led a simple life.
Do not confuse led (the verb) with lead (the metal).
The Dangling Participle
This is a really common problem in journalism and PR. Watch out for it.
Example: Heaped on a massive plate, she did her best to polish off her meal.
- The participle in the opening subordinate clause (heaped) does not refer to the subject of the sentence (she); it refers to meal.
- The participle in an opening clause such as this must refer to the subject.
The sentence should have been written like this:
- She did her best to polish off her meal, which was heaped on a massive plate.
A similar problem can arise with phrases used to introduce sentences:
- A clever girl, she easily passed her exams.
This is correct. The phrase (a clever girl) relates to the subject of the sentence (she). Compare with this example:
- A clever girl, her exam questions were brilliantly answered.
This is incorrect. The phrase (a clever girl) does not relate to the subject of the sentence (her exam questions).
The Full Stop
- Use at the end of sentences
- Don’t use with abbreviations, contractions, initials or titles:
- Mr not
- BBC not B.C.
- TS Eliot not T.S. Eliot
- 8pm, not 8 p.m.
- Don’t use in headlines, standfirsts, captions
The Comma has many uses; these are a few of the most important.
- Use it to separate a series of adjectives:
- Journalists have a duty to be honest, accurate, ethical citizens.
- Don’t use it when tightly linked adjectives build up a picture:
- The reporter bought a bright red sports car.
- Use it when you have a series of main verbs in a sentence:
- The reporter wrote a story for the paper, knocked out a piece for the website and filmed some video footage. Note there is no comma before the last item in the list.
- Use it when attributing quotes:
- “It’s the best story he’s written this year,” she said.
- Use after for example, however, nevertheless, (when used adverbially):
- However, the event turned out to be disaster.
- Use when you are inserting a phrase or clause into a sentence:
- John Smith, from Brighton, is a fine student journalist.
- John Smith’s first novel, From Here To Hove, was published in 2005.
- John Smith, who used to work for Tesco, began studying journalism at Sunderland University in 2009.
In these examples the words between the commas could be taken out and the sentence would still make sense.
- No commas. Brighton novelist John Smith came to Sunderland in 2009.
If you take out John Smith, it no longer makes complete sense.
- Be careful with sentences such as these:
- The Brighton novelist, John Smith, came to Sunderland in 2009. This suggests there is only one novelist in Brighton.
- John Smith’s novel, From Here To Hove, was published in 2005. This suggests he has written only one novel.
- It would be more accurate to write: The Brighton novelist John Smith came to Sunderland in 2009. John Smith’s novel From Here To Hove was published in 2005.
- Use a comma when you put a clause at the beginning or end of a sentence, if you feel it will make the sentence clearer or will allow the reader to take a pause.
- Because he has already written novels, John Smith finds it easy to write journalism.
- To join two closely related sentences:
- For years John Smith had dreamed of publishing a novel; now he had achieved it.
- In balanced sentences, where one half has equal weight to the other:
- Some journalists were brilliant; some were less so.
- To separate long items in a list:
- Among the journalists you will find on a newspaper are reporters, who gather the news; sub-editors, who write the headlines and often arrange the words on a page; and editors, who are in charge of a section, or who run the newspaper itself.
Some tabloid newspapers avoid the use of the semicolon – particularly in news stories.
- To introduce full sentence quotes:
- He said: “I find it impossible to believe this man.”
- To introduce lists, or to introduce words that explain or expand on a statement:
- There were three kinds of tree in the park: elm, beech and oak.
- When putting a prefix on a word:
- extra-marital, pre-Christian, multi-purpose
- When linking words in descriptions:
- Ice-cold beer, Sunderland-born man, 12-year-old girl
- When forming compound nouns:
- check-in, get-together, brother-in-law
- When writing out numbers at the beginning of sentences:
- forty-four, eighty-nine
- When double letters need to be separated:
- co-operate, re-examine
- When distinguishing between meanings:
- re-creation and recreation, re-form and reform, resign and re-sign, recover and re-cover
- Don’t use with adverbs that end in-ly:
- A newly built school, a recently discovered plan; not a newly-built school, a recently-discovered plan.
