The Guardian style guide Introduction



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The Guardian style guide
Introduction
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z




Saying it in style

"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do"

Thomas Jefferson

The Guardian style guide is edited by David Marsh and Nikki Marshall


The word and pdf versions of the Guardian style guide are regularly updated so return often to www.guardian.co.uk/styleguide/ for the latest additions.
Last updated: July 2004
Email: style.guide@guardian.co.uk



(Collins English Dictionary- Millennium Edition) to which you should refer for for guidance on anything that does not appear in the style guide


Neither pedantic nor wild …

an introduction by Michael McNay

The Guardian has always been a newspaper for writers, and so a newspaper for readers. All the other skills, copy editing, design, typography, illustration, photography, are there to enhance the writing and to make it more accessible, to make the paper a more desirable journal to read - though illustration and photography each has its separate justification as well.

It should not be necessary to add that Guardian writers and subeditors should all be interested in the language, in its proper use and its development, and that regular trips to books as wide-ranging as Gower's The Complete Plain Words, Partridge's Usage and Abusage, Orwell's brilliant short essay Politics and the English Language, Fowler's Modern English Usage, or Kingsley Amis's The King's English, are useful in sharpening professional tools as well as for entertainment.
One says it should not be necessary, but it is very obvious all round the Guardian office that uncomfortably many people involved in producing and shaping text for the paper rely more on the casual question, "What's the style for x?" and the casual answer, "I think it's probably y." Journalists who are not sufficiently interested in house style to check the house style guide are not on the face of it very likely to be much interested in style at all.

But our approach to style in its broadest sense is, if anything, more important now than before, first because other newspapers, which may always have had good writing in specialist areas, have caught up fast across a whole range of news and features; second because the Guardian itself employs so many staff on freelance shifts or short contracts who arrive here with no particular idea of what makes this paper different from others, and even staff journalists who are never inducted into what values the Guardian holds particularly close; third, though more obscurely, because of the arrival of the internet: this style guide itself is the first to be published on the world wide web. That makes it accessible in seconds; it cannot get lost or suffer having coffee spilt on it. But though there is no reason in itself why new publishing methods should change the language for the worse, the example of radio and television shows that it can: at the top end, the best correspondents file spoken reports that could grace this newspaper; at the broad base, reporters speak a form of unlovely but infectious journalese destined only for the rubbish bin.

House style is the means by which a newspaper seeks to ensure that where there are permissible variants in spellings, the use of acronyms and so forth, a unified approach to these matters is adopted to help in disseminating a sense of rationality and authority in the use of language. What it does not mean is imposing a unified writing style on the newspaper. Many of the reporters, columnists, critics and at least one former editor who once ran a highly idiosyncratic gossip column and who have enlivened the pages of the Guardian and helped to build its international reputation could hardly have done so had they been edited from the beginning into a homogenous house style. A subeditor can do no worse disservice to the text before him and thus to the writer, the reader, and the newspaper, than to impose his or her own preferences for words, for the shape of sentences and how they link, for a pedantic insistence on grammar in all cases as it used to be taught in school; in the process destroying nuances and possibly even the flow of a piece. And I write this as a career copy and layout editor with the best part of 40 years' service on the Guardian and who regards the skills involved in copy editing not just as desirable but essential.

Editing involves fine judgment, particularly as the paper has so many sections today serving possibly quite different kinds of readership. But fine judgments mean good editing, blanket judgments mean bad editing. A piece written in the vernacular that would be inappropriate on the analysis page or even (even?) in a sports column might pass muster in the Guide, where the demotic language of an NME review would be closer to the mark than the high style of Macaulay or CP Scott. And dealing sympathetically with quirks of writing style certainly does not preclude tidying up cliche-ridden journalese, verbosity, the latest vogue words and phrases, the words and phrases that flatten out meaning, replace a range of better more finely tuned words and concepts, and anaesthetise writing.

The introduction to the Guardian stylebook of 1960, which itself was a revision to the initial guide published in 1928, was headed "Neither pedantic nor wild".
That much has not changed.
• Michael McNay worked for the Guardian from 1963 to 1999.



