Maasai - ie with three "a"s is our preferred spelling for the nomadic people, rather than Masai...


ie with three "a"s is our preferred spelling for the nomadic people, rather than Masai. 


is our preferred style for the special administrative region of China, rather than Macao.

Macedonia/North Macedonia

Macedonia is a region of northern Greece, North Macedonia an adjacent country. North Macedonia (officially the “Republic of North Macedonia”) was renamed as part of a deal with Greece in February 2019. It had become an independent state after the break-up of Yugoslavia. As part of the agreement with Greece, a citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia is a Macedonian and the country’s official language is Macedonian.


Short for Mach number: the ratio of the speed of a body to the speed of sound in the surrounding atmosphere (Mach 1 = speed of sound). It is named after Ernst Mach, Austrian physicist, and should have an initial cap.


ie with a hyphen. But sub-machine gun. 


ie every vowel is an "a". The adjective is Madagascan, although locals say it’s not a word they ever use. The language and people are Malagasy.

mad cow disease

Use inside double quotation marks at first mention in text; single marks if the first mention is inside a direct quote, or in a headline or sub-head. Either way, no quote marks subsequently.


Since 2011, our style has been to use Chennai rather than Madras, but we should include the formulation Chennai (Madras) once high up in the body of the story.


is our preferred version of the spelling for these Islamic schools or colleges.


Capped up for the Sicilian branch, otherwise lower case (eg: The Camorra, the Naples-based mafia...). 


It is Magdalen College, Oxford - but Magdalene College, Cambridge.

magistrates’ court 

ie with an apostrophe after the "s". It should be capped up if part of a title (eg: Brent Magistrates’ Court).


is perfectly acceptable in its place (eg: An island off the west coast of Scotland has cancelled its ferry service to the mainland). But do not use it in the context of Irish stories. (eg: "The Belfast ferry company has resumed services to the mainland"). 


and not "Mallorca".


The phrase "shopping mall" is an Americanism; substitute shopping centre or shopping precinct.


is open to objections of sexism - safer to write the human racepeople etc.


In a mixed workforce, it’s more accurate to use staffedstaffing, staffing level etc. By the same token, avoid "man in the street".  

Mao Zedong

And not "Mao Tse-tung" or any other variant.


In the UK, marines are part of the navy. They are not soldiers - so don’t call them that. Lower case unless you are referring to the Royal Marines. We cap up US Marines, as it is a discrete branch of the armed forces. But individually they are also marines.

Marks & Spencer (Updated May 2018)

ie we use an ampersand in both the full name and in the abbreviated form (M&S - no gaps, no points). The corporate name is “Marks and Spencer plc” but it’s sensible to use the branding audiences will recognise.


ie no "s" at the end.


A priest officiating at Mass is celebrating Mass, and not "offering" or "giving" it (Mass being an act, not an object). When there are a number of priests involved, they are concelebrants. When the Pope is one of that number, he is the chief celebrant or principal celebrant. Some Anglican churches hold services that they refer to as "Mass".

master’s degree

lower case, but Master of Arts or similar capped.

matchplay/ match play

(in golf) is usually one word, but it is two words in the names of some tournaments (eg: the World Match Play Championship).


For the mayor of a town/city, use a capital letter if accompanied by the name (eg: London Mayor Joe Bloggs will address the conference); lower case without the name (eg: London's mayor will arrive on Tuesday). Same rule for former mayors (eg: The former Mayor of New York, Rudi Giuliani, is best known for his leadership in the days following 9/11. The former mayor supported "zero-tolerance" policies on crime.)


(the burger people) ie no "a" in "Mc" and an apostrophe before the "s". But: Big Mac.


(mobile e-commerce) ie lower case - with a hyphen.


(myalgic encephalomyelitis) ie caps, no gap. Call it chronic fatigue or chronic fatigue syndrome - but never "yuppie flu".


is a plural, so say eg: The media are in angry mood. Note however that the press is singular eg: The press hates the government. 

Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency

(Government body responsible for ensuring safety of medicines and medical devices) ie Products has initial cap - although the short form, acceptable at second reference, is MHRA.


is our preferred spelling (rather than "mediaeval"). Middle Ages has initial caps.


(Libyan convicted over Lockerbie - died in May 2012) The preferred spelling of his full name is Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. After first reference, and in keeping with our style on Arab personal names, call him Megrahi. This should also be used where appropriate in headlines.


There are two types: viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis. They both infect the fluid of the spinal cord and brain. Vaccines are designed to give protection against the bacterial variety, not the viral. The micro-organisms which can cause bacterial meningitis can also pass into the bloodstream and cause meningococcal septicaemia.


(Member of the European Parliament) ie all caps, no points, no gaps. Alternatively, Euro-MP.


no longer exists as a county, but is still of value in identifying the region. Say on Merseyside (and not "in Merseyside").

Meshaal, Khaled

(exiled Hamas leader) ie not "Khalid" or "Mishal".


A meteoroid is a space rock, probably less than 100m across (the bigger space rocks are called asteroids).

meteor refers to the light phenomenon in the sky (a shooting star) when a space rock enters the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up.

A meteorite is the lump of rock that has survived entry and is left on the Earth’s surface. It does not become a meteorite until it is on the ground. Thus, meteorites do not "fall to earth"; nor do they hit anything.  

