A-Z complete guide



Pronunciation is the key. Use "an" before any word or abbreviation beginning with a vowel sound, including words beginning with a silent "h" (as far as we know there are only four of these: hourhonour, heir, honest and their derivatives). You use "a" with consonant sounds (eg: unicorn), including words beginning with an "h" which is pronounced (eg: hathotel).

Abbas, Mahmoud

(Palestinian Authority president.) We should call him Mahmoud Abbas alone, unless he is referred to in a quotation as Abu Mazen, when we can use the formula "Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen" to explain. In feature-type pieces it would be acceptable to use both terms.


Means indigenous; earliest known inhabitants of a particular country. Use a cap (Aboriginal) if the reference is to the indigenous Australians; otherwise, aboriginal. Likewise, Aborigine/aborigine. 


Avoid pro-abortion, and use pro-choice instead. Campaigners favour a woman's right to choose, rather than abortion itself. And use anti-abortion rather than pro-life, except where it is part of the title of a group's name. Heartbeat bill should be carried in inverted commas, attributed or framed as so-called heartbeat bill.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir

A Muslim cleric, alleged spiritual leader of militant group Jemaah Islamiah, convicted of charges relating to the bombings in Bali and at the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta. Give full name at first mention; subsequently Ba'asyir. 

Abu Hamza al-Masri

At first mention only, spell out his full name - thereafter he can be referred to as Abu Hamza. Never shorten the name to "Hamza", even in a headline. 

Abu Qatada

(Radical Palestinian-Jordanian cleric.) He remains Abu Qatada at second reference. 


(ie initial cap only) NB: it is not the government's Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. It is independent.  


We do use some accents on foreign names - umlauts, tildes etc on French, German, Spanish and Portuguese personal and placenames. But we don't use them on accented words that have passed into English, such as "cafe", "facade", "fiancee".


For legal reasons, be careful about saying one vehicle "hit" another. Err on the side of caution and use collided with/was in collision with. (Collisions involve two or more moving objects; they cannot involve something stationary.) 

Achilles heel

ie no apostrophe and upper case "A".  


Use the abbreviated form of a title without explanation only if there is no chance of any misunderstanding (eg UNNatoIRABBC). Otherwise, spell it out in full at first reference, or introduce a label (eg the public sector union Unite).

Where you would normally pronounce the abbreviation as a string of letters - an initialism - use all capitals with no full stops or spaces (eg FA, UNHCRNUT). However, our style is to use lower case with an initial cap for acronyms where you would normally pronounce the set of letters as a word (eg Sars, Mers, AidsNafta, Nasa, Opec, Apec).

There are a few exceptions:

  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is capped up ie NICE
  • The UK Independence Party is capped up ie UKIP
  • Strategic Health Authority becomes SHA ("Sha" looks like a typo)
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder becomes SAD ("Sad" would be confusing).

For names with initials, we avoid full stops and spaces (ie JK Rowling and WH Smith).

When abbreviating a phrase, rather than a name or title, use lower case (ie lbw, mph).


using the term "actress" (or comedienne) is OK. Actors is fine if describing a mixed group: A number of people at the theatre were treated for smoke inhalation, including several of the actors. 

Acts/acts (of parliament)

Use lower case unless you are naming a specific act - eg: He argued for a new government act on petrol taxes because, he said, the Finance Act had proved a disaster. The same logic applies for a parliamentary bill ie lower case if non-specific, initial cap if named.  


(in the year of the Lord) ie unpunctuated. It goes before the year (eg AD800) - with no gap. 

add, to

As in: "This is the end of the road," he added. Should be used sparingly; acceptable only if it really is the last addition to a set of quotes. And do NOT use with indirect quotes (eg "He added that this was the end of the road.")


Use with care. To say: "He admitted his companion had fired the first shot" suggests we accept what is being said as the truth. A more neutral term such as said is preferable. 

NB: when using "admit" in the sense of "plead guilty to", there is no need for a preposition eg "He admitted to manslaughter". Just say "He admitted manslaughter".


is our preferred spelling - not adrenaline.

Advertising Standards Authority

- and not "Agency".


is our preferred spelling, not "advisor". But advisory - with an "o".


is the correct spelling - do not use airplane, which is the American term. Better anyway just to write plane.


Not synonymous. The verb "to affect" means "to have an influence on" eg Wine does not affect me; "to effect" means "to cause, accomplish" eg A month at the clinic effected my recovery.


is the language (and the adjective). The people are Afrikaners.


Always hyphenate the adjectival, whether it is eg seven-year-old child or 100-year-old coin. Hyphens should also be included in the noun eg There are to be more school tests for eight-year-olds - though hyphens are not necessary in sentences such as The missing boy is three years old.

An age placed after a name should be sandwiched between commas eg John Jones, 61, has been knighted. 


is our preferred spelling - and not "aging".


Is singular eg The agenda was fiercely contested.


ie initial cap only. It stands for "acquired immune deficiency syndrome". People carrying the Aids antibody are HIV-positive or carrying the Aids virus. Only when they become ill can they be said to have Aids. They are best described as patients - or people with Aids/people living with Aids, and not victims or sufferers (NB: since HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus it is, strictly speaking, tautological to refer to the "HIV virus"). 


ie in each case, one word - and no hyphen.

air force/air strike/air raid

ie in each case, two words - and no hyphen.

al-Aqsa mosque   

ie with a hyphen. We say the al-Aqsa mosque, despite the fact that "al" is Arabic for "the" so technically we are using the same word twice.


(the main Sunni-backed alliance in Iraq) ie with a hyphen and two "y"s.


Be aware that there are several ways to spell this name.


ie with hyphen and lower case "l".

Also AS-level - the first stage of an A-level, and a qualification in its own right. It stands for Advanced Subsidiary.

And A2 ie without a hyphen - the second stage of A-levels, following the AS-level. The plural is A2s.

Al Fayed

Egyptian businessman. Retain the "Al" (initial cap, and no hyphen), as it is part of the family name: Mohamed Al Fayed, also Mr Al Fayed and the late Dodi Al Fayed.

Al Jazeera 

Arabic television channel, based in Qatar. Cap "A" and no hyphen.

Allahu Akbar

is our preferred spelling and the translation should be God is greatest rather than "God is great".

all right                  

and never "alright" (unless part of a title, as in It'll Be Alright on the Night).

al-Maliki, Nouri

(former Iraqi prime minister) ie not Nuri.

al-Megrahi, Abdelbaset Ali

(Libyan convicted over Lockerbie who died in 2012.) We previously used the full name given in legal documents - Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. However, for consistency and simplicity, stick to the above. On second reference it is just Megrahi.

al-Motassadek, Mounir

(Moroccan student convicted in Germany for being an accessory to the 9/11 attacks) (ie lower case "al" followed by a hyphen). On second reference, just Motassadek.


(Radical British group also known as Islam4UK, banned since January 2010) ie lower case "al", followed by a hyphen and capital "M". Make it clear in news stories that this group and others like it are regarded by the majority of British Muslims as unrepresentative - ideally, through a quote to that effect from a leading mainstream Muslim group such as the Muslim Council of Britain. Preachers associated with these groups should not be described simply as "Muslim clerics", but as radicalfringe or similar.


ie lower case "al", hyphen, and upper case "Q".


Strictly speaking, alternative should be used only when the choice is limited to two objects or courses of action. If there are more than two, we should refer to an option or choice.


ie both caps, no gap. Stands for Assembly Member (plural: AMs). But members of the assembly in Belfast are MLAs (members of the legislative assembly).


"To" a country, or "in" a city (eg The British ambassador to France or The German ambassador in Paris). Always lower case. 


should not be used as a synonym for the United States on first reference unless it is clear from the context that is what is being referred to. For brevity, US is OK (eg: The US president is to visit Belfast; Police throughout the US are on high alert).

NB: Do not refer to "North America" unless you specifically mean the continent of North America, which includes Canada, Mexico and Greenland.

American spellings

American spellings should not be used for job titles (eg "US Defence Secretary Robert Jones", rather than "Defense Secretary"). However, they are retained for the official names of organisations, buildings etc (eg US Department of Defense, Lincoln Center, World Trade Center, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).


Take care not to copy and paste them from agency copy. We say: meet (not "meet with"), consult (not "consult with"), talk to (not "talk with"), protest against a decision (not "protest a decision"), appeal against a verdict (not "appeal a verdict"). We say car rather than "automobile", town centre rather than "downtown", shopping centre rather than "shopping mall", dustbin rather than "trash can", lorry driver rather than "trucker", producer rather than "showrunner", mortuary rather than "morgue", power cut rather than "outage". Do not use ouster. We tend not to convert nouns into verbs (avoid "to hospitalise", "to scapegoat", "to rubbish", "to debut"). Our sports teams do not "post" a total (eg of runs) - they score it. News agencies might report that protesters have been throwing rocks - we would use stones. Beware words that have different meanings for US and UK audiences eg: "slated", "suspenders", "pants" etc.

America's Cup

ie apostrophe before the "s". Initial caps.


And not "amidst".


We say "run amok" - rather than "run amuck".


And not "amongst".


If an organisation uses one then so do we (eg P&O). We also use one in matchplay golf scores (eg Faldo beat Woods, 3&2), and in R&B as an abbreviation for rhythm and blues.


"annex" is the verb. The noun is "annexe".


The plural is antennae for an insect's feelers, antennas for aerials.


is a bacterium, not a virus.


is not synonymous with "expect". It means to take action, because of something you expect to happen eg The goalkeeper anticipated the shot by coming off his line.

any more

Is our preferred version, rather than anymore.


indicate either possession (eg: the children's nannythe emperor's new clothesjournalists' pay) or the omission of one or more letters (eg: It's a lovely day todayLife's a bitchWho's been sleeping in my bed?)

There is no apostrophe in the possessive "its" (eg: Virtue is its own reward).

Some common abbreviations do not require apostrophes (eg: phoneplaneflu). 

Dates do not require apostrophes (eg: 1900s) - unless the century is omitted (eg: the England squad of '66).

Neither are apostrophes generally needed for plurals (eg: MPsMBEs), but they are for the pluralisation of letters of the alphabet (eg: Our task now is to dot the i's and cross the t's).

For names, use the possessive 's whenever possible - eg: Burns'sJones’sCharles'sJames'sDickens'sPhillips's. But be guided by how the last syllable of the name is pronounced - eg: Jesus'Bridges'Moses'Hodges'Griffiths'Walters' - also Wales'.

There should be an apostrophe before the word "time" in sentences such as The game will be played in two weeks' time or They stop work in one hour's time.

The bank (Lloyds) has no apostrophe, but the insurance underwriter and the register of shipping (Lloyd's) does.

Lord's cricket ground has an apostrophe before the "s". Sadler's Wells theatre in London has an apostrophe before the "s".

The football ground in Newcastle is St James' Park and in Exeter it is St James Park. The open space in London is St James's Park (also St James's Palace).

Queen's College in Oxford has an apostrophe before the "s". Queens' College in Cambridge has it after.

Earls Court has no apostrophe for either the building or the area. (The confusing reality is that the building has never had an apostrophe - while the area is likewise written without one by the Ordnance Survey, but with one by both London Transport and the local council.)

The church in Langham Place, London - All Souls' - has an apostrophe. The college in Oxford is All Souls.


You "appraise" something when you put a value on it. You "apprise" someone of something when you inform them about it.

Arabic names

Names beginning with al- such as Bashar al-Assad lose the prefix on second mention - ie Mr Assad. If it's a place name, no need for the al- at all.

Do not use an apostrophe in an Arabic name. Examples: Baath, Shia.

For the founder of Islam, our style is the Prophet Muhammad. 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 standardise the name as Muhammad.

Bin or bin: Osama Bin Laden has a capital "B" because the Bin Laden is in this case a family name. Bin can also mean "son of". In such cases we should write Abdullah bin Hussein ie with lower-case "b".

Abu: means "father of". We do not follow the practice of some news agencies in using a hyphen - eg: "Abu-Mazen".

Some common men's names:








Our preferred spelling of cities/towns often in the news:


Baghdad - (not Bagdad)





East Jerusalem (not Arab East Jerusalem)





Khan Younis



Nad Ali



Sharm el-Sheikh


Tehran (not Teheran)



Aran sweaters are traditionally associated with the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland. They have nothing to do with the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde.


Capitals are always used with the full title, here or abroad (eg Archbishop of CanterburyArchbishop of York, Archbishop of Cape Town), whether or not it is accompanied by the name of the incumbent. If the place name is not used at second reference, you can write simply the archbishop.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Primate of All England

The Archbishop of York is the Primate of England

The Archbishop of Armagh is the Primate of All Ireland

The Archbishop of Dublin is the Primate of Ireland

The Archbishop of Westminster can be referred to as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.


Adjectival phrases defining an area should include hyphens in both metric and imperial measures. Always mention both; the context will determine which comes first: eg The French fishermen denied reports that they had been operating inside the X-sq-km (Y-sq-mile) zone (note: there is no "s" on nouns used adjectivally). Elsewhere, there is no need for hyphens eg The UK government is calling for a ban on fishing within a zone of X sq miles (Y sq km).

Abbreviations should be used throughout, even at first reference. Never write "square kilometres", but always sq km. There is no acceptable abbreviation for "miles", so write sq miles (and, adjectivally, sq-mile). Note that the abbreviation km should never have an "s".


and not "The Argentine". Its people are Argentines (not "Argentinians"). The adjective is also Argentine.


The correct title for the UK army is simply the Army (ie initial cap). But if there is a need to distinguish it from other armies it should be lower case - eg: The government is asking the Army to help fight foot-and-mouth disease, but The British army is taking supplies to the earthquake zone.

Lower case, also, if you are using it adjectivally - eg: Rain has thwarted army efforts to deliver food.

Note that armed forces is lower case.

Foreign armies generally take lower case, but the US Army is the correct title and so takes cap "A".


Most army ranks can and should be abbreviated even at first reference - see list below. Listed separately are those abbreviations to be used only at second reference - after the rank has been spelt out in full at first mention. A third category lists those ranks that we do not abbreviate, even at second reference. But ranks should be spelt out in full (lower case) when they are used without reference to a specific name - eg: The major general attended the meeting.

Abbreviations which can be used at first reference:

If knighted, military figures would be Gen Sir Arthur Whitehead, then Gen Whitehead. If made a peer, they would just be Lord Whitehead.

  • General - Gen
  • Lieutenant General - Lt Gen (later, just Gen)
  • Major General - Maj Gen (later, just Gen)
  • Brigadier - Brig
  • Brigadier General - Brig Gen (later, just Gen) - this is no longer a rank in the British army
  • Colonel - Col
  • Lieutenant Colonel - Lt Col (later, just Col)
  • Major - Maj
  • Captain - Capt
  • Lieutenant - Lt
  • 2nd Lieutenant - 2nd Lt
  • Staff Sergeant - Staff Sgt
  • Colour Sergeant - Colour Sgt
  • Sergeant - Sgt (Serjeant - Sjt if a member of The Rifles)
  • Corporal - Cpl
  • Lance Corporal - L/Cpl
  • Private - Pte
  • Regimental Sergeant Major - RSM
  • Warrant Officer - WO
  • L/Cpl of Horse - L/CoH
  • Field Marshal
  • Bombardier


Both the US and UK armies are divided into corps - which should be capped up when you are giving a name - eg: The Royal Corps of Signals. Any preceding number should be expressed as a Roman numeral - eg: III Corps. A corps is led by a lieutenant general - written as Lt Gen at first reference when accompanied by the name. If the full title is Lt Gen Sir John Smith, then the correct form at second reference is Gen Smith.