A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
a or an before h?

use an only if the h is silent: an hour, an heir, an honourable man, an honest woman; but a hero, a hotel, a historian (but don’t change a direct quote if the speaker says, for example, “an historic”)


abattoir
abbeys

cap up, eg Rievaulx Abbey, Westminster Abbey


abbreviations

Do not use full points in abbreviations, or spaces between initials: BBC, US, mph, eg, 4am, lbw, No 10, PJ O'Rourke, WH Smith, etc.

Spell out less well-known abbreviations on first mention; it is not necessary to spell out well-known ones, such as EU, UN, US, BBC, CIA, FBI, CD, Aids, Nasa.

Use all caps only if the abbreviation is pronounced as the individual letters; otherwise spell the word out: the BBC, ICI, VAT, but Isa, Nato.
Beware of overusing less well-known acronyms and abbreviations; they can look clunky and clutter up text, especially those explained in brackets but then only referred to once or twice again. It is usually simpler to use another word, or even to write out the name in full a second time.
See contractions
Aborigines, Aboriginal

cap up when referring to native Australians


aborigines, aboriginal

lc when referring to indigenous populations


abscess
absorption
abysmal
abyss
a cappella
Acas

the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service at first mention, thereafter just Acas


accents

use on French, German, Spanish and Irish Gaelic words (but not anglicised French words such as cafe, apart from exposé)


Accenture

formerly Andersen Consulting


access

has been known as contact since the 1989 Children Act


accommodate, accommodation
accordion
achilles heel, achilles tendon
acknowledgment

not acknowledgement


acronyms

take initial cap, eg Aids, Isa, Mori, Nato


act

uc when using full name, eg Criminal Justice Act 1998, Official Secrets Act; but lc on second reference, eg “the act”, and when speaking in more general terms, eg “we need a radical freedom of information act"; bills remain lc until passed into law


acting

always lc:acting prime minister, acting committee chair, etc

actor

male and female, avoid actress except when in name of award, eg Oscar for best actress; one 27-year-old actor contacted the Guardian to say “actress” has acquired a faintly pejorative tinge and she wants people to call her actor (except for her agent who should call her often)

AD, BC

AD goes before the date (AD64), BC goes after (300BC); both go after the century, eg second century AD, fourth century BC


adaptation

not adaption


addendum

plural addendums


addresses

119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER


Adidas

initial cap


administration

the Clinton administration, etc


Adrenalin

TM; a brand of adrenaline


adrenaline

hormone that increases heart rate and blood pressure, extracted from animals or synthesised for medical uses


adverbs

do not use hyphens after adverbs ending in -ly, eg a hotly disputed penalty, a constantly evolving newspaper, genetically modified food, etc; but hyphens are needed with short and common adverbs, eg ill-prepared report, hard-bitten hack


adviser

not advisor


advocate

member of the Scottish bar (not a barrister)


aeroplane

not airplane


affect/effect

exhortations in the style guide had no effect (noun) on the number of mistakes; the level of mistakes was not affected (verb) by exhortations in the style guide; we hope to effect (verb)a change in this


affinity

with or between, not to or for


Afghans

people Afghanis currency of Afghanistan


aficionado

plural aficionados


African-Caribbean

not Afro-Caribbean


Afrikaans

language


Afrikaner

person
ageing


ages

Tony Blair, 52 (not “aged 52”); little Johnny, four; the woman was in her 20s (but twentysomething, fortysomething)

Aggravate

to make worse, not to annoy

aggro

despite the once popular terrace chant “A, G, A-G-R, A-G-R-O:Agro!”


AGM
ahead of

avoid, use before or in advance of


aide-de-camp

plural aides-de-camp


aide-memoire

plural aide-memoires


Aids

acquired immune deficiency syndrome, but normally no need to spell out


airbase, aircrew, airdrop, airlift, airmail
aircraft carrier
air raid, air strike
air vice-marshal
al-

(note lc and hyphen) before an Arabic name means “the” so try to avoid writing “the al- … ” where possible


Alastair or Alistair?