- Make sure you have the hyphen between the right words. As Lynne Truss points out:
- A cross-section of the public is not the same as a cross section of the public (2003:171).
- Remember that such pairs of words lose their hyphens when used in other contexts:
- We check in at the check-in.
- Use a hyphen with well and much when they come before a noun:
- He was a well-known actor. The actor was well known.
- He was a much-loved character. He was a character who was much loved.
- This is a well-founded belief. The belief was well founded.
The Dash This is twice the length of a hyphen. Microsoft Word will produce a dash automatically if you leave a space after a word, type the hyphen, then leave a second space before your next word.
- If you are including material within a sentence in parenthesis – where you insert a passage for explanation or comment – use dashes rather than brackets:
- Many of the professions – medicine, law, teaching, for example – require entrants to have a university degree.
- Don’t write: Many of the professions (medicine, law, teaching, for example) require entrants to have a university degree.
- Use it to expand upon, explain, justify a statement:
- That was how it was explained to him – as a means of equipping people to be better citizens.
In this example, a colon could be used instead. The colon is more formal; the dash is often used in tabloid journalism, but some publications have banned journalists using a dash where a colon or, in some cases, a semicolon, could be used.
- Use it to introduce an element of surprise, or to include remarkable information
- Sunderland was under siege today – from Oasis fans trying to get tickets for the band’s show at the Stadium of Light.
The Exclamation Mark
- Much used in informal writing – emails, texts etc – but best avoided in journalism and formal writing. Use it when quoting people shouting or exclaiming:
- The young man kept shouting: “Jump out of the window!”
The Slash or Oblique Stroke
- signifies an alternative:
- Don’t use it where a hyphen is needed:
- A singer/songwriter is someone who is either a singer or a songwriter. The correct usage is singer-songwriter – someone who is a singer and a songwriter.
- It is used when we contract words
- It is used to show ownership, or possession
- haven’t (have not)
- shouldn’t (should not)
- they’ll (they will)
- I’d (I would)
- let’s (let us)
- here’s (here is)
Possession (much easier than you think)
- With most singular nouns, we show possession like this:
- the book’s cover (one book)
- the city’s biggest shops (one city)
- It’s the same with these plurals:
- the women’s clothing
- the children’s shoes
- people’s beliefs
- But with most plurals, which end in ‘s’, the apostrophe goes at the end of the word:
- the books’ covers (more than one book)
- the cities’ biggest shops (more than one city)
Possessive of names ending in ‘s’:
- In these cases it’s all about ease of speaking. If you can add an apostrophe ‘s’ and it’s easy to say, do so:
- Dylan Thomas’s
- But if it is clearly going to be a right gobful to add an apostrophe and an ‘s’, just put an apostrophe:
- It’s the same with certain singular nouns which end in ‘s’, such as goodness: as in the phrase for goodness’ sake.
- We write:
- six weeks’ time
- eight months’ time
- 14 years’ time
because we are talking about the time belonging to six weeks, eight months or 14 years.
- Don’t use apostrophes with numbers, dates:
Don’t use an apostrophe to make plurals: pizzas, not pizza’s, potatoes, not potato’s. Don’t use an apostrophe to make names plural. For instance, the Wilsons, the Browns. Surnames ending in ‘s’ add -‘es’ when plural: the Davises, the Ellises. If you want to talk about the cat belonging to the Davis family, it is the Davises’ cat.
- Do use an apostrophe with plurals of letters:
- p’s and q’s
You don’t need to put an apostrophe with a possessive pronoun:
It’s has an apostrophe when it is a contraction of:
- it is
- it has
Note the difference in this sentence: It’s a question of ethics – and commerce – when a newspaper does not act in the best interests of its readers.
Our style is:
- He said: “It’s just too late. I don’t think we can save her.” (Note the space between colon and quote marks)
- “It’s just too late. I don’t think we can save her,” he said.
Note that the full stop in the first example, and the comma in the second, is inside the quotes.
- It’s the same when you use a question mark or an exclamation mark:
- He asked: “Is this the way to Amarillo?”
- He shouted: “Get off the grass!”