Army corps are divided into divisions. Capped up when you are giving a name - eg: 1st Armoured Division; lower case if the reference is non-specific - eg: Two divisions of troops will take control of the area. A division is under the command of a major general (which you would spell out only if there is no name attached - eg: A division is led by a major general. As a rank, the title is written Maj Gen, even at first reference.  


Divisions are commonly divided into regiments or brigades. Lower case if the reference is non-specific; capped up when you are giving a name - eg: The Household Cavalry Regiment; The Parachute Regiment7th Armoured Brigade101st Logistics Brigade. A preceding ordinal number is not expressed as a word.


Regiments are divided into battalions. The third battalion of the Parachute Regiment is best written as 3 Para - ie contrary to our usual rule, the cardinal number is expressed as a digit, whatever it is (the form "3rd Bn" should be avoided, given that we sometimes abbreviate "billion" to "bn"). The officer commanding a battalion is a lieutenant colonel: Lt Col when accompanied by a name (Col at second reference), but spelt out when no name is attached. 

Small units

The correct terms with reference to tanks and armour are regiment/ squadron/ troop with reference to the Infantry, they are battalion/ company/ platoon/ section; and with reference of the Artillery, they are regimentbatterytroopsection 

troop is a group of soldiers, normally about 30. Do not refer to individuals as troops - to say: "Five troops have been killed in Afghanistan" would be wrong. But you can use the term in a generic sense eg: The UK has sent more troops to Helmand province.

art movements

In general, these should be lower case except where it's a wider cultural movement, as in Renaissance or Romanticism; named after a person or place - Bauhaus and pre-Raphaelite; or there might be confusion with another usage, as in Arts and Crafts.


are not synonymous. The word "arrest" is a legal term, where someone has formally been taken into custody - usually the first step towards being charged. "Detain" can often mean little more than remove from the streets (and release some time later). Sometimes, it is more appropriate to say held or questioned.


Do not use to mean "approximately" - the best substitute is usually about.

Is not synonymous with "round" - eg: It may drive you round the bend if you work around the clock


ie follows our usual rule of upper and lower case for pronounced acronyms. It stands for Anti-social Behaviour Order.


(Jewish people of European descent) ie with upper case "A".


Use only for the killing of political and religious leaders. Lesser mortals are killed.


Political assemblies are lower case (the Welsh assemblythe Stormont assembly), except where the full title is given (eg: the Northern Ireland Assemblythe National Assembly for Wales). Assembly members in Wales are AMs. In Belfast, they are MLAs (members of the legislative assembly).

assisted suicide

Be careful to ensure this is really what you mean - ie "encouraging or assisting the suicide of another", as the revised Suicide Act of 1961 has it. This is not the same thing as killing someone who cannot do it for themselves - sometimes described as a so-called mercy killing. (This is an emotive phrase which should be used sparingly.)


is a large space rock (probably more than 100m across - smaller ones are called meteoroids). The light phenomenon when an asteroid (or meteoroid) enters the Earth's atmosphere is called a meteor. The lump of rock that hits the Earth's surface is called a meteorite.

asylum seeker

ie no hyphen. Never refer to "bogus asylum seekers" unless you are quoting someone.


hyphenated when used to headline a summary of key points (eg: Budget at-a-glance), with initial upper case if you choose to introduce it with a colon (eg: Queen's Speech: At-a-glance). Hyphenated, too, if used adjectivally (eg: An at-a-glance guide to the United Nations). In an ordinary news story, drop the hyphens (eg: He told the court he had taken in the murder scene at a glance).


The first reference to a time should spell it out in full, following our usual convention with numbers below 10 eg: one hour two minutes 23.34 seconds (ie no commas between the units). After that, switch to a more compact style (eg: 1:03:25.67).

Our numbers convention is ignored in events where times below 10 seconds are regularly achieved, such as the 100m. In such cases: all numbers are written as digits, and the word "seconds" need not be used throughout. Eg: X took gold with a time of 9.93 seconds. In second place was Y, on 9.94. And the bronze medal went to Z, on 9.96.

Note that portions of seconds are expressed as decimals, rather than being written out as fractions. But you can refer to "hundredths" in the context of times of under a second - eg: They were separated by three hundredths of a second (and not "0.03 seconds").


means automated teller machine - mainly a US term. It is acceptable only in headlines or direct quotes. Otherwise, use cash machine (but not "cash point" which is a trademark). Hole in the wall is also a trademark and should be used only in connection with Barclays machines.


is most commonly a US term. Substitute lawyer - or if you want to be more specific in the UK, barrister or solicitor

Attorney General/attorney general

ie (both here and in the US) no hyphen. Capped up if the name of the individual follows. Lower case without the name.


Strictly, one has "an audience of the Queen", which most people will think is a typo. To avoid the problem, say eg: The prime minister went to see the Queen.

Aung San Suu Kyi

is leader of the ruling National League for Democracy in Myanmar. The name is always spelt out in full in her own language, as any abbreviation would be regarded as impolite. We should generally spell out her name in full, but can follow the common practice of using "Suu Kyi" for headlines and "Ms Suu Kyi" in text where this is required for space reasons.

Australia and New Zealand

If you want to use the term, our style is down under: ie two words, both lower case.

Australian Labor Party

ie we use its own spelling, without a "u". 


"a person is autistic” is preferred to “a person has autism”. We do not say “suffers from autism”. If referring to specific individuals, where possible and appropriate reflect how they self-identify.


CBE, OBE and MBE stand for Commander, Officer and Member of the Order of the British Empire. So people do not "get" an MBE etc: they are appointed, or they can become a CBE etc. Medals such as the British Empire Medal and George Medal are conferred. A person can be made a peer, a baronet or a knight.


(highest Shia religious authority) ie upper case "A" if used with name, and retain as title on subsequent references - eg: the ayatollah. 

Ayman al-Zawahiri

(Leader of al-Qaeda). He is Zawahiri (no "Mr") at second reference and in headlines.


Former Soviet republic, now independent. The inhabitants are Azerbaijanis - many of whom, but not all, are Azeris.



(for British Airways) ie both caps. It should be used only after a first reference where the title is given in full. The same abbreviation is used for Bachelor of Arts.


(rugby union) ie two words, both capped, hyphenated, no apostrophe. Acceptable abbreviation - but only after a first reference has spelled out The Barbarians.


(ruling party in Syria - and formerly in the late Saddam Hussein's Iraq) ie without an internal apostrophe.


A child up to 12 months can be described as a baby. A toddler is generally aged one or two.


ie one word (eg backbench unrest, backbencher). But two words for back benches.


is a plural - the singular is bacterium. They cause food poisoning, cholera, typhoid etc, and may be treated with antibiotics. Not to be confused with viruses, which are smaller organisms - not susceptible to antibiotics - which cause influenza, measles, mumps, chicken pox, Aids etc. 

bad news

is, like "good news", a term never to be used unqualified, because it is subjective. A rise in interest rates is bad news for housebuyers, but good news for savers. Just say what has happened - and let the punters decide.

BAE Systems

And not "BAe" (it is the former British Aerospace).


Use bail for the temporary release of someone awaiting trial. To bail out is to help a company or person with financial problems (noun: bailout). Use bale out for removing water from a boat, or jumping out of a plane.

balance of payments

is not the same as the trade balance, which involves only visible imports and exports. The balance of payments includes so-called invisibles: earnings from the City, international insurance, tourism etc.

Ban Ki-moon

(former UN Secretary General) ie upper case "B" and "K", but lower case "m" in Ki-moon which is hyphenated. Mr Ban at second reference. This style applies to all Korean names.

Bank holiday

ie lower case, unless a specific one (eg: the Spring Bank Holiday). Note that some bank holidays do not apply across the whole of the UK.

Bank of England

Should be spelled out at first reference, but can be trimmed later to BoE. NB: interest rates are set by the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (which can be abbreviated at second reference to MPC).


A UK company should never be described as "going bankrupt" since, under UK law, this can only happen to individuals (who file a petition for bankruptcy). The technical situation for a company in financial crisis is that it faces the possibility of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), administration, receivership or winding-up. Use the proper technical description in the top four pars (eg: Smith Scaffolding has gone into administration). Elsewhere, it is acceptable to say simply that a company has collapsed or gone bust.

Outside the UK, the term bankruptcy can be valid. In the US, for example, companies can go bankrupt or enter bankruptcy protection. The best-known form of bankruptcy protection is called "Chapter 11", which allows a company to continue to operate while all claims from debtors or the company are put on hold. If using the term, explain what Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection means.

Bar, the

(barristers) ie with capital "B".

Barclays Bank

ie no apostrophe.


(city in Switzerland) ie not "Basle". Our style conforms to the rules on banking supervision and the football team.


Say the BBC in references to the organisation that makes announcements, decisions and programmes (eg The BBC is to devote more money to sports coverage). For news-related items, say eg BBC News understands that... or Our correspondent has learned... For news online, say the BBC News website (ie website, lower case).

Do not start your first sentence with "The BBC..." The aim should be to convey the news - not to wave the BBC flag. Always check BBC quotes from other sources with the BBC press office.

BBC networks

Stick with the official titles for BBC networks, even when this involves extra characters.

For the TV networks, say: BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies, CBBC, BBC News channel, BBC World News, BBC Parliament.

Write BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 4 Extra, BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio 5 Live sports extra.

The word "Radio" does not feature in either BBC 6 Music or 1Xtra - which is also without a "BBC" label. Elsewhere: BBC Asian Network, BBC World Service.

Note that some BBC local radio stations do not have the word "Radio" in their title (eg BBC Essex).

Non-BBC TV channels include Sky One, ITV, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and Channel 4.

Channel 5, which for a time was known as Five, has reverted to its original name.


(before Christ) ie unpunctuated. It goes after the year - eg: 100BC, with no gap. 

beg the question

Often misused. The dictionary definition is "to assume in an argument the truth of something which is part of what is to be proved". Best avoided.


formerly part of the Soviet Union as Byelorussia; now independent. Adjective, Belarusian.


comprises Belgiumthe Netherlands and Luxembourg.

best-seller, best-selling 

ie with hyphens.


is correctly used when only two parties are involved (eg: talks between Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn). If there are more than two parties, use "among" (eg: talks among cabinet ministers).

Beverley/Beverly Hills

The town in Yorkshire is Beverley with an "e" before the "y". There is no third "e" in California's Beverly Hills.


These are often confused: biannual means twice a year; biennial means every two years. (Plants that complete their lifecycle in two years are biennials.) Best to avoid both.


The original gets an initial cap. Otherwise, lower case (eg: The footballer's bible).


May serve as substitute for "attempt", but should primarily be used to mean "financial bid", as in auctions, company takeovers and the football transfer market - as well as campaigns to stage the Olympics, and similar events.

Big Society

Our style is to cap up this government initiative - no quote marks.


In a parliamentary context, use caps for the full title (eg: the Health Bill). Otherwise, lower case (eg: Pressure is growing for a new education bill).


Means one thousand million. Spell the word out, except in headlines, or when using it with currencies (eg: £3bn).

Bin Laden

Former al-Qaeda leader who died in 2011. Always with a capital "B". At first mention, Osama Bin Laden. Afterwards, Bin Laden (never Mr). He was Saudi-born, but was not "a Saudi citizen", as he was stripped of his citizenship.


Do not use generically - it is a trademark. Say: ballpoint pen.


Bishops (both Anglican and Roman Catholic) are consecrated (whereas priests are ordained, and deacons made). At first reference, say eg The Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend John Smith or, if he has a doctorate, The Bishop of St Albans, Dr John Smith. Afterwards, Bishop Smith or Dr Smith. If in doubt, check in Crockford's Clerical Directory for Anglicans; via the diocesan website; or the Catholic Media Office for Roman Catholics.


There are eight bits in a byte. Historically, memory (hard drives, file sizes etc) is measured in bytes - kilobytes (kB), megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB), terabytes (TB). However, data rates/speeds or capacities of fibres and networks are quoted in bits (megabits per second, Mbps) eg: Bloggsnet is offering broadband at 20Mbps and a contract comes with a free 16GB USB stick.

black box

Although they tend to be orange, flight recorders are widely known and described as "black boxes". But we should clarify what it is at first reference - Divers are searching for the "black box" flight recorder - and use quotes in headlines. Be aware there are two recorders – a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder – that may be together or in separate containers.

black, in the

Avoid this phrase. It means "in profit" for a UK audience, but exactly the opposite for some other English speakers.


Should not be used in sentences such as: "The prime minister has blasted his own supporters." Say: criticised or condemned.


Write about blind people - not "the blind".


Use blond of a man, and blonde of a woman.

Boat Race, the

ie initial caps.

bomb warning/hoax

Should not normally be reported - unless there is a strong news angle (eg: significant disruption).

book titles

Use initial caps, with short "link" words in lower case: eg: Far from the Madding Crowd. No italics or quotation marks.


(the chemists) ie no apostrophe.


Formerly part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina emerged in its present form after the end of the Bosnian war in 1995. Spell it with a hyphen (rather than the official title, which is "Bosnia and Herzegovina") and with a "z" in Herzegovina rather than a "c".

Citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina should be referred to as Bosnians, unless their ethnicity or religion is of particular relevance.

The Dayton accords formalised the division of the country into two parts - the Bosnian Serb republic (Republika Srpska) and the Bosniak-Croat Federation. Most Bosniaks are Muslims.

When referring to these groups separately, they should be called Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims). 

In stories specifically about Bosniaks, it may be useful to include this line of background: "The Bosniak people, most of whom are Muslims, are descended from Bosnian Slavs who adopted Islam under Ottoman Turkish rule in the Middle Ages."

It is wrong to call the Bosnian conflict a "civil" war, because neighbouring countries were involved. Stick to "war" or "conflict".

bottom line

is a cliché. Do not use it unless you are quoting someone, or referring literally to the bottom line of a company balance sheet.


is a French word, favoured by some agencies. Use the English: stock market or stock exchange.

brackets, square

Use these, not round brackets, for interpolations within quotes: eg: Reacting to the news, Mr Smith said: "He [President Brown] must not back down."

Brands Hatch

ie it has no apostrophe.


It’s Brexit, with an initial cap. When referring back to the referendum, it was the Leave and Remain campaigns (initial caps, no quotation marks). The deal struck between the UK government and the European Union is the withdrawal agreement (lower case) and the outline statement on how both sides wish to get along is the political declaration (lower case)Likewise, it’s the backstop plan and the transition periodNo-deal is only hyphenated when used adjectivally, eg “What does a no-deal Brexit actually mean?”, otherwise not, eg “Cleverly says no deal better than no Brexit”.

In line with our style guide ruling on parliamentary bills, it’s the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at first mention, the bill at second reference. The acronym Wab and the initialism WAB should be avoided and in direct quotes replaced with [Withdrawal Agreement Bill] at first mention and [bill] at second reference.

Similarly, in line with our style guide ruling on acts of parliament, it’s the Fixed-term Parliaments Act at first mention, the act at second reference.

  • It’s Brexit, with an initial cap. When referring back to the referendum, it was the Leave and Remain campaigns (initial caps, no quotation marks). But lower case and quotes when talking about “leavers” and “remainers”. The deal struck between the UK government and the European Union is the withdrawal agreement (lower case) and the outline statement on how both sides wish to get along is the political declaration (lower case). Likewise, it’s the backstop plan and the transition period.