Alastair Campbell, Alastair Hetherington

Alistair Cooke, Alistair Darling, Alistair Maclean, Alistair McGowan

Aleister Crowley


Albright, Madeleine

former US secretary of state; Mrs Albright, not Ms, after first mention



Alcott, Louisa May

(1832-88) American author of Little Women



www.alcottweb.com
A-levels
Ali, Muhammad
alibi

being somewhere else; not synonymous with excuse


alice band

as worn by Alice in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass (1871) and David Beckham


Allah

Arabic for “the God”. Both words refer to the same concept: there is no major difference between God in the Old Testament and Allah in Islam. Therefore it makes sense to talk about “God” in an Islamic context and to use “Allah” in quotations or for literary effect


Allahu Akbar

“God is most great”


all comers
Allende, Isabel

Chilean author, niece of Salvador



www.isabelallende.com

Allende, Salvador

Chilean president, overthrown and killed in 1973

allies

lc, second world war allies, etc; but use coalition when referring to the 2003 Iraq war


all mouth and trousers

not “all mouth and no trousers”, as has appeared in the paper


allot, allotted
all right

is right; alright is not all right


All Souls College

Oxford, no apostrophe


Almodóvar, Pedro

Spanish film-maker


alsatian

dog
AltaVista


alternative

strictly, a choice between two courses of action; if there are more than two, option or choice may be preferred


alumnus

plural alumni


Alzheimer's disease
AM (assembly member)

member of the Welsh assembly, eg Rhodri Morgan AM


ambassador

lc, eg the British ambassador to Washington


American Civil Liberties Union

not American Civil Rights Union


American universities

Take care: “University of X" is not the same as “X University"; most states have two large public universities, eg University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University, University of Illinois and Illinois State University, etc


Do not call Johns Hopkins University “John Hopkins" or Stanford University “Stamford”
America's Cup
Amhrán na bhFiann

Irish national anthem


Amicus

trade union formed by a merger between the AEEU and MSF


amid

not amidst


amok

not amuck


among

not amongst

among or between?

Contrary to popular myth, between is not limited to two parties. It is appropriate when the relationship is essentially reciprocal: fighting between the many peoples of Yugoslavia, treaties between European countries. Among belongs to distributive relationships: shared among, etc

ampersand

use in company names when the company does: Marks & Spencer, P&O


anaesthetic
analysis

plural analyses


ancestors

precede descendants; we frequently manage to get them the wrong way round


Andalucía
annex

verb
annexe

noun
anonymous pejorative quotes

See appendix 2: the editor’s guidelines on the identification of sources
Ansaphone

TM; use answering machine or answerphone


antenna, antennae, antennas

antenna (insect), plural antennae; antenna (radio), plural antennas


anticipate

take action in expectation of; not synonymous with expect


anticlimax
antidepressants
antihero
antipodes
anti-semitic, anti-war but antisocial
any more

two words


apex

plural apexes






apostrophes

Some plural nouns have no “s”, eg children. These take an apostrophe and “s” in the possessive, eg children's games, gentlemen's outfitter, old folk's home.


The possessive in words and names ending in s normally takes an apostrophe followed by a second s (Jones's, James's), but be guided by pronunciation and use the plural apostrophe where it helps: Mephistopheles' rather than Mephistopheles's.

Use apostrophes in phrases such as in two days’ time, 12 years' imprisonment and six weeks’ holiday, where the time period (two days) modifies a noun (time), but not in nine months pregnant or three weeks old, where the time period is adverbial (modifying an adjective such as pregnant or old) — if in doubt, test with a singular such as one day’s time, one month pregnant.

And if anyone tries to tell you that apostrophes don’t matter and we’d be better off without them, consider these four phrases (listed in Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct), each of which means something completely different: my sister’s friend’s investments, my sisters’ friends’ investments, my sisters’ friend’s investments, my sister’s friends’ investments
appal, appalling
appendix

plural appendices


appraise

to estimate worth


apprise

to inform


aquarium

plural aquariums


Arab

Both a noun and an adjective, and the preferred adjective when referring to Arab things in general, eg Arab history, Arab traditions. Arabic usually refers to the language and literature: “the Arabic press” means newspapers written in Arabic, while “the Arab press” would include newspapers produced by Arabs in other languages.


There is no simple definition of an Arab. At an international level, the 22 members of the Arab League can safely be described as Arab countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. At a human level, there are substantial groups within those countries – the Berbers of north Africa and the Kurds, for example – who do not regard themselves as Arabs.

Arabic

Though Arabic has only three vowels – a, i and u – it has several consonants that have no equivalent in the Roman alphabet. For instance, there are two kinds of s, d and t. There are also two kinds of glottal sound. This means there are at least 32 ways of writing the Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy's name in English, and a reasonable argument can be made for adopting almost any of them. With no standard approach to transliteration agreed by the western media, we must try to balance consistency, comprehensibility and familiarity – which often puts a strain on all three.