- If you need to quote within quotes you do it like this:
- The vicar said: “The churchwarden has expressed his ‘extreme regret’ about this unfortunate incident.”
- Thinking is treated the same as speaking:
- I thought: “I’ve got to find some way out of here.”
- If you have to use a partial quote, it goes like this:
- He said it was a “complete disgrace” that nothing had been done.
If the partial quote comes at the end of a sentence, the full stop goes outside the quote marks.
- He said it was a “complete disgrace”.
Note: Make sure that, before you quote, you have named the person you are quoting.
Quotes in feature writing
In news writing the style is to attribute quotes (say who’s speaking) at the start, or sometimes the end, of a sentence. In feature writing the words flow less rigidly, more creatively. You can place the attribution where you think it will work best – to emphasise certain words, for instance, or to add colour, drama or description.
- “It haunts me,” says Paddy McAloon in his lovely, lilting North East accent, as he emerges, “blinking into the daylight” for an hour-long tussle during which he repeatedly tries to “square the circle” of writing hundreds of songs and yet releasing almost none of them. “It haunts me, it really does. I look at all the boxes, and inside some of them I know are good songs but I can’t remember them. I’ll write a new song with the same title sometimes because I can’t be bothered to look for the old one. It’s reached that stage.” Reclusive, prolific songwriter Paddy McAloon, formerly of Prefab Sprout, interviewed in The Word.
- “The Bee was heaven,” she says, in a warm, sad kind of way. “He thought he was a dog, I think, because when I used to go and post letters in the village where we lived down in Kent, he would walk down the street with me.” Joanna Lumley talking about her cat in the Guardian’s G2.
A-Z OF TRICKY WORDS
This section covers common misspellings and words that don’t mean quite what you think they do.
As a general rule, prefer –ise to –ize (so organise, not organize), -ed to –t (so learned, not learnt), and -y to –ie (so aunty and chippy, not auntie and chippie).
Use a dictionary. Remember, many computer spellcheckers default to a US dictionary, so check yours is set to use UK English. Spellcheckers are a useful tool for highlighting possible errors but don’t understand meaning so will let mistakes through.
a or an before h? use a when the h is sounded: a historic event, a history lesson,
a hotel, a historian; use an when the h is silent: an hour, an
honour, an honest guy, an honorary doctorate
abattoir not abbattoir
about use with figures, so about 100 not around or approximately
accede use allow, grant
accidentally not accidently
accommodation two ‘c’s, two ’m’s
acknowledgment not acknowledgement
adopted, adoptive a child is adopted, the parents are adoptive
adorable not adoreable
adrenalin not adrenaline
advise/advice advise is the verb (meaning to give advice), advice is the noun (it’s what you give)
adviser not advisor, but advisory
affect is the verb (pollution affects climate change), effect is the noun (pollution has an effect on climate change)
ageing needs the ‘e’
aggravate intensify, make worse, not irritate or annoy
aerial for TV reception and in the sky; arial is a font
A-level hyphen, no quotes (not ‘A’ Level)
all right never alright
alter means change, an altar is found in church
amendment not double ‘m’
amid not amidst
among not amongst
ante means before
anti means against, ie anti-war protester
appeal We appeal against a decision/verdict/sentence. We don’t
appeal a decision/verdict/sentence. See impact
avert, avoid avoid things that are; avert their possibility (in the future) so By stepping on to the pavement I avoided a car and averted an acciden
bachelor not batchelor
banister one ‘n’
bank holiday no caps
banknotes one word
bare to reveal, exposed, eg he bared his soul, the bare facts
bear furry animal, or to hold (to bear the weight), to tolerate (I can’t bear it), or to accept (to bear responsibility)
benefit, benefited, benefiting
best man no caps. Write The best man was John Smith rather than the judgmental John Smith was the best man
biased adjective (bias is the noun). So Sports writers can be biased. There is a bias in favour of London clubs.
biannual half yearly, twice a year, biennial is every two years
Bible cap when it is the Holy Bible, lower case when general (Wisden is the bible for cricket fans)
bishop lower case, unless referring to a specific person, eg the Bishop of Durham
blackout one word
black avoid as a pejorative description, eg black economy
breakdown one word as noun, but two as verb. eg I’m heading for a breakdown. But will my car break down?