(aka Great Britain) is made up of England, Scotland and Wales; the United Kingdom also includes Northern Ireland. The British Isles also include the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. However, it is a term that can be frowned on in Ireland, so if using it ensure it is employed correctly.

British means "belonging or relating to Great Britain".

British law

There is no such thing. England and Wales have a separate legal system from Scotland. Northern Ireland's system is similar to England and Wales.


It stands for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The alternative, mad cow disease, should be in quotation marks at first reference.


(a vocational qualification, available at various levels, from the equivalent of GCSEs to professional diplomas.) ie with both the "B" and the "T" capped up. Plural is BTecs.


Use an initial cap for the Westminster extravaganza. Otherwise, lower case (Mr Brown's BudgetMr Brown's pre-Budget reportthe Australian budget).

bullet points

If, for example, someone has three objections to a pay deal, then use bullet points to summarise them, and then explain in more detail. They are easier to read on screen than dense paragraphs of text.

If the items in a bullet point list are complete sentences in themselves, then each should start with a capital letter, and in general end with no punctuation: eg:

There is more than one way to cook potatoes.

  • You can roast them in the oven
  • You can mash them with milk and butter
  • You can fry them in a pan

If the items are not complete sentences, they should start with a lower case letter, and again omit punctuation at the end: eg:

If you want to cook potatoes, you can

  • roast them in the oven
  • mash them with milk and butter
  • fry them in a pan

Single-word lists of nouns should also start with a lower case letter: eg:

Teachers think they are getting a raw deal in three areas:

  • pay
  • hours
  • pensions

The exception on punctuation is that we do include a question mark after each item if that is what logic would suggest: eg:

Is the first thing you think about in the morning

  • your headache?
  • your shower?
  • your breakfast?

This is also true with complete sentence lists. Eg:

There are three questions you should ask yourself each morning:

  • Why am I here?
  • Who is this person?
  • Where are my clothes?


ie no apostrophe.


ie initial cap. We should make clear at first reference it is the lower house of the German parliament. Elections for the Bundestag are held every four years.


is our favoured spelling for this form of Islamic veil, which covers the entire face and body.


The BBC has been moving towards calling the country Myanmar. We should use Myanmar rather than Burma in headlines and summaries. Inside the body of our stories, preferably on first mention, we should include the wording "Myanmar, also known as Burma". Further references should be to Myanmar. We should talk about the main commercial city as "Yangon, also known as Rangoon", and thereafter Yangon. The name of the capital is Nay Pyi Taw.


Use only if they really are all men. Otherwise, say business peoplea business audiencebusiness executives etc.


ie no "e" - and with a hyphen.


ie no "e" - and with a hyphen.


Should not be used on general news stories compiled from a variety of sources (agencies, correspondents' despatches etc). A byline should be reserved for original journalism.

Picture bylines should be used sparingly: for well-known BBC correspondents writing a substantial piece for us, or occasionally for a diary or a first-person piece.

The tag in the CPS production system will enable you to provide:

a) a first line beginning By (capped) and then giving the person's name.

b) a second line giving further information


By Zoe McGuire
BBC News, Birmingham

By Jonathan Garrod
BBC Stories

By Paula Harris
BBC News

Specialist non-correspondents should be called reporter, not "staff" or "writer" etc (initial cap, then lower case) eg:

By Kevin Robertson
Political reporter, BBC News

By Christine Peters
Health reporter, BBC News

Refer to specialist BBC correspondents and editors as follows:

By Peter Bywater 
Political editor, BBC News

By Jane McGuire 
Business editor, BBC News

By Mark Morgan
Transport correspondent, BBC News

We should refer to (non-specialist) overseas BBC correspondents as belonging to "BBC News" and give their location. So examples would be:

By Simon Hargreaves

BBC News, Beirut

By Peter James

BBC News, Washington

By Melanie Buford

BBC News, Brussels

Pieces of original journalism by non-staff should normally follow a similar pattern: ie the first line of a byline should consist of the name only eg:

By Clive James

If relevant, a job description or a location can be added as a second line eg:

By Nicola Horlick

Investment fund manager

However, it will sometimes be preferable with high-profile outside contributors to give further information not as a second line but as a more detailed standfirst, in bold eg: Nicola Horlick has run a number of successful investment funds and earned the nickname Superwoman for having a high-flying career and bringing up five children. If the expert has a rather lower profile, stick with the one-line job description at the top, and add a longer note at the end of the story. This should be written in italics (not bold).

We do not use correspondents' bylines with on-demand video and audio pages. The convention is to go with The BBC's as a label; Sport, where appropriate, say BBC Sport's.


ie no "e" - and no hyphen.



(grouping of senior ministers) ie lower case.

Cabinet Office

ie initial caps. Its ministers report directly to the prime minister.

Cac 40

(the main stock exchange index in Paris) ie initial cap and a space before the number.


ie upper case (and not "Caesarian").


As of early 2015, our style is to use Kolkata for the Indian city. It may be helpful for readers if we use this construction once high up in the story: People in the Indian city of Kolkata (Calcutta)...

The England-Scotland rugby trophy is the Calcutta Cup.


Naples-based mafia, separate from Sicilian-based Cosa Nostra. When talking about the Camorra, or any other mafia outside Sicily, we use lower case "m" on mafia.

capital cities

Take care; not every capital city is the obvious one:

Australia - Canberra, not Sydney or Melbourne.

Brazil - Brasilia, not Rio de Janeiro.

Ivory Coast - Yamoussoukro, not Abidjan.

Myanmar (Burma) - Nay Pyi Taw, not Yangon (Rangoon)

The Netherlands - Amsterdam, not The Hague (which is the seat of government).

Nigeria - Abuja, not Lagos.

South Africa - Pretoria, not Cape Town (where parliament sits).

Switzerland - Bern, not Geneva.

Tanzania - Dodoma, not Dar es Salaam.

Do not say eg: "The Pope has arrived in the Syrian capital of Damascus." Drop the "of" - and substitute a comma.


A few titles are always capped up, whether you name the person or not (eg the Queenthe Pope, Archbishop of XX). But our style generally is to minimise the use of capital letters.

Political job titles have initial caps only when the title is next to the name, in whatever order. Thus:

The Foreign Secretary, Harold Thomas, said...

US President James Tucker

Mrs Gordon, who has been prime minister since 2015...

Any post mentioned without reference to the post-holder should be in lower case - e.g.

The prime minister will be out of the country for several days.

The same rule applies for former holders of political office (eg The former President, James Tucker, is to make a political comeback. The former president said he wanted to spend less time with his family).

Similarly, Leader of the Opposition is capped up only if accompanied by the name. Other opposition portfolios are always lower case, with or without the name (eg The shadow chancellor, Brian Banker, was furious. There was jeering when the shadow chancellor left).

Also, see “job titles” entry.

Also use lower case for all jobs outside politics, with or without a name (eg the director general of the BBC, Michael Graves, has praised the England cricket captain), except that police and military titles accompanied by the name are always capped up (eg Sgt Wilson is to receive an award for bravery). The UN secretary general is capped when with a name; the director of public prosecutions is always lower case.

Governments are not capped up (eg The Italian government has resigned).

Use initial cap Parliament with reference only to (a) Westminster in any context, and (b) the Scottish and European Parliaments where you are giving the full title. Otherwise, lower case (eg Mrs Gordon will face questions in Parliament; There is to be an emergency session of the Scottish Parliament; They say they will halt proceedings of parliament in Strasbourg).

Similarly, assembly is capped only with the full title (eg: The National Assembly for Wales is to move to a new home; The problems facing farmers will be discussed by the Welsh assembly).

In general, government schemes and initiatives are capped – Northern Powerhouse, Big Society, National Minimum Wage – while benefits are lower case, such as universal credit and personal independence payment.

For place names: use upper case for recognised regions, and for vaguer political/geographical areas (eg the Middle EastWestern Europe). Otherwise, lower case (south-west Franceeast Lancashire). Also lower case for south Walesnorth Walesmid-Wales etc.

For Latin names of plants, animals etc, use italics and cap the first word only (eg Corvus corone).

captions (for pictures)

Picture captions in news stories should be no longer than two lines, or one line for large pictures. There is no full stop at the end of a caption, other than in picture galleries. A caption is usually unnecessary with a map or a generic graphic.

The wording of the caption should follow the geography of the picture, from left to right (eg if Smith is on the left and Jones on the right, the caption should not say "Jones and Smith"). Use full names whenever possible.

A caption should be more than a literal description of the picture; it should add value (eg: George Smith and Terry Jones: Long-time friends).

For direct quotes, use a colon and double quotation marks (eg: George Smith: “I’m lucky to be alive”). Any colon in a caption, whether or not introducing a quote, must be followed by a capital letter (eg: George Smith: A lucky man).

To focus on one individual among several, use brackets rather than commas (eg: Terry Jones (centre) was among friends). If space is very short, you can abbreviate such labels to their initial letter only, capped up, ie (C) (L) or (R).

cardiac arrest/heart attack

These are not synonymous. Cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating. A heart attack is when the blood flow to the heart is interrupted (otherwise known as a myocardial infarction). A heart attack can cause cardiac arrest.


The practice of hijacking an occupied car by threatening and/or abducting the driver, ie one word, no hyphen.


There is a glossary of terms here.

Do not automatically equate "Catholic" with "Roman Catholic". There are Catholics who are Anglicans or members of other denominations not in communion with the See of Rome.

Always "Catholic", ie with initial cap, in the religious context.

Lower case in the sense of "catholic taste", or similar.


is acceptable in a generic sense, even though it is a trademark.


The original title (Confederation of British Industry) is obsolete, as the word "industry" no longer reflects its membership. It calls itself simply the CBI. It may be described as the employers’ organisation or business lobby group.


The initials CBC (all caps, no gaps) stand for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Not to be confused with US television network CBS (again, all caps, no gaps).


(closed-circuit television) ie all caps

C. difficile

Our preference for Clostridium difficile - capital "C" with a full stop and a space followed by lower case ""’. C. diff is fine at second reference or in headlines.


(as a noun) ie one word.


To censor something (book, film etc) means to examine it and suppress any part deemed unacceptable. To censure means to express severe disapproval of, or formally reprimand.

Central Asia

ie initial caps.

Central Europe

ie initial caps. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are correctly referred to as being in Central Europe.


Correct usage is to centre on - and not "to centre around".

Avoid the US spelling ("center") - unless it is part of an official title (eg the World Trade Center). Second references not actually repeating the title should use UK spelling, but it’s preferable to avoid using both spellings in the same story.

centre-back, centre-half, centre-forward

ie all with hyphens.


Use upper case (and digits) when you are labelling a century with a number (eg: 20th Century). Otherwise, lower case (eg: The treasure had lain undiscovered for centuries).

If you omit the century from a four-digit date, replace it with an apostrophe (eg: the class of ’66).


ie all caps, no gaps (it stands for chlorofluorocarbon).


Do not describe someone as being the "chair" of a meeting. Rewrite the sentence to say eg: Mr Jones, in the chair or The meeting, chaired by Mrs Smith. Alternatively, and where appropriate, use chairman or chairwoman.

Challenger 2

(The British army’s main battle tank) - and not "Challenger II".

Champions League

(European football) ie initial caps - and no apostrophe.

Channel Tunnel

ie both words capped. At second reference, just the tunnel. But (even in headlines) never "Chunnel".


should not be used as a synonym for "allege" (as in, eg: "Princess Jane charged that she had been victimised by the media").


Do not say "The arrival of summer brings cheap prices for vegetables." Prices cannot be "cheap" - the right word here is low. You could, of course, say The arrival of summer brings cheap vegetables.


is an autonomous republic within Russia. Adjective, Chechen.


Names of cheeses should be lower case unless they include a country: The list includes camembert, Canadian cheddar, brie, wensleydale and Danish blue.


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


ie we follow the charity’s own convention of including a rogue capital in the middle.

child pornography

See Sexual offences

Child Trust Fund

is the government’s 2003 Budget scheme to provide cash for every newborn child. Do not call it a "Baby Bond" - that phrase is a trademark.

Chinese names

The family name comes first - so Hu Jintao becomes Mr Hu at second reference.


ie hyphenated as an adjective or noun. Note Pin (number) is capped up when on its own.


(Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) ie lower case, because it is pronounced as a word. But best avoided.


ie initial cap.

Do not use "Christian name" when you mean "given name".


ie with an apostrophe before the "s".


Spell in full - do not use "Xmas", even for headlines. And remember that not all Christians celebrate Christmas on 25 December. The Eastern Orthodox Churches mark the festival on 7 January.


Lower case for the actual buildings; otherwise Church.

No human being should be referred to as "Head of the Church". The Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Pope is the Supreme Pontiff, Chief Pastor or leader of the Roman Catholic Church; he should not be referred to as the "Holy Father" (unless you are quoting somebody).

Church of England

is not the only Anglican body in the British Isles. There is also the Church in Wales, as well as the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and the Church of Ireland.

The governing body of the Church of England is the General Synod.

Church titles (Anglican)

Archbishops are the Most Reverend, but we usually say eg: the Archbishop of York or Dr South. Later references can be either to the archbishop (lower case) or, again,to Dr South.

Bishops are the Right Reverend, or the Rt Rev if space is short eg: The Right Reverend Nigel North is beginning his duties as Bishop of Manchester. Afterwards, eg: Bishop Norton or the bishop.

Archdeacons are the Venerable - or the Ven if space is short. Later references: the archdeacon or, eg: Archdeacon West.

Vicars/rectors are eg the Reverend Margaret Simmonds - or the Rev Margaret Simmonds if space is short. After first mention, you can say just Ms/Mrs Simmonds (or Dr Simmonds if she has a doctorate).

Some Anglicans prefer "Father" to "Mr"; the safe rule is to follow local practice. Under no circumstance should you say "Reverend Smith", "the Reverend Smith", "the Reverend Mr Smith", or just "the Reverend".

Deans/provosts are the Very Reverend or the Very Rev. At later reference eg: Dean Johnston.

Canons are eg Canon Dennis Moore. Later Canon Moore or the canon.

Church titles (RC Church)

The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is headed by the Archbishop of Westminster, initially referred to with full title and name eg: The Archbishop of Westminster, Jeremy Montague. Afterwards: Archbishop Montague or the archbishop.

Other archbishops are eg: the Most Reverend John Jones.

Bishops are the Right Reverend, which may be abbreviated to the Rt Rev. 

Abbots are eg: Abbot Fred Sales. Later, Abbot Sales or the abbot.

Provosts are eg: Provost John Smith. Later: Provost Smith or the provost

Canons are eg: Canon Michael Harris. Later: Canon Harris or the canon.

Priests are eg: The Reverend Eric Cook, or Father Eric Cook. At later reference, Father Cook or Fr Cook.


(Commonwealth of Independent States) ie all caps, no gaps. Provides a framework for military and foreign policy and economic co-operation between various states, including Russia and Ukraine.

Citizens Advice

ie initial caps and no apostrophe. Changed its name in 2015 from Citizens’ Advice Bureau.


Capped only when used to mean the London financial centre.

Civil Aviation Authority

ie initial caps - and all caps, no gaps if abbreviated to CAA.

Its role is to consider and, if necessary, implement any follow-up action arising from air crash investigations by the Department for Transport’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).


ie all caps, no gaps (stands for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). Note that variant CJD should be written out in text, but vCJD is acceptable in a headline.

claim, to

We should not use it with expressions of alleged fact (eg: The Russians claim 80 people were killed), because it suggests disbelief. Say is preferable.