Typically, Arabs have at least three names. In some cases the first or second name may be the one that is most used, and this does not imply familiarity (Arabs often address foreigners politely as “Mr John” or “Dr David”). Saddam, for example, is used by western and Arab media alike because it is more unusual than Hussein. And often Arabs also have familiar names which have no connection with the names on their identity cards; a man might become known after the birth of his first son as “Abu Ahmad”, the father of Ahmad (eg the Palestinian leader Ahmed Qureia is commonly known as Abu Ala).
Where a particular spelling has become widely accepted through usage we should retain it. Where an individual with links to the west has clearly adopted a particular spelling of his or her own name, we should respect that. For breaking news and stories using names for which the Guardian has no established style, we take the lead given by Reuters wire copy.
Note also that names in some parts of the Arab world have become gallicised, while others have become anglicised, eg the leading Egyptian film director Youssef Chahine uses a French spelling instead of the English transliteration, Shaheen.
Some guidelines (for use particularly where there is no established transliteration):

al-

Means “the”. In names it is not capitalised, eg Ahmad al-Saqqaf, and can be dropped after the first mention (Mr Saqqaf). For placenames the Guardian drops it altogether. Sometimes it appears as as- or ash- or ad- or ul-: these should be ignored and can be safely rewritten as al-. But some Arabs, including Syrians and Egyptians, prefer to use el- in place of al-.

Exceptions: by convention, Allah (al-Lah, literally “the God”) is written as one word and capitalised; and in Saudi royal names, Al Saud is correct (in this case, “al” is actually “aal” and does not mean “the”).

abdul, abu and bin

These are not self-contained names, but are connected to the name that follows:


abdul means “slave of … ” and so cannot correctly be used on its own. There are standard combinations, “slave of the merciful one”, “slave of the generous one”, etc, which all indicate that the person is a servant of God. In transliteration, “abd” (slave) is lower case, eg Ahmad abd al-Rahman al-Saqqaf, except when used at the start of a name.

abu (father of) and bin (son of) are similar. When they appear in the middle of a name they should be lower case and are used in combination with the following part of the name: Faisal abu Ahmad al-Saqqaf, Faisal bin Ahmad al-Saqqaf.

Despite the above, some people are actually known as “Abdul”. This is more common among non-Arab Muslims. And some Arabs run “abd” or “abu” into the following word, eg the writer Abdelrahman Munif.


Muhammad

Our style for the prophet's name and for most Muhammads living in Arab countries, though where someone’s preferred spelling is known we respect it, eg Mohamed Al Fayed, Mohamed ElBaradei. The spelling Mohammed (or variants) is considered archaic by most British Muslims, and disrespectful by many of them.


Muhandis/Mohandes, Qadi

Be wary of names where the first word is Muhandis or Qadi: these are honorary titles, meaning engineer and judge respectively


Arafat, Yasser
archbishops

the Archbishop of Canterbury, (the Right Rev) Rowan Williams, at first mention, thereafter Dr Williams or the archbishop; the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, on first mention, subsequently Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor or the archbishop


archdeacon

the Ven Paul Olive, Archdeacon of Farringdon, at first mention; then Mr Olive (unless he is a Dr), or the archdeacon


archipelago

plural archipelagos

Ardoyne

(Belfast), not “the Ardoyne”

Argentinian

noun and adjective


arguably

unarguably one of the most overused words in the language


armed forces, armed services

the army, the British army, the navy, but Royal Navy, Royal Air Force (RAF is OK)
arms akimbo

hands on hips, elbows out; we have had “legs akimbo” in the paper (uncomfortable as well as ungrammatical)


around

about or approximately are better, eg “about £1m” or “approximately 2,000 people”


arranged marriages

are a traditional and perfectly acceptable form of wedlock across southern Asia and within the Asian community in Britain; they should not be confused with forced marriages, which are arranged without the consent of one or both partners, and have been widely criticised


artist

not artiste (except, possibly, in a historical context)


art movements

lc, art deco, art nouveau, cubism, dadaism, gothic, impressionism, pop art, surrealism, etc, but Bauhaus, Modern (in the sense of Modern British, to distinguish it from “modern art”, pre-Raphaelite, Romantic (to differentiate between a romantic painting and a Romantic painting)