breakthrough one word
breach ….of trust, but breech of a gun
breath as noun, eg take a deep breath. But breathe as a verb, eg breathe more easily
breathalyser not a ‘z’
broadband one word, lower case
the Budget capped when refers to official statement of Government spending plans, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, otherwise lower case (eg budget cuts)
budgeted one ‘t’
bullseye one word
buses plural of bus (not busses)
bylaw not bye law or by-law
bypass no hyphen
Cabinet in Government takes cap, lower case for council cabinet
canvas is material used for tents
canvass discuss, seek votes
Catholic capped for the religion but lower case for general, eg She has catholic tastes
chair use chairman/woman unless the individual prefers chair
Channel 4 not Channel Four
charges she admitted six charges of theft (not US counts)
checkouts (supermarket), one word
Christmas Xmas is banned in copy, OK in headlines
chronic means continuous, not severe or painful.
civil servant lower case
climactic (climax) but climatic (climate)
closed circuit television not close circuit television, CCT thereafter
clubhouse one word
collectables not collectibles
commence use start or begin
common sense as noun, eg he has a lot of common sense, but commonsense for adjective, eg he had commonsense values
compared to means to liken to, as in Wayne Rooney compared himself to Pele.
compared with means to make a comparison, as in We might compare potatoes with tomatoes, to see which is the more nutritious.
complement/ makes something complete, go with
complimentary you pay someone a compliment. Complimentary is something nice or something free (complimentary remark, a complimentary ticket)
comprise to include or consist of. Note – not comprise of
contemporary at the same time (not necessarily at the present time).
council tax lower case
councillor someone elected to a council (note, not US councilor)
counsellor someone who gives advice (not US counselor)
crackdown as a noun, eg police launched a crackdown on crime. But two words as a verb, eg the police must crack down on crime
co-operate needs the hyphen
cul-de-sac hyphenate, plural is culs-de-sac
curb means restrain, kerbs are at the side of a roa
damage £100 damage, not £100 worth of damage
data singular is datum
daydream one word
deckchair one word
defensible not –able
desert noun meaning arid region or verb meaning to abandon
dessert is a pudding
definite not -ate; often unnecessary, ie a decision must be definite
demonstrators not demonstraters
device/devise device is the noun meaning a gadget, scheme or trick, devise is the verb meaning to come up with a scheme or plan
different followed by from, not to or than
downbeat one word
downgrade one word
downfall one word
download one word
downmarket one word
downplay one word
downright one word
downsize one word
downturn one word
down payment two words
drum’n’bass no spaces
dryer noun – as in device for drying clothes or hair
dynamo plural is dynamos
the Earth cap, but the sun, the moon, lower case
echo plural is echoes
effect is the noun (the film has great special effects), affect is the verb (that film really affects me). Less commonly can be used as a verb, as in effecting a change
eg for example, no points
e-fit not E-fit
either … this or that, neither this nor that, can only be used of two, and takes a singular verb
eliminate use in the sense of get rid of, not destroy or abolish
email verb or noun, no hyphen or capital letter
embarrassed two ‘r’s, two ‘s’s
enrolled but enrolment
embryo plural is embryos
encyclopedia not –ae-
enquiries always inquiries
the euro currency, not the Euro. But Euro-MP (not euro-MP)
ever Do not use with a superlative. First, biggest, best, etc, are not improved by it.
extrovert not extravert
eyewitness don’t use – use witness
facelift one word
fahrenheit lower case when in full, F when abbreviated.
farther for distance; further for quantity
fascist take care, legally dangerous if wrongly used
feasible not –able, and possible is better
fewer refers to numbers of things or people; less refers to amount (that can’t be counted). eg 100 fewer calls means less work for receptionists
fiancé male, fiancée female
fire engine two words
fingerprints one word
first aid two words lower case
flashback one word
fliers not flyers
flyover (bridge) one word
focusing, focused not double ‘s’
forbear refrain from
forego to do before
forgo to do without
foundered when a vessel sinks
floundered when somebody makes a mistake
frier deep fat, not fryer, but Friar Tuck
fulfilled but fulfil and fulfilment
fundraiser/ one word, no hyphen
ghetto plural is ghettoes
Gypsy recognised as an ethnic group under the Race Relations Act,
use with a capital letter. Same goes for Traveller.