But it is acceptable with expressions of opinion (eg: Mr Smith claimed the government was out of control). 

claim responsibility

(as for bombings) Avoid this expression. Just say eg: The Real IRA says it planted Saturday’s bomb.

clampdown/to clamp down

ie no hyphen in the noun; separate words for the verb.


Beware of devaluing the word through overuse. And take care when using "clash" as a verb. To say: "The protesters clashed with police" implies the protesters were the instigators - which may not have been the case.

Class A drugs

ie with a cap "C" and "A", "B" etc 


ie hyphenated.


are to be avoided, as they say, "like the plague". Try not to use: "got under way"; "a question mark hangs over"; "quiet but tense"; "rushed to hospital"; "daring escape"; "dawn raid"; "emotional appeal"; "top secret"; "psychologically important moment"; "moving the goalposts"; "level playing field"; "bottom line"; "only time will tell" etc.


Do not use phrases such as "embryo cloning" or "baby cloning". It is not the baby or the embryo that is being cloned - rather, it is the adult human or the genetic material from an adult that is cloned to produce a baby or embryo.


Our preference is one word, but we should follow names of specific bodies, such as the US Coast Guard. 


ie with a hyphen - and both words capped.

Cold War

ie initial caps.

collective nouns

denote groups (eg: group, crew etc). Our policy is that they should take singular verbs as much as possible. Consistency is important. Do not say eg: "The jury is considering its verdict. They will spend the night in a hotel." However, couple and pair can sound odd in the singular so it’s OK to use them as plurals. Family can be either - judge according to context.

Sports teams are plural (eg: Manchester United have beaten Liverpool), but clubs are singular (eg: Manchester United has provided another bonus for its shareholders).

The police are treated as plural (eg: Police say they are looking for three men), but individual forces are singular (eg The Metropolitan Police says there is no need to panic).

Press and public should be treated as singular, but rewording may be advisable (replacing eg: "The press arrived soon afterwards. It had lots of questions" with Journalists arrived soon afterwards. They had lots of questions.)


Colombia is a country in South America. It is spelt with two "o"s. Columbia is the capital of the US state of South Carolina - as well as a District (as in Washington DC), a river, a university (in New York City), a Hollywood studio and a record label. All of these are spelt with a "u".


In headlines, captions and subheads, they are followed by an initial cap. Elsewhere, by lower case.


The Colosseum is in Rome. The theatres in London, Oldham and elsewhere are the Coliseum.


Used properly, commas can eliminate ambiguity and make blocks of text more digestible - especially important when you are converting the spoken word into copy.

But they can also create unnecessary clutter and may often be avoided, eg by not including a definite article with a title (Foreign Secretary Erica Simmons protested... rather than "The Foreign Secretary, Erica Simmons, protested...").

Neither are they needed where you are using a "job description" - whether it fits more than one person (eg: Footballer David Jones has been taken to hospital) or one specific individual (eg: England football captain Roy Rover has...).

Commission, Royal

ie initial caps - but only once the commission is a reality.


Always retain the initial cap in Commons, or House of Commons. (Also in eg: Mr Collins told the House that...)

Commons committees

Keep them lower case, unless you are giving the full title. (eg: The report from the Public Accounts Committee attacked the minister’s record).


Use lower case for the ideology (eg: He was attracted to communism during his university years), and its adherents (eg Most of his fellow-students were communists). Upper case for the name of the party (eg He was determined to join the Communist Party).

company names

We should spell company names as they do themselves, but always use an initial cap (eg: "easyJet" is EasyJet). There are occasional exceptions, such as eBay and iPhone – see separate entries. Also, a name using all caps should be rendered in upper and lower case.

 Full list here - if in doubt, check with the Business team.

compare to/compare with

"Compare to" is a declaration of similarity (He compared the building to a carbuncle); it means "to liken". Use ‘compare with’ in all other circumstances (The price of petrol has doubled, compared with last year).

compass points

are not capped up (ie northsoutheastwest). Compound nouns (eg: south-west) are usually hyphenated and lower case (eg: He loved France - and the south-west above all). When referring to areas within cities, the compass point is lower case (eg: south London). But avoid ambiguity - say northern England rather than just "the North", which would make no sense for someone in Scotland. Only when the geographical context is clear are terms such as the South Eastthe North West acceptable (ie separate words, capped up). Parts of Wales are always lower case (ie north Walessouth Wales).

Use lower case and hyphens for adjectives eg: south-east winda north-westerly directionnorth-east England


The verb "to complement" means to make complete or supply what is lacking. As a noun, it can mean the number required to complete to a company eg: the crew of a ship. Whether as a noun or verb, the word compliment means (to) praise. Complimentary means flattering, or given free.


Means "to consist of", "to be made up of". So: The editorial team comprises men and women is right. "Women comprise half the editorial team" is wrong.


Losers at elections should properly concede victory. The phrase "concede defeat" is wrong. Avoid the problem by using the phrase admit defeat or simply concede (eg: Joe Green conceded soon after the television announcement).


Do not confuse the two Congos.

Congo-Brazzaville is the former French Congo. We do not generally use its full title, "the Republic of the Congo", but it is sometimes acceptable to call it simply Congo (especially in headlines).

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the former Belgian Congo. In headlines and at second reference, refer to it as DR Congo. Where appropriate, make clear in the text that DR Congo is the former Zaire, but do not label it "Congo-Kinshasa" and do not refer to this country simply as "Congo".


Always with an initial cap in a political context. Both words get capped up in Conservative Party. For later references, the Tories is acceptable. It should be lower case when you mean "averse to change" or "conventional" (eg: Mr Gladstone always wore conservative clothes).


Avoid, when referring to a police force. Even if a police force styles itself as a “constabulary”, describe it as (for example) Hampshire Police.


(as in the US constitution) ie lower case.


Correct usage is eg: The prime minister consulted his colleagues. Do not adopt the American usage of "consult with". 

Consumer Prices Index/CPI

measures the year-on-year change of consumer prices based on a basket of goods and services purchased by most households, but excludes the cost of mortgage interest rates. The CPI is the basis of the Bank of England’s official inflation target and is an internationally standardised measure which allows us to compare the UK’s inflation rate with that of other EU countries.


means "originating at the same time". Thus: The theatre is to stage Ibsen’s plays in contemporary dress would involve the actors wearing the fashions of 19th Century Norway - not modern dress.


Lower case eg: Aids spread across three continents - unless you mean the European mainland as distinct from the United Kingdom eg: Cars are usually cheaper on the Continent.


These are not synonyms. Continuous means "without interruption". Continual means "frequently happening".


Do not use contractions such as "don’t", "isn’t", "can’t" in news stories (except in direct quotes). Spell it out: do notis notcannot etc.


Do not use as a synonym for police except in the most informal of contexts.


ie hyphenated.


ie hyphenated.

correspondents and reporters

The titles of correspondents and reporters should always be in lower case.

Specialist BBC correspondents and reporters should be referred to at first mention by their full title (eg BBC royal correspondent James Higgins, BBC political editor Martha Squires) and thereafter as our correspondent or our reporter. Overseas BBC correspondents and reporters should be referred to in copy as the BBC’s (name) in (place) at first mention, as should non-specialist domestic correspondents, and thereafter as our correspondent or our reporter.

(See separate entry for Bylines).


ie lower case.

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe is a non-EU institution, based in Strasbourg. It was set up in 1949 to promote European cultural values. Its activities are decided by a committee made up of foreign ministers from each of its 47 member states.

Council of Ministers

creates EU law through negotiation with the European Parliament - a process called ‘co-decision’. In most cases they act on proposals submitted by the European Commission. Consists of the ministers from each member state who have responsibility for the topic under discussion. Not to be confused with the Council of Europe or the European Council.


Always lower case. Refer to county, borough, town and parish councillors by their usual honorific ie Mr/Mrs/Ms, rather than Coun or Cllr.

county names

should, whenever possible, be written out in full. If space is limited, it is acceptable in some cases to use short forms at first reference and throughout. Acceptable abbreviations are listed here:

Bedfordshire - Beds

Buckinghamshire - Bucks

Cambridgeshire - Cambs

Cheshire - none

Cornwall - none

County Armagh - Co Armagh

County Durham - Durham                                             

Cumbria - none

Derbyshire - Derbys

Devon - none

Dorset - none

East Sussex - E Sussex

Essex - none

Gloucestershire - Gloucs

Hampshire - Hants

Hertfordshire - Herts

Kent - none

Lancashire - Lancs

Leicestershire - Leics

Lincolnshire - Lincs

Middlesex - Middx

Norfolk - none

Northamptonshire - Northants

Northumberland - none

North Yorkshire - N Yorks

Nottinghamshire - Notts

Oxfordshire - Oxon

Shropshire - Salop

Somerset - none

Staffordshire - Staffs

Suffolk – none

Surrey - none

Warwickshire - Warks

West Sussex - W Sussex

Wiltshire - Wilts

Worcestershire - Worcs


Use initial cap if you are giving the court’s official title (eg: the US Supreme Court; the European Court of Human RightsBow Street Magistrates’ Court) - otherwise (and if in doubt) cap down (the appeal court in Iceland).

court cases

In reporting the preliminaries to a court case, do not include adjectives that might be considered potentially prejudicial (eg "Man accused of vicious street attack"). And do not repeat tracts of potential evidence, since a defence lawyer might be planning to challenge it.

It is BBC policy not to refer to the accused by surname alone - until a guilty verdict is returned. This is true even of people, like sportsmen and women, who would normally be referred to by surname only. 

Do not follow agency practice of lumping together the sentences handed down to a group of accused, as in "The three men were given prison sentences totalling 30 years". This is so imprecise as to be meaningless.

court martial

Note that the plural is courts martial.


The Covid-19 virus is a coronavirus that causes the disease Covid-19. As we are unlikely to be referring to any other coronavirus, it is enough to refer simply to coronavirus - or, in very medically slanted pieces, Sars-Cov-2 - and the coronavirus disease at first reference.

People who test positive for it are carrying the Covid-19 virus or coronavirus. At second reference, it is enough to refer simply to carrying the virus.

They are best described as people with the Covid-19 virus or coronavirus, rather than victims or sufferers. At second reference, it might be enough to refer simply to people with the virus.

Only when they become ill can they be said to have Covid-19 or the coronavirus disease. At second reference, it might be enough to refer to having the disease.

Then, they are best described as patients with Covid-19 or people with Covid-19 or the coronavirus disease. At second reference, it might be enough to refer simply to patients or people with the disease.

When reporting deaths, people die with Covid-19/the coronavirus disease. At second reference, it might be enough to refer simply to dying with the disease.

In line with our style-guide ruling on weights and measures, it’s:

  • 2m (6ft) at first mention, 2m at second reference


  • the prime minister was in St Thomas' Hospital
  • NHS Nightingale Hospital London was built in the ExCel centre

And there are two main types of test for the Covid-19 virus:

  • a diagnostic, swab test to see if someone is carrying the virus
  • an antibodies, blood test to see if someone has had the virus  

Prof Chris Whitty should be referred to as the UK government’s chief medical adviser or the UK’s chief medical adviser.

  • At first reference it's the reproduction (R) number, in later references the R number


These are not synonyms: credence means belief or trust; credibility is the quality of being believable.


means a gradual increase in loudness - rather than a "climax" - so a piece of music cannot "reach a crescendo".


Test match, or Test - ie upper case "T".

Scores: all numbers should be written as digits eg: By close of play, England had made 265-8, or WG Grace took 4-9.


is a plural. The singular is criterion.


ie with an "s" (and not "criticize").


ie one word, no hyphen. But two words in cross benches.


(also known as sub-heads) They must be in bold type, since part of their job is to break up blocks of text. But they should also provide an incentive to read on. They should not repeat information already provided in copy. And they should not consist of a random word picked from the sentence immediately afterwards: the ideal cross-head should have its inspiration three or four sentences into the text that follows.

Never put a cross-head in the first four paragraphs of a story. Any quotation marks in a cross-head must be single.


Cap up when the reference relates to the UK monarchy eg: Crown Estate, Crown Court, Crown dependency. Generically, lower case eg: She was the jewel in the crown.

cruise missile

ie no hyphen - and lower case, because it refers to a type of weapon (low-flying, long-distance, computer-controlled winged missile), rather than a specific one.


ie one word


ie all caps, no gaps. The Child Support Agency is responsible for ensuring that parents who live apart from their children contribute financially to their upkeep by paying child maintenance.


Sports trophies take a capital letter: FA CupWorld CupCalcutta Cup etc.


We say:50p£5£60£3m; £500m£6bn; £20bn; £15tn

In UK stories (about UK firms, the UK economy etc), use pounds only in the first four paragraphs, but provide a US dollar conversion of a key figure at the earliest opportunity. 

In eurozone stories (or wherever the original reporting figure is euros), use euros followed in brackets by a pound conversion of a key figure - even in the first four paragraphs. 

In World stories (ie. non pound, non eurozone), use US dollars, followed in brackets by a pound conversion of a key figure - again, even in the first four paragraphs. Alternatively, use the local currency and then convert to both US dollars and sterling (eg. Japan’s Nayaka has announced the worst corporate result in history, losing 40 trillion yen ($340bn; £212bn).

Abbreviations: The names of all currencies are written out in full at first reference - with the exception of the pound sterling, the euro and the US dollar, which are always £,  and $. If we do spell out euro, the plural is euros. Otherwise, abbreviations to be used after first reference are: SFr (Swiss francs); HK$ (Hong Kong dollars); A$ (Australian dollars).

For Bitcoin, upper case when referring to the currency - eg: “The Bitcoin has fallen against the dollar.” Lower case when referring to units of the currency, eg: “You owe me five bitcoins.” 


Relating to, characteristic of, or involved in the culture of computers, information technology, and virtual reality. All compound words should use a hyphen – cyber-crime, cyber-space, cyber-security, cyber-bullying, cyber-attack


The northern part, occupied by Turkey, is not internationally recognised, so do not refer to "North Cyprus" - the term the Turks have chosen. Instead, say northern Cyprus, describing it either as Turkish-occupied or Turkish-controlled. And we should speak of the Green Line - not "the so-called Green Line".



is the lower house of the Irish Parliament. Do not use in headlines or summaries, but it should always be referred to by name at least once - with initial cap. A Member of the Irish Parliament should not be referred to as an "MP", but as a member of parliament, parliamentary deputy, deputy or even TD - so long as it is clear from the context that this is the Irish abbreviation for member of the house ("Teacht Dala").


Dakar is the capital of Senegal; not to be confused with the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

Dalai Lama

ie with initial caps.


Phrases such as "damage worth millions" are meaningless. Say damage put at, or damage estimated at, or similar.


Do not use in the context of a crime or military action, as it suggests admiration.


one word – also helmetcam and similar constructions.


Strictly a plural - but follow common usage and treat it as a singular, taking a singular verb (eg: Data was collected across the country).


Put the date before the month, without suffix (eg: 12 April). There is no added comma for the year (eg: 12 April 2003), but there should be one if the day of the week is included (eg: Saturday, 12 April).

Avoid the 12/04/2012 formulation, as this will be understood in the US as 4 December. And one exception to the general rule: in a US context, spell out the Fourth of July.