Arts Council
ascendancy, ascendant
Ashura

a day of voluntary fasting for Muslims; Shia Muslims also commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the prophet. For their community, therefore, it is not a festival but a day of deep mourning


aspirin
astrologer

not astrologist


Asunción

capital of Paraguay

asylum seeker

Someone seeking refugee status or humanitarian protection; there is no such thing as an “illegal asylum seeker”. Refugees are people who have fled their home countries in fear for their lives, and may have been granted asylum under the 1951 refugee convention or qualify for humanitarian protection or discretionary leave, or have been granted exceptional leave to remain in Britain. An asylum seeker can only become an illegal immigrant if he or she remains in Britain after having failed to respond to a removal notice

athletics

1500m but 5,000m (the former is the “fifteen hundred” not “one thousand five hundred” metres)
Atlantic Ocean

or just the Atlantic


attache

no accent


Attlee, Clement

(1883-1967) Labour prime minister 1945-51, often misspelt as Atlee


attorney general

lc, no hyphen


auger

used to make holes augur predict or presage


Aum Shinrikyo

means Supreme Truth sect, but note that the “aum” means sect, so to talk about the “Aum sect” or “Aum cult” is tautologous


au pair
Australian Labor party

not Labour


autism

an incurable neurological disorder, to be used only when referring to the condition, not as a term of abuse, or in producing such witticisms as “mindless moral autism” and “Star Wars is a form of male autism”, both of which have appeared in the paper; autistic someone with autism, not someone with poor social skills


Autocue

TM; teleprompter is a generic alternative


avant garde

no hyphen


awards, prizes, medals

generally lc, eg Guardian first book award, Nobel peace prize, Fields medal (exceptions: the Academy Awards, Victoria Cross); note that categories are lc, eg “he took the best actor Oscar at the awards”


axis

plural axes


Azerbaijan

noun Azerbaijani adjective; note that there are ethnic Azeris living in, for example, Armenia


Aziz, Tariq

former deputy prime minister of Iraq


Aznar, José María

former prime minister of Spain

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
BAA

do not call it the British Airports Authority, its former name


Ba’ath
Babybel

cheese
baby Bells

US regional telephone companies formed after the breakup of AT&T in 1984
backbench

newspaper or politics; backbenches, backbenchers


backstreet
bacteria

plural of bacterium, so don’t write “the bacteria is”


BAE Systems

formerly British Aerospace


Baghdad
bail out

a prisoner, a company or person in financial difficulty; the noun is bail-out; but bale out a boat or from an aircraft


bakewell tart
balk

obstruct, pull up, stop short baulk area of a snooker table


ballot, balloted
Band-Aid

TM; say plaster or sticking plaster


band names

lc the: the Beatles, the Black Eyed Peas, the The; but uc equivalents in other languages, eg Les Négresses Vertes, Los Lobos


Bank of England

the Bank (uc) is acceptable on subsequent mentions



www.bankofengland.co.uk
bank holiday
banknote
bar

(legal) she was called to the bar; (political) of the House of Commons


barbecue
Barclays Bank
barcode

barmitzvah, batmitzvah

Barnardo's

children's charity, formerly Dr Barnardo’s; it no longer runs orphanages


barolo

wine
barons, baronesses

we call them lords and ladies, even at first mention: Lady Thatcher, Lady Blackstone, Lady Jay, Lord Callaghan, etc
Barons Court
baroque
Basle

not Basel


Basque country
bas-relief
Battenberg

(not Battenburg) German family name that became Mountbatten; battenberg cake lc


battlebus
Bauhaus
B&B

abbreviation for bed and breakfast


BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4

no spaces


1000BC

but AD1066 see AD





Beaton, Sir Cecil
(1904-80) Society photographer
B&Q
beau plural beaux
bebop, hard bop, post-bop
Becket, Thomas

(1118-70) murdered Archbishop of Canterbury, not Thomas à Becket


bed blocking
bedouin
beef wellington
Beeton, Mrs

(Isabella Mary Beeton, 1836-65) author of the Book of Household Management


befitted

begs the question

A tricky one, best avoided since it is almost invariably misused: it means assuming a proposition that, in reality, involves the conclusion. An example would be to say that parallel lines will never meet because they are parallel, assuming as a fact the thing you are professing to prove. What it does not mean is “raises the question”