glamorous adjective from glamour
go-ahead noun, as in get the go-ahead, but two words as verb (let’s go ahead with this)
goalkeeper one word
gorilla ape, guerrilla for fighter
golden wedding two words, lower case
graffiti two ’f’s, one t (singular is graffito)
grandad one ‘d’
granddaughter two ‘d’s’
grandson one ‘d’
grassroots one word
greenhouse effect lower case
grow flowers and children grow but avoid such business jargon as
grow the company. Only permissible if quoting someone.
gutted OK in quotes, otherwise avoid
hairdo no hyphen
hairstyle/dresser one word
handful not handfull
handout not hand-out/hand out
hanged people are found hanged, not hung
hangar houses aircraft, but coat hanger
harass/ed one ‘r’
hero plural is heroes
hiccup not hiccough
hi-tech not high-tech
homemade one word
homeowner one word
housework one word
horseracing not horse racing/horse-racing
humourless but humorist, humorous
ice cream two words, no hyphen
ideological not idealogical
idiosyncrasy note -asy
impact avoid its use as a verb – as in the decision will impact on the
the situation, or (worse still) the decision will impact the
situation. Use affect instead – the decision will affect the
situation; or use impact as a noun – the decision will have an
impact on the situation.
inoculate one n
inquire, inquiry not enquire, enquiry
insistence -ence not –ance
install, installed but instalment
instil as in instil good manners, not instill
-ise not -ize in fertilise, neutralise, naturalise
the internet lower case, not Internet
jewellery not jewelry
Jobcentre not Job Centre
joyrider one word, but avoid – it’s not fun if it’s your car
judgment not judgement except in The Day of Judgement
kerb of pavement, but curb temper
kick-off as noun, eg the kick-off has been delayed. But no hyphen as verb, eg let’s kick off with some ideas.
lady/ies avoid. Adult females are women (unless it’s a title)
laidback one word
lamppost not lamp post/lamp-post
laptop (computer) one word
lap dancer two words
lawnmower one word
lay, lie I lay a trap. The table is laid, I lie down. I lay (past tense) in bed. I have lain (not laid) in bed all day
layby not lay-by
layout when used as a noun
learned not he learnt the subject
left wing (politics) two words, lower case, eg he is left wing. But hyphen as noun (he is a left-winger) and as adjective preceding noun (the Mirror is a left-wing newspaper)
lend is a verb (I will lend you £5), loan is the noun (thanks for the loan). Note – don’t confuse with borrow (I need to borrow £5)
less see fewer above
liaison/liaise don’t forget the second ‘i’
Liberal Democrats no hyphen but after first reference use Lib-Dems
licence you hold a driving licence (noun) which licenses (verb) you to drive
lifeboat one word
lifeline one word
lightning precedes thunder, lightening reduces the load
line-up when used as a noun; note the hyphen
literally don’t use unless it really is, eg he was literally glued to the TV: no glue so no literally.
loth means reluctant
loathe means dislike
long-stay car park – hyphen
lookout when used as a noun
make-up when used as a noun; note the hyphen
manifesto plural is manifestoes
masterclass not master class
may, might take care: you may go to the shops but you might not want to
maybe perhaps (adverb). Don’t use as verb: You may be right there. Not you maybe right there.
mayor lower case so Sunderland mayor Fred/Freda Smith
medieval not mediaeval
met with Use met, not met with, as in she met him (not she met with him)
middle age two words, but middle-aged
mileage not milage
minibus/cab one word
more than not over when referring to numbers, as in more than 100 people
mother use for serious stories: Mother fights off attacker
mother-in-law lower case, hyphenate
Mam/Mum use for light-hearted stories: Mum is top of the class
mousy not mousey
100mph not 100 mph – no space, no points
National Lottery (first reference) then the Lottery
nevertheless one word, no hyphens
New Year not new year
newborn not new born/new-born
newsworthy one word
next of kin no hyphens
none singular, so none of the strikers has (not have) scored
no one not no-one/ noone
nonetheless one word
noticeboard one word
observer not -or
occur but occurrence (happen is better)
offbeat no hyphen
offshore one word
offside no hyphen
off of never use!