Our readers live in various time zones, so avoid references to "yesterday", "this morning", "today", "tonight", "tomorrow" etc. Instead, days should be referred to by name (eg: Voting begins on Monday). Do not follow the American custom of omitting the preposition (eg: "Voting begins Monday").

When writing about events that have happened or are due to happen on the day a story appears, avoid putting the day of the week in the top four pars. If some indication of timescale is needed, use another form of words such as "within hours", "shortly" or "earlier". If there is a potential for confusion, include the day lower down the story (although the date stamp should mean this is unnecessary in most cases).


(Frankfurt’s main stock market index) ie initial cap only.


(6 June 1944) ie hyphenated - with two caps.

dead on arrival

is a term to be avoided. It’s ambulance service jargon, being the term used in duty logs, where it often appears as "DOA". The implication that the individual died en route to hospital is often false.

death row

ie lower case.


Use digits, without apostrophes (eg: 1960s or the 60s; Henry Hyde is now in his mid-40s). The exception is where an adjective is attached - in which case, the decade is written with an apostrophe (eg the Swinging ‘60s).


is a word liable to create misunderstanding. Strictly, it means "to destroy one-tenth of something" - but it’s commonly used to mean "destroy a large part of". Best avoided.


is our usual spelling, even with job titles which in their original form use US spelling (eg: the US Defence Secretary John Wayne - and not "Defense Secretary"). Follow the American spelling of the department if using its full name (eg: the US Department of Defense), but use UK spelling for an abbreviated form eg: the US defence department. This is often preferable, in order to avoid spelling the same word in two ways in the same story.


Do not refer to it as "New Delhi", which is only one part of the Indian capital.

Democratic Party

is the correct name for the US political party, not the "Democrat Party". But party members may be called "Democrats".

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

(responsible for business and enterprise support, higher and further education, promoting scientific research).

Department for Communities and Local Government

(responsible for planning, housing, working with councils, community relations).

Department for Education

(responsible for education and children’s services). No initial caps if referred to as "the education department").

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

may be shortened to Defra (ie initial cap only). No caps for the environment department.

Headed by the environment, food and rural affairs secretary who may, according to context, be referred to as environment secretaryfood secretary, or rural affairs secretary (titles capped up if accompanied by name).

Department for Exiting the European Union

is the correct title of the department, but we can refer to the Brexit secretary or Brexit minister.

Department of Health

may be abbreviated at second reference to the DoH or the health department (ie with no caps).

Department for International Development may be abbreviated at second reference to DfID or the international development department (ie with no caps).

Department for Work and Pensions

Headed by the secretary of state for work and pensions, who, according to context, may be referred to as the work secretary or the pensions secretary (capped up if accompanied by name). Department may be abbreviated at second reference to DWP (ie all caps). No caps for the work department or the pensions department.


The noun is dependant (eg: Mr Smith told the court he had 14 dependants). The adjective is dependent (eg: Mr Smith told the court he was heavily dependent on drugs).


Deprecate means "to express disapproval of". Do not confuse with depreciate, which means "to diminish in value".


The city and county are Londonderry. The city should be given the full name at first reference, but Derry can be used later. The local council is Derry City Council.


To talk about a "nuclear deterrent" implies acceptance of the doctrine of deterrence, which not all do. Referring to a "nuclear weapons programme" might be a suitable alternative.

Diamond Jubilee

As in the Queen’s. Capped up.


is a term generally to be avoided (except in a historic context) because it is too subjective. The word leader will usually suffice.


Say different from (rather than "different to" or "different than").

direct quotes

Pick only the best lines for direct quotation; anything else should be converted into indirect speech. Eliminate superfluous conversational devices (eg: "to be honest with you", "what I want to say is"). Make sure the meaning is clear - if not, leave it out.

Avoid exposing a speaker to ridicule by bringing his/her grammatical/linguistic incompetence to a wider audience. A combination of indirect speech and omission should solve the problem.

Punctuation: with complete sentences, the closing quotation marks go after the full stop. With a single word or phrase, the quotation marks go before the full stop. Where part of a quote has been omitted, use triple dots with a space after the last dot (eg: The quality of mercy is not strained… it is twice blest.)

director general

(of the BBC) ie two words, no hyphen, no caps.


We should be careful about the language we use when referring to disabled people. The same applies for mentally disabled people.

Remember, “disabled” is a description not a group of people. “The disabled” implies a homogeneous group not individuals.

Disabled people do not always want to be solely identified by their disability but there is some debate about whether it is appropriate to talk about “people with disabilities” – with critics of the phrase saying, for example, they have been disabled by society’s failure to cater for them.

Do not refer to someone being "wheelchair-bound" or "confined to a wheelchair", since wheelchairs provide mobility - not confinement. Instead, write about a person who uses a wheelchair or who is in a wheelchair or a wheelchair user.

When referring specifically to an individual or group’s medical or health condition, “impairment” is relatively neutral, while “suffers” or “afflicted” can have negative connotations. Many disabled people do not see their impairment in negative terms.

“Condition” is more commonly used to describe a medical condition. Say “living with”, “was diagnosed”, or “has…”.

“Invalid”, “handicapped”, “cripple” and “deformed” should not be used, nor “mentally handicapped”, “mentally defective”, “retarded” or “subnormal.” Consider instead “a person who has a learning disability”.

Avoid describing people as "mute". "Unable to speak" is a suitable alternative.

"Spastic" is a term that is not acceptable. Speak of people with cerebral palsy. "Handicap" and "cripple" are also not acceptable.

We do not speak of "epileptics" or "epilepsy sufferers". Instead, say people with epilepsy. The use of the term "fit" for an epileptic incident is increasingly seen as outdated and can be offensive. The preferred word is seizure, though attack can also be acceptable. However, if a speaker uses fit in a direct quote that's OK.

Avoid using the word "leper" when describing someone with leprosy. It carries very negative connotations, suggesting an outcast or pariah. There will inevitably be occasions when someone says he/she was "treated like a leper". This is acceptable provided it is in direct quotes.

In reporting stories about albinism, we should recognise that it might not be a familiar term to everyone. People with albinism or albino people would be our preference, with "albinos" only to be used in headlines.

Rather than “dwarf” or “dwarves”, the preferred terms are usually “restricted growth” or the medical term “dwarfism” if used in the right context - for example, “someone who has dwarfism” or “someone who has a form of dwarfism”.

Avoid using the terms “battle” and “fight” when referring to someone seeking to overcome an illness or disease such as cancer, unless they themselves use it.

See also mental health


CDs and DVDs are discs, and someone may suffer a slipped disc; but for the computer storage devices we use a disk (eg hard diskfloppy disk).


People are not "released" from hospital - they are discharged (or sent homeallowed home etc).


Use with care. It implies that what is being said is true.


Not to be confused: discreet means "careful" or "tactful"; discrete means "distinct and separate".


means "impartial" (eg: a tennis umpire is a disinterested onlooker). Do not confuse with "uninterested".


The original theme park in California is Disneyland. There is also Walt Disney World in Florida. The European one is now Disneyland Paris (no comma), although the company that owns it retains the name, Euro Disney.


Is our preferred spelling, as opposed to despatches. In Parliament, ministers lean on the dispatch box ie without caps.


ie not "disassociate".


In most cases, use both imperial and metric measures. UK and US stories should usually put miles first, followed immediately by a conversion to km inside brackets. Similarly, yds ft in should be followed by a metric conversion (eg: The US president has travelled more than 2,000 miles (3,200km)Officials in Norwich have defended the introduction of a double yellow line measuring just 45in (1.14m). But don’t be too literal in the conversion of an approximate figure, as in The lifeboat picked up the man about 200m (656ft) from the shore.

In non-UK/US stories, metric should usually come first - with a bracketed conversion to imperial (eg: Police in France say the floods reached a peak of 5.3m (17ft 8in); At least five fugitives from English justice are living along a 10km (6.2 mile) stretch of the Spanish coast.) Sometimes, logic will dictate that metric should come first (eg: Train speeds on the British side of the Channel Tunnel compare badly with French top speeds of 300km/h (186.4mph).

The words "metre", "kilometre" etc are not written out in full, even at first reference; use the abbreviations mkm, etc - with no space and no "s" in the plural.

DA notice

Defence Advisory Notice (formerly D notice) - an official request to withhold a news item for reasons of national security.


Use the title Dr (always abbreviated) for doctors of medicine, scientific doctors and church ministers who hold doctorates - but only when it is relevant. So it would be Mr Liam Fox. But do not use Dr for politicians who have a doctorate in politics, history etc. Surgeons should be referred to as Mr/Mrs/Ms.


In general, lower case unless the name refers to a country eg: German shepherd, great Dane, Afghan hound, rottweiler, labrador, Portuguese water dog, pekinese, Irish wolfhound, poodle, spaniel, dachshund.

Dominica/Dominican Republic

are different places. Dominica is a Caribbean island; the Dominican Republic shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti.


ie no caps, all one word.

Dow Jones

(index of the share prices of the 30 leading US companies) ie initial caps. Full title: Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Downing Street is an acceptable synonym for a government spokesman (eg: Downing Street says... ). You can also use No 10 ie initial cap, but not “Number Ten”.

Down’s syndrome

cap "D", lower case "s".

down under

colloquialism referring to Australia & New Zealand) ie lower case.


means "excessively harsh" only with reference to laws. Do not use in any other context.


The legal alcohol limit for drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is: 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood; 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath; 107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine.

In Scotland, the limits are 50 milligrams, 22 micrograms and 67 milligrams.

The limit in most other European nations is lower.


When referring to seizures of illegal drugs,say drugs with a street value of… (and not "drugs worth…")

Duchess of York

Say the Duchess of York at first reference; then the duchess (lower case). Do not call her "Fergie".

due to

means "caused by", and should be used in conjunction with a noun, not a verb: eg His frustration was due to their inefficiency (and not "He was frustrated due to their inefficiency").


(the lower house of parliament in Russia) ie always capped up.

Dutch names

In genuinely Dutch names, it is Van with an initial cap if only the surname is given (eg The painting was by Van Gogh). But it is lower case if you use the whole name (eg The museum is dedicated to Vincent van Gogh). This may vary with anglicised or US derivatives, where an individual might have chosen to retain the capitalised Van in all circumstances. 



Use upper case for the planet (eg The spaceship will circle the Earth for weeks). Otherwise, lower case (eg Madonna said it had taken her weeks to come down to earth after the wedding).


We should describe earthquakes in terms of magnitude, which is the measure used by the US Geological Survey (eg The island was hit by a magnitude seven earthquake). Magnitude measurements can usually be found on the USGS website.  

We should no longer refer to the Richter scale.

East Asia

ie initial cap for each word. Avoid references to the Far East.


ie the second capital is retained.

Eastern Europe

ie initial cap for each word. Note that we should not use the terms "Eastern Europe" and "Eastern European" when referring to the former Soviet bloc. (Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are in Central Europe.) "Eastern Europe" should refer only to countries that sit geographically there eg: Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia.


ie a cap "E" and "J". Style is to follow a company’s preference but with an initial cap if one is not used.


ie lower case "e", and upper case "B", except at the start of sentences, where it should be written "EBay"; but headlines can begin "eBay".


ie lower case with hyphen


(electronic cigarette) lower case with hyphen.

E. coli

ie capital "E", with a full stop and a space followed by lower case "c". Common variety is O157 (ie with a letter "O", rather than a zero). Note that it is caused by bacteria, not a virus.


(electronic commerce) ie lower case, hyphenated.


Is our preference, rather than Ecuadorian.


Whether the pill or the state of joy, lower case "e".

effect (verb)

Not synonymous with "affect". "To affect" means "to have an influence on" (eg: Wine does not affect me). "To effect" means "to cause, accomplish" (eg: A month at the clinic effected my recovery).

effectively/in effect

Correctly used," effectively" means "efficiently" or "successfully" - as in Despite his inexperience, he rules the country effectively. But the word is frequently misused (and misunderstood) to mean "in effect" and so should, in general, be avoided.

"In effect" means "to all intents and purposes", as in Smith holds no official office, but in effect he rules the country.

If you mean "in effect", then say so. If you mean "effectively", then say "successfully" or perhaps "to good effect".


ie no full stop.


Do not use either Eire or Southern Ireland. Say Irelandthe Republic of Ireland or the Irish Republic. Its people (and the adjective) are Irish - some people living in Northern Ireland may also describe themselves as Irish or Northern Irish.


The verb is singular if both alternatives are singular (Either Smith or Jones is to stand for Parliament). If even one of them is plural, then the verb is plural (Either Smith or his political colleagues have to make a decision).

ElBaradei, Mohamed

(Egyptian opposition figure and former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency) ie one word, capital "E" at the start, plus an internal capital "B". Second reference: Mr ElBaradei.


Once a UK general election is called, MPs cease to be MPs - but ministers remain ministers. People standing for Parliament are parliamentary candidates or just candidates - either way, lower case.


Quantities of electricity are frequently measured either as power - how much energy is consumed in a given time (kilowatts, megawatts etc), or energy itself eg: kilowatt-hours - the amount of energy required to run a kilowatt-consuming device for an hour.

These are not interchangeable. When writing about how much a given plant/turbine/hydro dam is producing, use watts eg: The turbine produces 800 kW, enough to power 70 homes.

When talking about energy costs or annual consumption, use kilowatt-hours eg: In its first three days of operation, the turbine produced 800 kWh, enough to power an average household for a month. EDF said it would subsidise the energy cost by as much as 3p per kWh.

Note that measurements above kilowatt - megawatt, gigawatt, terawatt etc - take caps when abbreviated: MW/MWh; GW/GWh; TW/TWh.


Although often thought to be fatal, we support the view that it can cause death or injury. But because of possible ambiguity, be clear in stories what the outcome was.


ie hyphenated - with the number written in digits and the word "plus" spelt out.


Where part of a quote is omitted, put three dots immediately after the last word used, followed by a space (eg "Prices have not merely risen... they have soared"). It is important NOT to start with a space, because this could mean a new line beginning with the dots. If the quote is a complete sentence, there is no need for an ellipsis.


ie lower case, with no hyphen.


lower case - ie The British embassy in Washington.


Use "enormity" only in its traditional sense of "wickedness" (eg the enormity of Harold Shipman’s crimes soon became apparent). Do not use "enormity" to mean "hugeness".


A legitimate alternative for "escaper".

esports (updated September 2021)

(electronic sports) ie lower case, no hyphen. The name for a form of competition using video games.


For both the machine and the coffee it makes, espresso is the correct term. "Expresso" is wrong for both.

Eswatini (updated December 2020)

The country formerly known as Swaziland. Add “previously known as Swaziland”, high up. It’s Swati when describing its people. Initial letter is now capitalised.


In line with our usual rule, cap up only the first letter because we pronounce it as a word. First reference should always spell out the Basque separatist group, Eta or the Basque separatist movement, Eta.


It is Eton College - and not Eton School.


The currency adopted by 19 EU member states ie lower case and never abbreviated. Since 2017, we have used the symbol for the euro rather than spelling it out. If using the full name, the plural is euros.  Latest information here.

Euro MP

ie no hyphen, with three caps. An acceptable abbreviation is MEP ie all caps (plural MEPs).

European Central Bank

The European Central Bank controls monetary policy in the 19 EU member states that make up the eurozone. Its headquarters are in Frankfurt, Germany. It may be shortened on second reference to ECB.