Middle East

ie initial caps. In headlines only, it may be abbreviated to Mid-East (with a hyphen). 


is the correct spelling (and not "Middlesborough"). The local football team can be abbreviated at second reference to Boro (no apostrophe).


no longer exists as a county (although there are still Middlesex organisations eg. Middlesex County Cricket Club, Middlesex Tennis etc). Usually best replaced by a London geographical reference (Harrow in north-west London; Harefield Hospital, west of London etc). 


is our style for the US elections, lower case and hyphenated.  


is the Security Service. It does not employ agents.


is the Secret Intelligence Service. It does employ agents.


The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

In order to explain this to audiences, you may use this explanation at the foot of relevant stories, in italicised text.


military ranks

(with abbreviations):


Royal Navy


Royal Air Force




Admiral of the Fleet

Field Marshal

Marshal of the Royal Air Force

Admiral (4 star)


General ( 4 star)


Air Chief Marshal (4 star)


Vice Admiral (3 star)

(Vice Adm)

Lieutenant General (3 star)

(Lt Gen)

Air Marshal (3 star)


Rear Admiral (2 star)

(Rear Adm)

Major General (2 star)

(Maj Gen)

Air Vice Marshal (2 star)


Commodore (1 star)


Brigadier (1 star)


Air Commodore (1 star)

(Air Cdre)





Group Captain

(Gp Capt)



Lieutenant Colonel

(Lt Col)

Wing Commander

(Wing Cdr)

Lieutenant Commander

(Lt Cdr)



Squadron Leader

(Sqn Ldr)





Flight Lieutenant

(Flt Lt)

Sub Lieutenant

(Sub Lt)



Flying Officer


2 nd  Lieutenant

(2nd  Lt)

Pilot Officer

Other Ranks

Other Ranks

Other Ranks

Warrant Officer


Warrant Officer class 1


Warrant Officer/Master Aircrew


Warrant Officer class 2

Flight Sergeant (Flt Sgt)

Chief Petty Officer


Staff/Colour Sergeant

(Staff/Colour Sgt)

Chief Technician

(Ch Tech)

Petty Officer











Leading hand

Lance Corporal


Senior Aircraftman/woman


Able Seaman



Leading Aircraftman/woman





are best left to God - so do not write about "miraculous" escapes or, even worse, "miracle escapes". An adjective such as remarkable is preferable, although in practice it is usually best to let the facts speak for themselves.


The phrase "go missing" suggests a deliberate act - better to say that someone is missing or has not been seen since...


means "to make less severe". Do not make the mistake of saying "mitigate against", when you actually mean militate against (ie "to be a powerful factor in preventing").


(Member of the Legislative Assembly) is the abbreviation to use for a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly; plural: MLAs.


If referring to the haircut, it's mohican in lower case, rather than the US version, mohawk. But caps if referring to the indigenous tribes.

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

The full title is too much of a mouthful - even though it is the senior dignitary of an established Church, on a par with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Better to write The most senior figure in the Church of Scotland... with at second reference eg: James McTaggart, the Moderator of the General Assembly... 


Upper case for the one circling the Earth - otherwise lower case (eg: By the light of the Moon, he focused his telescope on Jupiter’s moons).


An acceptable shorthand in headlines for the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon, but we should make clear in copy that it is a term used by critics that many church members find offensive.

more than

is the correct term to use with numbers (eg: More than 100 helicopters are flying in supplies). Use over when you are writing about quantities (eg: Each one is carrying over five tonnes of aid).


You can fire mortar-bombs (or mortar-rounds) but not shells. The piece of equipment doing the firing is the mortar, so it is wrong to refer to "a mortar landing on..." but correct to speak of a target being mortared.


The vehicle test should be spelled with a lower case "o".

Motassadek, Mounir al-

(Moroccan convicted in Germany in connection with the 9/11 attacks)

His full name is Mounir al-Motassadek (ie lower case "al" - followed by a hyphen). After that, he is Motassadek.

Mother’s Day

ie both words capped up - with an apostrophe before the "s". In the UK, it is on the fourth Sunday in Lent. In the US, Canada and Australia, it falls on the second Sunday in May.

Mousavi, Mir Hossein

(reformist Iranian politician) ie not "Mirhoseyn Musavi".


(Member of Parliament) ie both caps, no points, no gap. Plural: MPs. It should be lower case "member" in sentences such as She is one of seven new members from Lancashire.


ie lower case, no gaps.


(Member of the Scottish Parliament) ie all caps, no points, no gaps. Plural MSPs.


For the founder of Islam, our style is the Prophet Muhammad; at second reference Muhammad or the Prophet. For the spelling of individual Muslims named after him, there is no simple rule because the spelling (Muhammad/Mohamed/Mohammad) varies from country to country. But in the Arab world, where Arabic script rules, we should use Muhammad.


ie lower case - and not "-hidin", "-hedeen" etc.


ie one word - not hyphenated.


ie one word - no hyphen.


ie one hyphen when preceding a noun.

mum and dad

lower case if referring to them as parents, as in My mum and dad have been brilliant. Capped if you could replace "mum" or "dad" with a name: It’s about time Mum and Dad came to visit.


As Mumbai is now well known as the name for the former Bombay, it is fine to use in all contexts without the previous formulation Mumbai (Bombay). The stock exchange in the city remains the Bombay Stock Exchange.


and not "Moslem" - always capped.

Muslim parliament

(in the UK) Always say so-called or self-styled or something similar at first mention.


ie with a capital "s".


is fine as a noun (eg: Police say the killing is a mystery) - and can sometimes be properly used in an adjectival sense (eg: mystery tourmystery playmystery guest). But avoid the tabloid usage (eg: "Police probe mystery murder"). The correct adjective is mysterious.


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