OK not okay, or ok
on to two words
online one word
open-heart (surgery) hyphen
opencast one word
open-plan (office) hyphen
outdated one word
over don’t use with numbers . Use more than instead, as in more than 100 people
overact one word
overall one word
overlook one word
overrate one word
override one word
overseas one word
overweight one word
parallel to, not with
partly refers to part but not the whole
partially to a limited extent: His health has partially recovered.
passer-by/ not passerby/passersby
past and last over the past few weeks interest rates have fallen, not over the last few weeks interest rates have fallen. But it is correct to write He scored in the last few minutes of the match – when talking about a precise event
payroll one word
phase a stage or to schedule, as in to phase in. Don’t confuse with faze which means to cause to be disturbed (I’m not fazed by insults)
photocopy one word
peninsula (noun), peninsular (adjective)
per cent two words. Don’t use large percentage or small percentage when many or few is better
post-mortem examination not just post-mortem, and not autopsy (US)
potato plural is potatoes
practice noun, as in doctor’s practice
practise verb, as practising (perfecting) football skills
premier prime minister or most important, as in Premier League
premiere first showing of a play or film
prenuptial not pre-nuptial
preventive not preventative
principal first or most important (My principal concern is cost)
principle rule of conduct (Spending is against my principles)
program a computer program
programme a television programme, a programme leader, etc
prostate (gland) not prostrate (lying flat)
protesters not –ors
questionnaire two n’s
racecourse one word
Radio 1 not One
razzmatazz not razzamatazz
recover to regain possession, re-cover means cover again
redesign not re-design
Register Office people are married here, not at the Registry Office
reopen not re-open
responsible people bear responsibility, not things. Rain can cause floods, I cannot be responsible for them
rethink one word
r’n’b no spaces
rock’n’roll no spaces
roofs not rooves
run-up when used as a noun
rush hour (noun) two words, but rush-hour traffic
Saint use in full when referring to a saint, but St in place names
schoolchildren one word
setback (obstacle) not set-back
St James’s Palace
St John Ambulance not John’s
schoolboy/girl one word
sewage is the stuff, sewerage is the plumbing
shipbuilding one word
short-stay (car park) hyphen
skill but skilful
standstill one word
stationary means not moving
stationery means paper, etc
stepfather/stepmother/stepson/stepdaughter no hyphen
stock car racing no hyphens
Sunday school but St Peter’s Sunday School when referring to a specific one
supersede with an ‘s’ not a ‘c’
sustain means keep going, so you suffer or receive injuries
swap not swop
swot (study) for exams, but swat a fly
takeaway one word for noun (let’s get a takeaway), two words for verb (take away this rubbish)
take-off (aircraft) when used as a noun
takeover noun, as in bid, but verb (I will take over that job) is two words
targeted not targetted
tattoo plural is tattoos, also tattooing
taxpayers everyone who pays income tax, but council tax payers
tearjerker one word
their possessive pronoun, as in it’s their responsibility
there preposition, as in look over there
they’re contraction of they are, as in they’re responsible
Third World caps, but developing nations is better
throw-in when used as a noun
threequarters one word
till until, but note double “l”
toilets not public conveniences, WC or loo
tomato plural is tomatoes
try to try to win/, not try and win
T-shirt not t-shirt or tee-shirt
troublespot one word
Tsar … of Russia, but drugs czar
under less than or fewer than is better
undercarriage, underclothes, undercover, undercut, underdog, underemployed, underestimate etc all one word, but under way needs two
unique cannot be qualified. Don’t write quite unique, very unique etc
up-and-coming hyphens (as in an up-and-coming band, meaning promising, likely to be successful), but upcoming (as in an upcoming tour) one word
up-to-date hyphens when used before a noun, as in an up-to-date book.