European Commission

Do not abbreviate to "EC". This is the civil service of the European Union, headed by commissioners from the member states. It can propose new laws - but actually enacting legislation is the job of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

European Council

The European Council is the (usually) twice-yearly summit meeting of EU member states’ heads of government, to determine overall policy direction. Not to be confused with the Council of Ministers or the Council of Europe.

The current European Council president is Donald Tusk. He may for headline purposes be referred to as "EU president", but the full title should be in the summary and top four pars. 

European Court of Human Rights

This is not an EU institution. It was established as a permanent entity in 1998 under the auspices of the Council of Europe and sits in Strasbourg. Its task is to ensure the observance of the principles set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Judgements are binding on its 47 member states.

European Court of Justice

This is based in Luxembourg. Its function is to apply and interpret EU law. Initially, an advocate general presents a legal opinion on a case. The full court then deliberates and delivers its judgement. Not to be confused with the International Court of Justice.

European Parliament

ie Initial caps for the full title. Do not abbreviate to "EU Parliament". It is lower case if you are dropping the "European" label - eg Six MEPs walked out of parliament in disgust.

The European Parliament sits in Brussels and Strasbourg, and is administered from Luxembourg. Under the Lisbon Treaty, it became a co-legislator with the Council of Ministers in most policy areas. The parliament also has the final say on the European Commission’s annual budget, the appointment of Commissioners and applications to join the EU.

European Union (EU)

Created by the Maastricht treaty of 1993. The original EEC (European Economic Community) was founded in 1957 with six member states. The EU now incorporates 28 countries, with five others (Iceland, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey) recognised as candidates for membership. Latest information here.


ie initial cap.


ie initial cap.


Currently incorporates 19 EU member states where the euro is a valid currency. It should be in lower case, one word.


The rule used to be that only places or buildings were evacuated, not people. This is at odds with common usage, which now allows people to be "evacuated", as well as buildings. But avoid the intransitive use, eg: "People are preparing to evacuate from Lebanon..."

exceeding the speed limit

Just say speeding.


Only after a legal process. Gunmen do not "execute" people, though they often claim to; they kill or murder.


For Scottish Executive/Northern Ireland Executive: cap up the full title (eg The Northern Ireland Executive has voiced concern); otherwise, cap down (eg The executive in Edinburgh is to hold emergency talks).


Short for expatriate, ie no hyphen.


FA Cup

ie upper case "C".

Fair trade, Fairtrade

Two words when referring to the concept of trading with developing nations on an equal basis. However the Fairtrade Foundation, which promotes the system, is one word, as is the Fairtrade label and individual brands launched by supermarkets.

Falklands War

ie both words are capped up. The Falkland Islands are known in Argentina as the Malvinas.

Falun Gong

The Falun Gong religious group should NOT be referred to as a cult, as it insists it is not - although the Chinese authorities say it is. We can call it a spiritual movement.


Stands for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the leftist rebel group that laid down its weapons in 2017. Only the first letter is capped up because we pronounce it as a word. The acronym has been retained for the political party it created, the Alternative Revolutionary Force for the Common People.

Far East

Is NOT our style for the regions known as East Asia or South East Asia, except in reference to the Russian Far East. Takes initial caps.

Father’s Day

ie initial caps with an apostrophe before the "s". NB: it is not on the same date everywhere. Father’s Day in UK/US is the third Sunday in June. In Australia, it is the first Sunday in September.


means an authoritative ruling on a point of Islamic law - a religious edict but not necessarily a death sentence.


Someone who is disorientated or disconcerted can be described as fazed, although only in direct quotes, as it is a colloquialism. Do not confuse with phased, which means "introduced in stages", eg: The new curriculum was phased in over three years.


means "aimless, helpless, clueless". It does not mean "irresponsible" or "reckless".

Federal Reserve

(Central Bank of the US) ie initial caps. After first reference, can be shortened to the Fed (no full stop). The Federal Open Market Committee is the body that decides on US interest rates - can be abbreviated at second reference to FOMC (ie all caps, no gaps).


is the correct spelling, not foetus (update June 2019)


Use "fewer" when you can count something, as in The committee wants to have fewer meetings next year. If you cannot count it, use "less", as in Voters are calling for less bureaucracy. The same rule applies for percentages: hence, you would be correct to say Less than 30% of the hospital survived the fire and Fewer than 30% of the patients were rescued.

Do not use "no less than" with numbers - say eg: He exceeded the speed limit on no fewer than 12 occasions.

However, ages, heights and weights take "less" eg: Tom Thumb was less than 3ft (91cm) tall; Police say the man is less than 30 years old; She weighs less than seven stone (44.5kg).


(ie one "p") means a native or national of the Philippines (two "p"s); feminine Filipina. The adjective is Philippine.


ie with a hyphen (to avoid double "m").

film titles

We do not use italics or quotation marks; caps as appropriate: (Grease, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs).

fine-tooth comb

ie with a hyphen after "fine". It is the teeth that are fine, not the comb.

Fire and Rescue

When referring to an individual service dealing with a fire, it’s fine to shorten its title by dropping “and Rescue”.


is the term preferred by fire brigades in the UK and elsewhere. Fire crews (two words) is also acceptable.

First Division

(as in Scottish football) ie capped up (similarly, Second Division etc). The English equivalent is League One and League Two.

first half, first-half

There is NO hyphen in the noun (eg: Rooney was injured during the first half). There IS a hyphen in the adjective (eg Arsenal scored three first-half goals).


ie with three hyphens, when used adjectivally (eg the first-past-the-post system). Otherwise, no hyphens (eg Red Rum was first past the post). 


flaunt means "to display ostentatiously". Do not confuse with flout, which means "to disobey".

Fleet Street

is no longer a useful synonym for the print media.


(on the stock market) ie not "floatation". This is known to US investors as an "initial public offering", or IPO.


The verb flounder means "to struggle" or "be in a state of confusion". Do not confuse with founder, which means "to fill with water and sink" and, metaphorically, "to fail".


and not 'flu.


is our preference, although the Oxford English Dictionary uses a hyphen. Similarly marchpast.


ie the "s" remains single.


is the correct spelling, not the US variant "fetus".

foot-and-mouth disease

ie hyphens on both sides of "and". Do not use "FMD" or "F&M", even in headlines.


but never "soccer" unless as part of an official title (eg Soccer Australia).

football seasons

When writing about any sporting season, or tax or financial years etc, our preferred style is 2010-11.


is appropriate only where someone uses force to make someone else do something. Avoid unthinking agency usage eg: "Police were forced to open fire". It is usually not true. Simply tell the readers what happened: "Police opened fire..."

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

can be shortened at second reference to FCO (all caps, no gaps). You can also refer to the Foreign Office (second reference: FO).

foreign names (see also Arabic names)

Do not use foreign titles (Monsieur, Herr) - say Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss as appropriate.

In the case of Spanish American and European Spanish names, the last of the three names is usually the mother’s name, which should not be used on its own. So Manuel Echeverria Valdez becomes Mr Echeverria, not Mr Valdez. This does not apply to Brazilian/Portuguese names.

In genuinely German names, von is in lower case when the whole name is given eg: Herbert von Karajan. It disappears when only the surname is given eg: Karajan died in 1989. There may be variations with anglicised or US derivatives, where the individual might have chosen to retain the von with the surname.

The Dutch van and the Italian di are lower case if the whole name is used. They are capped if only the surname is used eg: Angelo di Loreto says he might retire, but It is not the first time Di Loreto has said so.

When French surnames start with Le or La, an initial cap is used, whether or not the forename is included eg: Jean-Marie Le Pen, and also Mr Le Pen.

The family name in China comes first, so Hu Jintao becomes Mr Hu at second reference.

If in doubt over any foreign name, check with World Service.

foreign words

should be kept to a minimum. Hence: replace "£10 per capita" with £10 a head; replace "twice per annum" with twice a year.

Say French Legion of Honour rather than "Legion D’Honneur".


is our preferred spelling, rather than forego, to mean "abstain from".


This construction (as in "The judge told Smith and Jones they could expect no mercy. The former was given a 10-year sentence, the latter 15 years.") is somewhat archaic and should be avoided in our output.

Formula 1/F1

(in motor racing) ie contrary to our usual style, the number is written as a digit. F1 may be used in headlines or at second reference.


Properly used, it means "by chance, rather than design". It does NOT mean "fortunate" or "well-timed".


(four-wheel drive vehicle, designed to go off-road). Contrary to our usual convention with single-figure numbers, we use digits rather than words. We do not include a space. Often used as an alternative to industry jargon SUV (sports utility vehicle), but not necessarily the same thing.

Fourth of July

(the American holiday) ie written out in full - not "4 July".

fox-hunt, fox-hunting

ie hyphenated (Say "hunting with dogs" - and not "hunting with hounds").


Our style is to use words (eg three-quarters) separated by hyphens or, where appropriate, to substitute a decimal (0.75).


is the German city and financial centre which is home of the European Central Bank. (Its full name is Frankfurt am Main, but should be referred to simply as Frankfurt.) There is another Frankfurt in eastern Germany, on the Polish border. This is Frankfurt an der Oder, which should be spelt out in full or abbreviated to Frankfurt/Oder.


is an adjective (He left the court a free man) or an adverb (The spectators were admitted free). It is wrong to speak of receiving something "for free". You receive it either free or for nothing.

Freedom of Information

Capped when referring to the Act or to a Freedom of Information request, but lower case if talking generally about the issue of freedom of information.


ie with a hyphen.

‘friendly fire’

should be inside quotation marks in headlines and at first reference in text. In line with our usual rules, these quotation marks should be single in headlines, and double in text (although the text quotation marks would be single if first use was within a direct quote eg The general said: “Deaths caused by ‘friendly fire’ are sad - but inevitable”). Later references do not need any quotation marks. An alternative in text (though not in headlines) is so-called friendly fire - which does not require apostrophes.

front bench

(in Parliament) ie as a noun, two words, with no hyphen. But one word only in frontbencher and also in the adjective frontbench (as in frontbench spokesman).

front line/front-line

The noun is two words, both lower case (eg More troops are being sent to the front line); the adjective is lower case, but hyphenated (eg Fresh supplies are getting through to front-line positions).


ie with a hyphen.


The Financial Times Stock Exchange index (so called because it is a joint venture between the FT and the SE) ie all caps, no hyphen. Avoid the trade term "the Footsie". NB: the benchmark index is the FTSE 100 (ie a space before the number), which can be defined as listing the leading 100 firms traded on the London Stock Exchange. There is also a FTSE 250FTSE 350 etc.


ie with a hyphen.


ie with a hyphen, whether used as a noun (eg "Both managers rushed on to the pitch at full-time") or an adjective ("They are the first league team to dispense with the services of a full-time manager").


Traditionally, does not mean "generous" or "full", but, "sickly sweet" or "over the top". So avoid use of the term "fulsome praise".

fundraiser, fundraising

ie no hyphens.


Gaddafi, Col Muammar

(Libyan leader from 1969 - 2011) ie spelt with a "G" rather than a "Q", and a double "d" with a single "f". Full name: Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi.

Gambia, The

ie definite article must be included - do not call it "Gambia".


ie no hyphen.


In stories about the Republic of Ireland, do not use the word "garda/gardai" - translate into English: police or police officer. The full name of the force is the Garda Siochana.

gay marriage

see same-sex marriage

Geldof, Bob

is not entitled to be called "Sir Bob". He is an Irish citizen, and his knighthood is honorary.


Using appropriate language is an important part of how we portray people in our stories. Sexuality, race, ethnicity or disability should not be mentioned unless they are relevant to the subject matter. But when we do focus on one aspect of a person's character we should ensure we do not define them by it. 

Where possible, use the term/s and pronoun/s preferred by people themselves, when they have made their preferences clear.

Gay/lesbian: Use gay as an adjective rather than a noun (eg: two gay men - but not "two gays"). It can apply to members of both sexes, but current preferred practice is to refer to "gay men and lesbians".

For wider references, talk about LGBT people or the LGBT community (lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender). If this does not suffice, the preferred initialism is “LGBTQ”or“LGBTQ+” - the “Q” means questioning and/or queer, the “+”acknowledges not all people may feel represented by these initials.Where possible, however, initials should be avoided. The issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can be very different and the more specific we can be with our language, the better.

If using LGBT+ or another formulation - for example in a quote – consider the likely audience of the story and whether the term needs explaining.  Instead of “LGB”, for example, consider “lesbian, gay or bisexual”.  

Homosexual means people of either sex who are attracted to people of their own gender, but take care how you use it. While it can be fine in historical, judicial or legislative references, it can be considered offensive in other contexts because of past associations with illegal behaviour and mental illness.

Bisexual is an adjective to describe someone who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to more than one gender.

“Gender identity” has come to mean how people feel or present themselves, distinct from their biological sex or sexual orientation. Use sex to refer to a person’s physical development and gender to describe how they identify themselves.

Transgender, or trans, is a good umbrella term for a person whose gender identity differs from their sex at birth. A person born male who lives as a female, would typically be described as a “transgender woman” and would take the pronoun “she”. And vice versa.  Use the term and pronoun preferred by the person in question. If that’s unknown – apply that which fits with the way the person lives publicly.  If reporting on someone who is making their transition public, it may be appropriate to refer to their previous identity to help audience understanding. It may also be appropriate to refer to a transition to make sense of some stories.

Transsexual refers to someone who has changed, or wishes to change, their body through medical intervention. Use as an adjective - do not say “transsexuals”, in the same way we would not talk about "gays" or "blacks". Transsexual is not an umbrella term. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender. Try to ask or find out which term a person prefers. 

Take care with the term “sex change”, unless referring specifically to the surgical element of a transition. It should not be used as a general description for a transgender person.

Queer is an adjective used by some people who find more specific terms, such as “lesbian”, “gay”, “bisexual”, “trans” and “LGBT”, too limiting to describe their romantic or sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. Originally a pejorative term, more recently “queer” has been reclaimed by some in the LGBTQ+ community, to describe themselves. However, it is not universally accepted and has the potential to cause offence. Be careful when using the term. We should not apply the term to an individual or group unless they have already adopted it.

Non-binary is an adjective used to describe a person who does not identify as only male or only female, or who may identify as both . It is increasingly common for non-binary people to use the singular pronoun “they”. Obviously, we should not ascribe a gender to someone non-binary. But we may need to explain any use of “they” as a singular pronoun to the audience for clarity. This could be without explicitly mentioning their gender, however (eg: [First name surname] - who uses "they" and "them" as personal pronouns - is…).

“Sexual preference” suggests a person chooses to be gay or bisexual. For the same reason, phrases such as “alternative lifestyle” should also be avoided where possible.  Instead of “sexual preference” and “admits being gay”, consider “sexual orientation” and “is gay”.

general election ie lower case.

General Synod

Style is to use initial caps. It may also be referred to as the Church’s parliament. It is made up of three houses: bishops, clergy and laity. It can make decisions on doctrine and worship without reference to Parliament at Westminster.

genetically modified food

ie no hyphen - at second reference, GM food.


Be explicit. Do not at first reference say eg: "the North East" if you mean north-east England - it could as well mean north-east Scotland. Also, do not talk about events happening "in Scotland" or "in Wales" - we wouldn’t, after all, normally say "in England". Locate by town/city/county as appropriate. The rule of thumb is that if a place has a league football team no county is required. So it would be just Norwich, but Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.

geological periods

When referring to geological periods such as Early Jurassic or Late Cretaceous cap up both the period and the epoch.


Be clear which Georgia is being referred to: the independent nation in the Caucasus (capital: Tbilisi) or the US state (capital: Atlanta).