Beijing
Belarus

adjective Belarussian


believable
Bell's

whisky
bellwether

sheep that leads the herd; customarily misspelt, misused, or both
benefited, benefiting
Benefits Agency
Benetton
Berchtesgaden
berks and wankers

Kingsley Amis identified two principal groups in debates over use of language: “Berks are careless, coarse, crass, gross and of what anybody would agree is a lower social class than one’s own; wankers are prissy, fussy, priggish, prim and of what they would probably misrepresent as a higher social class than one’s own”


Bernabéu stadium

Madrid
Betaferon

TM; the generic term for the drug is interferon-beta 1b
bete noire

no accent


betting odds

These are meaningless to many readers, and we frequently get them wrong. But here’s a brief explanation: Long odds (eg 100-1 against, normally expressed as 100-1) mean something unlikely; shorter odds (eg 10-1) still mean it’s unlikely, but less unlikely; odds on (eg 2-1 on, sometimes expressed as 1-2) means it is likely, so if you were betting £2 you would win only £1 plus the stake.


Take care using the phrase “odds on”: if Labour is quoted by bookmakers at 3-1 to win a byelection, and the odds are cut to 2-1, it is wrong to say “the odds on Labour to win were cut last night” — in fact, the odds against Labour to win have been cut (the shorter the price, the more likely something is expected to happen).

It gets more complicated when something is genuinely odds on, ie bookmakers quote a price of “2-1 on”: in this case, if the Labour candidate is quoted at 2-1 on and becomes an even hotter favourite, at 3-1 on, the odds have shortened; if Labour loses popularity, and 2-1 on becomes, say, 7-4 on or evens, the odds have lengthened

Bevan, Aneurin

Labour health minister (1945-51) and architect of the NHS, also known as Nye Bevan Bevin, Ernest Labour foreign secretary (1945-51) who helped to create Nato


Beverly Hills
Beyoncé
biannual

twice a year, biennial every two years; biannual is almost always misused: to avoid confusion stick with the alternative twice-yearly; two-yearly is an alternative to biennial


bias, biased
Bible

cap up if referring to Old or New Testament; lc in such sentences as “the Guardian style guide is my bible”; biblical lc


biblical quotations

Use a modern translation, not the Authorised Version. From a reader:“Peradventure the editor hath no copy of Holy Writ in the office, save the King James Version only. Howbeit the great multitude of believers knoweth this translation not. And he (or she) who quoteth the words of Jesus in ancient form, sheweth plainly that he (or she) considereth them to be out of date. Wherefore let them be quoted in such manner that the people may understand."


biblical references

Genesis 1:1; II Corinthians 2:13; Revelation 3:16 (anyone calling it “Revelations” will burn in hell for eternity)


bicentenary

a 200th anniversary bicentennial its adjective


biceps

singular and plural, there is no such thing as a bicep


bid

use only in a financial sense, eg Manchester United have made a bid for Henry, or auction room


big

usually preferable to major, massive, giant, mammoth, behemoth, etc, particularly in news copy


bigot, bigoted
bill

lc, even when giving full name; cap up only if it becomes an act

billion

one thousand million, not one million million: in copy use bn for sums of money, quantities or inanimate objects: £10bn, 1bn litres of water; otherwise billion: 6 billion people, etc; use bn in headlines

Birds Eye

TM; no apostrophe


birdwatchers

also known as birders, not “twitchers”; they go birdwatching or birding, not “twitching”


Biro

TM; say ballpoint pen


birthplace, birthrate, birthright
Birtwistle, Sir Harrison

British composer


bishops

the Right Rev Clifford Richard, Bishop of Wimbledon, at first mention; thereafter the bishop or Bishop Richard; it is OK to leave out the Right Rev


bismillah

means “in the name of God” in Arabic


black

lc noun and adjective when referring to race


Black Country
black economy

prefer hidden or parallel economy


black-on-black violence

is banned, unless in a quote, but even then treat with scepticism (imagine the police saying they were “investigating an incident of white-on-white violence between Millwall and West Ham supporters”)


blackout
Blair/Booth, Cherie

wishes to be called Mrs Blair when we are referring to her role as the wife of the prime minister; if she is appearing in court or at a function related to her work as a lawyer, she is Cherie Booth QC (Ms Booth on second mention)


blase

no accent


blastfurnace
bleeper

not beeper; synonym for pager


blitz, blitzkrieg
blond

adjective and male noun; blonde female noun: the woman is a blonde, because she has blond hair; the man has blond hair and is, if you insist, a blond