Not the difference: This book is up to date.
veto plural is vetoes
wacky not whacky
wartime one word
wavelength one word
wedding of not wedding between
well known If someone/something is well known, you don’t need to say so
widow a woman whose husband has died; a man whose wife has died is a widower
wintry not wintery
weekend not week-end
were as in you were there (past tense of to be); don’t confuse with …
where as in where are you?
whereas one word
while not whilst
whisky Scotch has no ‘e’, but Irish whiskey does
who’s contraction of who is (who’s a clever girl, then?)
whose pronoun (whose bag is this?)
withhold two ‘h’s
world wide web, lower case
Xmas Christmas (except in tabloid headlines)
x-ray hyphen, no cap, except Camp X-Ray
your possessive pronoun, as in your label is showing
you’re contraction of you are, as in you’re a disgrace
This is how you should set out your copy for all practical journalism modules – be they news, sport, magazine or fashion, and for print or online.
Student’s name, date
Headline for web or print here
Introduction starts here. Font should be simple, for example Arial, and should be at least 12 points in size.
Lines must be double spaced. You must leave an extra space between paragraphs. If the story goes on to a second page, put mf (stands for “more follows”) at the bottom of the page. Put name, date and page number at the top of the next sheet, too.
When the article is finished, write Ends and put the word count in brackets. Don’t include the headline in the word count. And come up with key words if your story is for the web, and picture/video/audio opportunities at the end.
Ends (273 words)
- Citations are used in the main body of your essay to back up your claims and say where you’ve got your quotes and information from. When used to support a general assertion they require author’s name and year of publication:
- Sports journalism is no longer regarded as the ‘toy department’ (Boyle 2006; Steen 2008).
- Direct quotes also require the page number. Either of the following styles is acceptable:
- As Boyle (2006: 12) argues: ‘Sports Journalism has changed.’
- ‘Sports journalism has changed’ (Boyle 2006: 12).
- When citing newspaper or online articles just use author’s name and, if available, year – do not include full web address or headline until the bibliography.
- A bibliography provides the full reference details of the sources cited in your essay. It should be on a separate page and in alphabetical order of author using the following styles:
- Boyle, R. (2006) Sports Journalism: Context and Issues. London: Sage.
- Book chapters
- Rowe, D. (2005) Fourth estate or fan club? Sports journalism engages the popular, in Allan, S. (ed) Journalism: Critical Issues. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
- Journal articles
- Schultz, B. & Sheffer, M.L. (2010) ‘An exploratory study of how Twitter is affecting sports journalism’, International Journal of Sport Communication, 3, 226-239.
- Newspaper articles
- Preston, P. (2013) ‘Trial by television only saves others from BBC blame’, The Observer, September 15, p.46.
- Online sources
- com (2011) ‘Barclays Premier League Tweet Map’ at http://www.premierleague.com/page/Headlines/0,,12306~2288403,00.html (Accessed 23 July, 2011).
SPORTS JOURNALISM STYLE TIPS
- A scoreline (eg Sunderland 2 Newcastle United 2) should be included on the top of all match reports
- Use a person’s full name only when first mentioning them. Then, just use their surname (unless another person in the same article shares the surname, in which case use their full names throughout)
- When match reporting, report the time of key action/goals etc as the minute in which the incident took place (eg if someone scores after 27 minutes and 30 seconds, it should be reported as a 28th-minute goal)
- As advised elsewhere in the Style Guide, write numbers between one and nine up full, but numbers 10 and above as a figure (eg England fast bowler Stuart Broad took eight wickets as Australia saw 10 batsmen dismissed for just 60)
Amis, K. (1998) The King’s English. London: HarperCollins.
Evans, H. (2000) Essential English: For Journalists, Editors and Writers. London: Pimlico.
Hicks, W. (2013) English for Journalists. London: Routledge.
Shrives, C. (2012) Grammar for Grown-ups. London: Kyle Books.
Truss, L. (2003) Eats, Shoots & Leaves. London: Profile.
Waterhouse, K. (1993) Waterhouse on Newspaper Style. London: Penguin.
Waterhouse, K. (1991) English, Our English: And How To Sing It. London: Viking.