(created by a merger between Glaxo and SmithKline Beecham) ie with two internal rogue capitals. May be rendered simply as Glaxo in headlines, and also at second reference in text.


Initial cap for the God of Christianity (or any other monotheistic faith). Otherwise, lower case (eg: Fans treat Roy of the Rovers as a god).


The four most important championships are known as the majors (lower case). These are: the Masters, the Open, the US Open and the USPGA.

The Open takes place in Britain, but is not "the British Open".

The Ryder Cup is a biennial competition between teams from the US and Europe.

Scores in matchplay are in digits, with an ampersand (eg:Jekyll beat Hyde, 4&3).

good news

Like "bad news" - not to be used as a blanket term. For example, a cut in interest rates must not be characterised as "good news on interest rates" - since, while mortgage holders will be pleased, savers will not. So the term is acceptable only with a qualification (eg There is good news for house buyers). The safest approach is simply to say what has happened - and let the reader decide whether it constitutes good news or bad.


ie lower case, whether for the government (in the UK) or for a foreign government eg: The Italian government). The abbreviation "govt" is never acceptable, even in a headline.


With an initial cap for the governor of a state/region if accompanied by the name (eg: California Governor Ted Bodybuilder will address the conference). Lower case without the name (eg: California’s governor will arrive on Tuesday). Same rule for former governors (eg: The former Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, is a well-known liberal. The former governor is a steadfast opponent of the death penalty). Except in direct quotes, avoid "gubernatorial", which is little used outside the US.


May be used to mean "hard work" - but not (as in the US) to "profit gained by dishonest means".

Grand Prix

ie upper case - both for specific races (eg: the French Grand Prix) and in a general sense (eg: Gordon said it had always been his ambition to win a Grand Prix). The plural is Grands Prix.

Grand Slam

(in tennis, golf etc) ie initial caps.

Great Britain

is made up of England, Scotland and Wales; the United Kingdom also includes Northern Ireland.

Greater London Authority

ie initial caps. Spell out in full at first mention - but GLA is acceptable in headlines, and in text at second reference as an alternative to the authority. It is made up of the mayor plus the London Assembly (initial caps; second reference the assembly), which has 25 elected members.

green belt

is our preferred style, rather than greenbelt.

Green Line

(in Cyprus) ie initial caps. It should not be preceded by the phrase "the so-called".

Green Paper

(a preliminary report of government proposals designed to stimulate discussion) ie upper case, two words. Do not use this term at first reference.


Use the English spelling ie grey except when referring to the gray whale (the spelling accepted by the conservation community).


ie upper case "G" with no gap.


ie with a double "r" and double "l". Use for groups or organisations carrying out a campaign of irregular warfare.


In the UK, they should not be referred to as "girl guides". The organisation is called Girlguiding UK; members are known as Rangers, Guides, Brownies and Rainbows. Outside the UK, some countries still have girl guides or girl scouts.


(in the City of London) ie does not have a definite article. (eg: The chancellor was addressing a dinner at Guildhall).


The republic of Guinea is in West Africa; it was formerly French Guinea and its capital is Conakry. Not to be confused with the adjoining republic Guinea-Bissau, formerly Portuguese Guinea, whose capital is Bissau.


Our style is the Gulf - and not "the Arabian Gulf" or "the Persian Gulf".


Civilian firearms in the UK are for the most part licensed for sporting purposes. Calling them "weapons" suggests we have already made a judgement on the intent of the user. "Firearms" or "guns" may be a better description.

Semi-automatic rifles are not banned - semi-automatic centrefire rifles are, but semi-automatic .22 rimfires are not. (A semi-automatic firearm fires one round each time the trigger is pulled.)

Ammunition is measured in both imperial and metric - .22 calibre is common across a broad range of firearms, but a 5.5mm bullet would be about the same size. If you find yourself writing about 22mm or similar ammunition, double-check - that's more suited to a cannon.

Armed police in the UK are not carrying machine-guns - they use semi-automatic firearms. 

Avoid the term "assault weapon" as it has become politicised in the US. Assault rifle is a better option - there is no technical definition of an assault rifle but it is generally used to refer to a military-style gun ie one that fires on fully automatic and/or select fire. There is no such thing as a "semi-automatic assault rifle".

Apart from a few specialist exceptions, pistols are prohibited in the UK so we should not be using images of handguns in reporting about legally held firearms in the UK.

Do not make the mistake of assuming that the NRA (UK) is a branch of the NRA (US) - they are not related.


Do not refer to "gunshot wounds" - they are bullet wounds. If a shotgun is used, they are shotgun wounds.


ie upper case and not "Ghurka" or "Gurhka".

Guy Fawkes Day/Night

ie no apostrophe.


For ethnic Gypsies in the UK, we use Gypsy/Gypsies (capped up), as that is how their distinct racial group was recognised in a key High Court ruling. But the term Roma must always be included in stories about the Romany people of Eastern and Central Europe and the Middle East.

Gypsies, Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are legally recognised terms for distinct ethnic groups, but should be used only if we know we are referring to those groups.

We can use travellers (capped down) as a generic, but should avoid references to "new age" travellers, who are an entirely different phenomenon.

Do not use "gipsy", which is anachronistic and regarded by many as a deliberate mis-spelling to deny them their identity. 


Hague, The

ie both words capped. It is the seat of government in the Netherlands - but not the capital (which is Amsterdam). It is also where bodies such as the International Criminal Court are based - but avoid phrases such as "He will appear at The Hague next month".


(the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) ie initial cap and double "j".


Lower case. Means permissible under Islamic law - usually refers to dietary rules relating to food consumption.


ie with a hyphen, whether used as a noun (eg: Smith was substituted at half-time) or an adjective (eg: He was notorious for his half-time outbursts).


Do not use the term "mentally handicapped", which is widely regarded as offensive. The phrase People with learning disabilities is an acceptable alternative. Refer to people with physical handicaps or people with physical disabilities - but do not describe them as "the disabled" or "the handicapped".


A hangar is where aircraft are kept. A hanger is for putting clothes on.


Criminals are hanged, pictures are hung.

Haniya, Ismail

(senior Hamas leader) ie not Haniyeh.

Haram al-Sharif

(ie lower case "al" followed by a hyphen, and not "the al-Haram al-Sharif"). This is how Muslims refer to the area in Jerusalem that translates from Hebrew as the Temple Mount. The Arabic translates as the Noble Sanctuary.


(Ultra-Orthodox branch of Judaism) ie upper case "H".


The name of the London borough is Haringey (one "r", ending "-ey"). One of its wards is Harringay (double "r", ends "-ay").


The district in New York City is Harlem with a single "a"; Haarlem is a Dutch city.


ie no apostrophe.

Harvard University

is the correct term. It is not "the University of Harvard".


ie hyphenated.


Index-level headlines must be 50 characters long or less, including gaps. For features, they can be up to 58 characters. Story-level headlines can be up to 55 characters (a little longer as long as key words are within the 55) and should aim to include key terms to attract search engine referrals.

Avoid the US convention of using a comma in place of the word "and" (eg: "Crowe, Roberts in Oscar triumph").

If the attribution is clear, there is no need for quotation marks (eg: I’ve had enough, says Smith). Any quotation marks in a headline must be single.

Headlines might appear without an accompanying summary, so keep them simple. A cryptic headline, out of context, may be meaningless.

head teachers

The generic head teacher is written as two words (eg: the National Association of Head Teachers) or head for short (eg: the Secondary Heads Association).

But the single-word headmaster and headmistress should be used if that is what they call themselves (eg: the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference).

Some school heads have other titles, such as principal (especially in the college sector), high mastermaster or warden.

heads of state

are not necessarily the same as heads of government. The US president is both. But it is wrong to speak of a meeting of "Western heads of state" if Britain is represented by the prime minister. The PM is the head of government; the Queen is the head of state.


ie one word.

heart attack/cardiac arrest

These are not synonymous. Cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating. A heart attack is when the blood flow to the heart is interrupted (otherwise known as a myocardial infarction). A heart attack can cause cardiac arrest.

Her Majesty’s Opposition

ie initial caps for the full title. But capitalisation is dropped if you refer only to the opposition. The leader of the opposition is capped up only if accompanied by a name.

Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

ie one "t" and with a hyphen.


and not "Hizbollah".

High Street

ie initial caps in such phrases as the High Street banks.


Note the "c" in Hinckley, in Leicestershire. There is no "c" in Hinkley Point, Somerset.


There is a distinction: historic means "memorable", whereas historical means "belonging to history". As an adjective, both take the indefinite article "a".

In terms of historical child abuse, there is a view the word suggests incidents are in the past and therefore forgotten. Sometimes just saying when offences happened can be a useful alternative.

high-tech (updated March 2017)  

ie lower case, and hyphenated. High- not hi-. Also low-tech.


ie hyphenated


stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is tautological to speak of the "HIV virus", and avoid "HIV victims" or "HIV sufferers" - say people with HIV or people living with HIV. The same goes for Aids.


ie one word, no hyphen.


is only a part of the Netherlands. So we should say eg: The presidency of the European Union has been taken over by the Netherlands.


Initial cap when referring to the persecution of Jews during World War Two. Otherwise, lower case.



There are many different forms of homelessness, so try to be as specific as possible and avoid language that over-generalises. “the homeless” implies a homogeneous group not individuals.


is our favoured spelling for the alternative therapy. However, we should use other spellings when part of organisations such as Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital.


Do not confuse homogeneous, which means "of the same kind", with homogenous, meaning "similar because of common descent".


Mr, Mrs etc should be used, except for convicted criminals - and also journalists, sports people, authors, actors, artists, musicians and entertainers in their professional capacity (eg: Throughout the interview, Paxman refused to be sidetracked. But: The burglars entered Mr Paxman’s house). Court reports, in the UK and abroad, should give defendants an honorific unless and until they are convicted.

In choosing between MissMrs and Ms, try to find out what the person herself uses, and stick to that. Avoid foreign honorifics (eg: Herr, Madame or Signora).

There is no ban on using honorifics with the dead: it’s a matter of judging what is appropriate eg: A man murdered in front of his family does not immediately become "Smith"; he remains Mr Smith. It would be difficult to defend a court report where the victim was "Smith" and the alleged killer "Mr Jones".

honour killings

We should attribute this phrase, either by use of quotes - "honour killings" - or saying so-called honour killings. The phrase has potential to cause offensive. 


People are appointed CBE, OBE and MBE (they stand for Commander, Officer and Member of the Order of the British Empire), or they become a CBE etc. Peerages, baronetcies and knighthoods are conferred. Alternatively, you could speak of a person being made a peer, baronet or knight - and you can also write of someone receiving or being awarded a peerage or a knighthood (it would also be correct to speak of "receiving a baronetcy"; but it is an ugly phrase, best avoided).

Ranks of Order of the British Empire are:

GBE (Knight or Dame Grand Cross)

KBE (Knight Commander)

DBE (Dame Commander)

CBE (Commander)

OBE (Officer)

MBE (Member).


Means "full of hope", but it is often wrongly used to mean "it is to be hoped". Best avoided.


ie single word.

hospital jargon

is often fairly meaningless (eg: the description "comfortable" is unlikely to be true of someone who has just fallen out of a window). Try to persuade the hospital to use meaningful English and, if this proves impossible, distance yourself from the language used by saying, eg: The hospital says he is in a comfortable condition or Doctors describe his condition as comfortable.

Patients are discharged from hospital - not "released".


Our style is one word when talking about a place of significant activity or danger, although firefighters might dampen down hot spotsBlackspot is also one word in terms of a place with a particular problem, but the plant disease is black spot.

House of Commons/the Commons/the House

ie initial caps when you use the full title, and also when you abbreviate it to either the Commons or the House. However, any reference to the lower house should be in lower case.

House of Lords/the Lords/the House

As with the Commons: initial caps for the full title, and also when you abbreviate it to either the Lords or the House. But lower case for the upper house.


Although they don’t hover, it’s an acceptable term for these two-wheeled forms of transport. Self-balancing scooter also acceptable


Should be followed by a comma when it means "but" (eg: However, his luck did not last). There should be no comma when it means "no matter how" (eg: However hard he pushed, the door stayed closed).

hunting with dogs

And not "hunting with hounds".


In describing the strength of hurricanes, the word category should be lower case and followed by the number spelt out (unless it is 10 or higher) eg: The storm weakened to a category one hurricane.


Hyperthermia is the condition where the body temperature is greatly above normal. Not to be confused with hypothermia, where the body temperature is markedly below normal.


are often essential, if the text is to make immediate sense. The headlines Mother-to-be assaulted and Mother to be assaulted are telling very different stories - just as an easy seal pack and an easy-seal pack conjure up different images and She never gives tips to black-cab drivers is a world apart from She never gives tips to black cab drivers.

There are no universal rules on hyphens in many cases, but in general do not overuse. They are required for compound adjectives, as in: "If I come with you in first class, will you buy me a first-class ticket?" But they are not used when part of the adjective is an adverb ending in -ly: "badly researched report", "severely wounded man", "newly cleaned car".

We would say Jim Smith is a father of two but it’s father-of-two Jim Smith. Likewise Jim Smith is 25 years old but 25-year-old Jim Smith.

Phrasal verbs are constructions such as build up, turn out, drive in, take over. Some need hyphens when they are used as nouns. Those ending in -in, -to, -on or -up use a hyphen (check-up, break-in, turn-on). Nouns ending in -off have a hyphen (pay-off, turn-off, drop-off) but those ending in -out do not (payout, turnout, dropout, bailout). Nouns where the second part is four or more letters are one word: takeover, clampdown, giveaway, setback, lookahead, runaround. Rare exceptions are where two vowels need to be separated by a hyphen, as in go-ahead, though this isn't always necessary.

In general, use a hyphen to separate repeated letters in a compound word: re-emergence, co-operativefilm-maker, night-time. But there are some exceptions, including overrunoverrideoverruleunderratewithhold. As usual, consult the Oxford English Dictionary if in doubt.

Examples of words and phrases which do and don’t need hyphens:




air force


air raid

air strike

A-level - also AS-level, O-level


asylum seeker

Ban Ki-moon

best-seller, best-selling 










filmgoer (also theatregoer, partygoer etc) 


fine-tooth comb

















machine-gun (but sub-machine gun)





peacekeepers, peacekeeping 

plane-spotter, train-spotter (but no hyphen in the book/film Trainspotting)

prisoner of war

post-mortem examination 





right-wing, left-wing - hyphenated if used adjectivally; no hyphen if used as a noun.






second half, second-half - no hyphen in the noun, but there is a hyphen in the adjective.

short-term, long term - as an adjective it takes a hyphen but no need for one for the noun.


South East Asia





tear gas, tear-gas - the noun is two separate words; the verb is hyphenated.

think tank


three-quarters (and other fractions)

under age - a child may be under age but is an under-age child.   










should be written without punctuation.


Or improvised explosive device. This is military jargon and we should say bomb or, where appropriate, roadside bomb. But avoid "makeshift" or "home-made" bomb, as it is usually tautologous. However, if someone refers in a quote to an IED then we should explain what they are.

iMac, iPhone, iPad, iPod, iTunes

ie lower case "i", followed by capital, except at the start of a sentence, where it should be IMac, IPhone etc.


(International Monetary Fund) ie all caps, no punctuation. Acceptable in headlines, but spell it out at first text reference.