Bloody Sunday

take care when writing about the death toll: 13 died in Derry on January 30 1972, but a 14th victim died from a brain tumour several months later, so we should use a phrase such as “which led to 14 deaths”

Bluffer's Guide

TM; beware of using phrases like “a bluffer's guide to crimewriting”, a headline that led to a complaint from the copyright holder

Blu-Tack

TM
Boat Race

Oxford v Cambridge
Boddingtons
bogey

golf, ghost; bogie trolley, truck


Bogotá

capital of Colombia


Bombay

see Mumbai
bona fide, bona fides
Bonham Carter, Helena
bookcase, bookkeeper, bookseller, bookshelf
book titles

are not italicised, except in the newspaper’s Review section; lc for a, an, and, of, on, the (unless they are the first word of the title): A Tale of Two Cities, The Pride and the Passion, etc


bon vivant

not bon viveur


bordeaux

wine
bored with, by

not bored of
Boston Strangler
both

unnecessary in most sentences that contain “and”; “both men and women” says no more than “men and women”, and takes longer; if you do use it, it is plural: “both women have reached the tops of their professions”


bottleneck
Boudicca

not Boadicea


Boundary Commission
bourgeois

adjective bourgeoisie noun


Boutros Boutros-Ghali

former UN secretary general; Mr Boutros-Ghali at second mention


bovine somatotrophin

(BST)
box office


boy

male under 18


boyfriend
boy’s own
brackets

If the sentence is logically and grammatically complete without the information contained within the parentheses (round brackets), the punctuation stays outside the brackets. (A complete sentence that stands alone in parentheses starts with a capital letter and ends with a stop.)

“Square brackets,” the grammarian said, “are used in direct quotes when an interpolation [a note from the writer, not uttered by the speaker] is added to provide essential information.”

braille
brand

avoid tabloidese such as “Howard brands Blair a liar”


Brands Hatch

no apostrophe


Brasilia

capital of Brazil


breastfed, breastfeeding
briar

bush, pipe


bric-a-brac
brickbat

cliche, do not use


Bridgnorth
Brink's-Mat
Britain, UK

These terms are synonymous: Britain is the official short form of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Used as adjectives, therefore, British and UK mean the same. Great Britain, however, refers only to England, Wales and Scotland.


Take care not to write Britain when you might mean only England and Wales, for example when referring to the education system. See Scotland
Britart
British Council
British Film Institute

BFI on second mention


British Library
British Medical Association

(doctors' trade union), BMA on second mention


British Museum

www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk
Britpop
Britvic

TM
brownie points


Brueghel

family of Flemish painters


Brum, Brummie
brussels sprouts
brutalise

render brutal, not treat brutally; so soldiers may be brutalised by the experience of war


Brylcreem

TM
BSE

bovine spongiform encephalopathy; no need to spell out
BST

British summer time


Buckingham Palace

the palace on second mention


buckminsterfullerene

a form of carbon, named after the US engineer Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)

budget, the

lc noun and adj, eg budget talks, budget measures, mini-budget, pre-budget report, etc

buffaloes

not buffalos


Bulger, James

not Jamie


Buñuel, Luis

(1900-83) Spanish film director


Burberry

TM
bureau

plural bureaus (furniture) or bureaux (organisations)
burgomaster

not burgomeister


burka

not burqa


Burma

not Myanmar


burned/burnt

burned is the past tense form (he burned the cakes); burnt is the participle, an “adjectival” form of the verb (“the cakes are burnt”)


buses, bussed, bussing
Bush, George

not George W; his father is George Bush Sr


businesslike, businessman, businesswoman
businessmen

say business people or the business community if that is what you mean


Bussell, Darcey

British ballet dancer


but, however

often redundant, and increasingly wrongly used to connect two compatible statements; “in contrast, however, … ” is tautologous


Butlins

but Pontin’s


butterflies

lc, painted lady, red admiral, etc; but note queen of Spain fritillary


buyout

but buy-in


byelection, bylaw, bypass, bystander
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