Westminster newsroom hosue style
All news organisations have a house style. It doesn’t really matter what the style is as long as everyone sticks to it. we are issuing this brief style guide for all your work so that WNOL and any news blogs you write will retain a consistency.
Writing to a style is a very good habit to nurture. Ours contains style points common to major news organisations in the UK.
- Use Oxford English Dictionary spellings. Use the first example where there is an alternative.
- Use the Times Altas for geographic spellings.
- Keep capitals to a minimum.
- Use upper and lower case in headlines just as you would in a sentence.
- Use upper and lower case for acronyms where you can say them like a word eg. Nasa, but all upper case where you can’t say them eg. UNHCR.
- Use –ise endings for words like capitalise, organise etc.
(There is an exception in bodies like the World Health Organization where that is the way they spell their name).
- Take care not to use American spellings with words like colour (color in the US), humour, etc. Also note that words like vest, slated and suspenders all mean different things in the US.
- Spell out numbers one to nine, then digits for 10, 11, 12 etc.
- Never start a sentence with digits.
- Try to use short words that are easy to understand.
- We use a colon and then double quote marks for speech. Remember that punctuation comes inside a quote unless it’s an incomplete sentence.
eg. The man said: “It was a really difficult experience.”
He told me it was a “really difficult”. Don’t use contractions, except in a quote eg. Is not, cannot, do not etc.
- Take care not to use trade names when you want a generic word. Common mistakes are Hoover, Portakabin, Kleenex, Biro.
- Ellipses. Use three dots and a space… like this…
- Hyphens. If you don’t use them correctly you can change the meaning.
eg. A little used car is different to a little-used car.
- Companies, governments and other bodies are singular. The exceptions are the police and sporting teams.
- Try to close up and abbreviate units eg. 13m, 24km, £35m, 3C.
- Dates. If you use the figure first it avoids comma eg. 27 November 2008.
- If you are publishing online then you have a potential global audience where today and yesterday are confusing. Try to use the actual day instead.
- Make every effort to avoid commas in intros – they slow down your copy.
- Learn the rules on use of apostrophes and comma. They are commonly misused.
Westminster University Journalism School, Autumn 2008