In the US, impeachment involves the House of Representatives charging a high officer (eg the president) with grave offences. The Senate sits in judgement. Note that Richard Nixon was not impeached - his presidency ended when he resigned; Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, but was acquitted by the Senate. 


These are not interchangeable. You imply something to someone else. You infer something from what someone else says.


ie ending "or" rather than "er".


The plural for stock markets etc is indexes. Use "indices" only in a mathematical/scientific context.

Indian foreign minister

India’s foreign minister is officially called the external affairs minister. (The foreign secretary in Delhi is a civil servant.)

Indian subcontinent

is a phrase to be avoided - it offends both Pakistan and Bangladesh. According to context, call it the Asian subcontinent or just the subcontinent.


The word charge is preferable, although indict is an alternative in US court cases.


The infinitive form of a verb (eg: "to go") is usually best without a word in the middle (eg: "to boldly go"). But there is no ban on split infinitives. Use them when they are the best way of saying what is to be said.


Inflation is a measurement to describe the rate at which prices in an economy are rising. If prices are falling, it’s called deflation.

In the UK there are two measures for inflation. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measures the year-on-year change of consumer prices based on a basket of goods and services purchased by most households, but excludes the cost of mortgage interest rates. The CPI is the basis of the Bank of England’s official inflation target and is an internationally standardised measure which allows us to compare the UK’s inflation rate with that of other EU countries.

The Retail Prices Index, or RPI, is based on the same basket of goods and services, plus mortgages.

We should normally mention both rates, because the CPI is usually a key driver for the Bank of England’s interest rate decision, while the RPI is the benchmark for inflation adjustments of state benefits and many wage negotiations.

Inflation is a rate - so has to be attached to a period of time (eg: The annual inflation rate rose sharply last month). And remember that even if the inflation rate falls prices are still going up (unless the rate is negative) - just at a slower rate.


is our preferred spelling (and not "inflexion").


ie one word, no hyphen.


All people killed or injured while not committing a crime are innocent. Do not talk about "innocent victims" since this implies other victims are somehow guilty.

Inns of Court

All take initial caps: Gray’s Innthe Inner TempleLincoln’s Inn and Middle Temple. (The Inns of Court are the four legal societies having the exclusive right of admitting people to the English Bar.)


A coroner records a verdict - whereas a jury returns one, although it is now likely an inquest will end in a “finding of fact” or a “conclusion”.


Use "inquiry" rather than "enquiry" in all senses. But where it is a proper name - National Rail Enquiries - use the organisation’s spelling.

International Court of Justice

One of the principal bodies of the United Nations - often referred to as the World Court. Its objective is the peaceful settlement of disputes between states. It sits in The Hague. 

International Space Station/ISS

Lower case if used generically (eg: There will be dozens of international space stations by the end of the century). But initial caps for the one built in orbit as part of a 16-nation project, since that is its official title (eg: Scientists say the International Space Station is months behind schedule).


is the correct name for native people inhabiting the Arctic region from Greenland to Eastern Siberia. Do not use "Eskimo", which is widely regarded as offensive. A member of the Inuit people is an Inuk.


(The Irish Republican Army). The Provisional IRA was so called to differentiate it from the Official IRA, which is now defunct. It is acceptable to use the term the Provisionals, but not "the Provos" or the Army’s expression, "PIRA". The Real IRA and the Continuity IRA can be described as dissident groups that oppose the IRA ceasefire.


Using Ireland is acceptable but it may be helpful to make clear early on we are talking about the country rather than the island. Republic of Ireland or the Irish Republic are also fine. However, when writing stories that cover both parts (eg: The numbers of songbirds are declining throughout Ireland), we should try to make clear that we are talking about the island as a whole.

There are, however, a number of all-Ireland organisations - religious, voluntary and sporting (eg: the international rugby team takes players from both sides of the border, and is therefore properly called Ireland).

There is also the occasional anomaly eg: in the Republic of Ireland, the office of the presidency is described as the president of Ireland - better to say The Irish president.


Citizens of the Republic of Ireland may be described as "Irish". People in Northern Ireland may describe themselves as Irish, British or Northern Irish. We should respect their preferences where known. Ulster can be used in a direct quote or as part of the title of an organisation.


is a figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used; usually taking the form of sarcasm or ridicule. It does not mean "coincidentally" or "amusingly" - and is, in general, best avoided.


(individual savings account) ie initial cap only.


The mainstream groups are Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims (who should not be described as "Shiite").

Our style for the founder of the faith is the Prophet Muhammad (at second reference, Muhammad or the Prophet).

The Sunnis have no institutional clergy, although each mosque has an imam (often addressed by the honorific Sheikh) who teaches, leads prayers etc. The highest religious authority in a Sunni Muslim country is the mufti, who issues fatwas, or religious edicts. Shia Muslims do have a clergy, whose members are known generically as mullahs. The highest Shia religious authority is an ayatollah.

The Islamic concept of unbelief, of being outside Islam, is kufr. An unbeliever is a kafir - the plural is kuffar. However, in a direct quote "kafirs" is acceptable.


Islamic simply describes the religion, the equivalent of Christian, Hindu or Jewish - so we might talk about "Islamic texts".

The term Islamist has come to refer to those who derive a political course from Islam. It should not be used as a noun to imply violence. As an adjective, we might use it to describe "Islamist militants", "extreme Islamists" or "radical Islamist groups" - but equally "Islamist politician" or "Islamist country". However, we should not jump to the conclusion individuals are motivated by "Islamist extremism" etc unless we have reason to do so. 

Islamic State

The name should be qualified eg "Islamic State group" or "the group calling itself Islamic State" (rather than "so-called Islamic State") or refer to "Islamic State fighter, militants, extremists" etc. Use IS in the rest of the piece. IS can also be used in headlines.


Can be wrongly used to mean hatred of Muslims rather than fear - we should be clear what we are referring to.

Israeli Arabs

and not "Arab Israelis".

Israeli Labour Party

ie do not use the American-style "Labor". 


Do not use an apostrophe to indicate possession (eg: The decision shocked the government and its supporters). But do use an apostrophe to indicate the omission of a letter or letters (eg: It’s a lovely dayIt’s been a disappointing match), but this will arise only when quoting someone, since it is our style not to use contractions. 



not "gaol".


(yearbooks on planes, ships etc) ie capital letter, apostrophe "s".


should be weeded out - especially when, for example, creating a text version of an interview. The aim is to be absolutely unambiguous, and immediately comprehensible. If the meaning is not clear, leave it out. Indirect speech can be a valuable tool, as can phrases such as what he calledas he put it etc.

Beware, in particular, of hospital jargon (eg: "in a comfortable condition") and police jargon (eg: "helping with inquiries"), and steer clear of management jargon (eg: "ongoing", "interface", "downsizing" etc).

Jemaah Islamiah

(Islamist militant group suspected of being behind the Bali bomb attacks) ie no "y" in Islamiah. May be abbreviated at second reference to JI. It is believed to want a pan-Islamic state covering Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the southern Philippines island of Mindanao. Its main leader is the Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir; second reference Mr Ba’asyir.


Do not adopt the US spelling ("jeweler/jewelry").


ie lower case - Arabic word meaning holy war or struggle. It does not always entail violence and we should be clear in instances where it does.


These terms have come to be associated with violent Islamism, but may offend Muslims who associate them with spiritual jihad. We should ensure the context makes clear what we are referring to - if in doubt, specifying "violent jihad" or similar can help. By the same rationale, avoid "jihadi bride" in favour of a more specifc description, eg IS bride

JobCentre Plus/job centre

Capped up in references to the organisation – including the internal cap “C” that "JobCentre Plus" itself uses. Thus, we should say eg: A man who wants to be a professional wrestler has won a grant from JobCentre. Otherwise, separate words - both lower case eg: Fifty new job centres are to be opened across north-east England.

jobseeker’s allowance

ie lower case with an apostrophe before the "s".

job titles 

Politics aside, we use lower case for all job titles. So it is the chairman of Microsoft, John Thompson, the first director general of the BBC, Lord Reith, and the England captain, Brian Smith etc.

For political titles, where a government department and its corresponding secretary of state has a composite title (eg Health and Social Care Secretary), only refer to the relevant part when quoting/attributing etc.

Also, see entry on “capitalisation”.

Johns Hopkins University

(private university in Baltimore, endowed by financier Johns Hopkins in late 19th Century) ie with an "s" at the end of both names - and no apostrophes.


should in general be avoided, but is sometimes permissible in headlines. Words that fall into this category include: axe (of jobs, team members), dump (as verb), medic/op (for "operation"), probequiz (as verb) and rap.

Some other examples of the genre are also acceptable in text, if used sparingly. These include bid (to mean "attempt"), blast or slam (to mean criticise), bug (in a medical sense), mum, dad and kid, cabbiegag (as a verb), smash (synonym for "crash"), vowswoop, top (as in top policeman). Teen or teens is acceptable in headlines only. But do not use "slate" to mean "criticise" - it has a different meaning for an American reader.

Some words are best avoided altogether, unless they occur in a direct quote. These include bonk, cops, fags, ongoing and upcoming.


is our favoured spelling - and not "judgment".


Titles vary, according to the court.

A Law Lord would be, eg: Lord Greening.

An Appeal Court Judge, Lord Justice Greening.

A High Court Judge, Mr Justice Greening.

A Circuit Judge, Judge Greening.

When two judges have the same surname, the forename of the junior is given: eg Lord Justice Greening and Lord Justice Simon Greening.

junctions (motorway)

Lower case "j" and numbers below 10 written out - eg: junction five, junction 11.


In distinguishing between family members with the same names, our favoured form for the younger is Jr, and we use Sr for the older party.


is singular. It delivers a verdict or returns a verdict. Its members are jurors (plural).



References to the two parts of Kashmir should preferably be in the form of Indian-administered Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. An acceptable alternative is Indian-controlled or Pakistan-controlled. Indian Kashmir or Pakistan Kashmir is less good and is resented in Kashmir. Do not on any account use the words "held" or "occupied".

The de facto border is known as the Line of Control - may be abbreviated at second reference to LoC.

Adjective Kashmiri (but the wool is, of course, cashmere).


(capital of Nepal) ie with an "h" after the "t".

kick-off/kick off

As a noun, needs a hyphen (eg: The kick-off was delayed). The verb is two separate words (eg: The match will kick off an hour late).


is our preference for the capital of Ukraine and not Kiev or other variations.


We use Roman numerals with names (eg: Henry VIIICharles II). Only our own monarch retains the initial cap in all circumstances (eg: The King is planning an official visit to Australia). Other monarchs are capitalised only when the name is used (eg: King Albert of Belgium - but the king).

King’s College, Cambridge

ie apostrophe before the "s".

King’s Cross, London

Again, the apostrophe before the "s".


(the Israeli parliament; sits in Jerusalem) ie initial cap.


In the context of shipping, this is a unit of speed equivalent to 1.85km per hour. It is nonsensical to write about "knots per hour".


is a territory whose status is in dispute. It unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, but its secession is rejected by Serbia. More than 100 nations have recognised Kosovo as independent, but the UN and many other nations are withholding recognition. We should therefore not refer to it either as an independent country or as a province of Serbia, but explain its disputed status.

Its people are Kosovans. The adjective is Kosovan (not "Kosovar").

Refer to Albanians from Kosovo as Kosovo Albanians.


(Islamic concept of unbelief, of being outside Islam.) An unbeliever is a kafir. The plural is kuffar, but kafirs is acceptable in a direct quote. 

Ku Klux Klan

ie initial caps, no hyphens. May be abbreviated to KKK at second reference.


Labour Party

ie initial caps - but lower case for references to the party.

Singular in all cases - Labour is ahead in the pollsThe Labour Party is planning a relaunch.

In some countries (eg: Australia) it is the Labor Party - but it is the Israeli Labour Party, the Labour Party in New Zealand and the Socialist Labour Party in Canada.

laid off

Workers are laid off when there is not enough work and they don’t come in, often unpaid. It’s not the same as being sacked or made redundant.

Lake District

The only lake in the Lake District with "Lake" in its title is Bassenthwaite Lake. "Mere", as in Windermere, means "lake" - so strictly speaking, it is superfluous to write "Lake Windermere". However, Windermere is also the name of a town so, for clarity’s sake, include the label to avoid confusion - and omit it only if there is no scope for ambiguity (eg: Hoteliers in the Lake District have renewed their complaints about speedboats on Windermere).


ie hyphenated.


ie one word.

Land Rover

ie separate words (likewise, Range Rover).

Land’s End, Cornwall

ie with an apostrophe before the "s".

Lashkar Gah

is a place in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan ie two words.


The word "last" is correct if you mean "final" (eg: the last three weeks of the Gulf War). For time just gone, you should refer to eg: the past three weeks.

Latin-American names

In Spanish American and European Spanish names, the last of the three names is usually the mother’s name, which should not be used on its own. So Manuel Echeverria Valdez becomes Mr Echeverria, and not "Mr Valdez". This does not apply to Brazilian/Portuguese names.

Latin names

ie for animals, birds etc. Use italics - and cap the first word only (eg: Corvus corone).

Law Lords

ie initial caps.


is an American term - to be avoided. Use, as appropriate, legal caseprosecutedsued etc.


ie lower case, no punctuation.

Legionnaires’ disease

ie capped up and with an apostrophe after the "s". But: legionella bacterium. 

left-wing, left wing

(Should be hyphenated if used adjectivally; no hyphen if used as a noun). This term can be useful when defining a political party or group in terms of where it stands in relation to others on the political spectrum. However, it should not be used loosely or where the party can more clearly be defined by reference to a specific policy eg: The Green Party, which wants greater protection for the environment…


Use "less" when referring to a quantity rather than a number (eg: The committee is calling for less bureaucracy). Use "fewer" when referring to something you can count (eg: The committee wants to have fewer meetings next year). The same logic applies with percentages and fractions (eg: Less than 30% of the hospital survived the fire and fewer than 30% of the patients were rescued; Fewer than a third of the stores have reopened).

Do not use "no less than" with numbers - say eg: He exceeded the speed limit on no fewer than 12 occasions.

However, ages, heights and weights take "less" eg: Tom Thumb was less than 3ft (91cm) tall; Police say the man is less than 30 years old; She weighs less than seven stone (44.5kg).

level playing field

is a cliche and should be avoided - unless, of course, it is part of a direct quote.

Liberal Party

It still exists - and fights local elections. But there are no longer any Liberal MPs at Westminster. And the "Liberal" tag can never be synonymous with "Liberal Democrat".

Liberal Democrats

Use the full title at first reference. Later, it should be cut to the Lib Dems (but never to "the Liberals").


Do not describe towns/territory as being "liberated" except in a direct quote - it is a partial word that implies approval.


The noun is licence with a "c" (eg: driving licence). The verb is to license with an "s" (eg: licensed to kill).

life sentence

The mandatory sentence for murder is life, so saying in a headline Man jailed for life over toddler murder doesn’t really tell the reader a great deal. What is more relevant is the tariff - or minimum period they must serve - imposed by the judge. So it is often more helpful to focus on this: Man who murdered mother jailed for 30 years, or Five years for man who killed vicar. But we must distinguish between the sentence and the tariff, and not say Triple killer sentenced to 15 years. When nosing on the tariff, we also need to make clear in the top four pars that it is a life sentence.

light year

ie separate words. It is a measure not of time but of distance (ie the approximate distance travelled by light in one year).


Please avoid the mainly American construction He will likely be charged with the offences next week.

listed buildings

In England and Wales, the grades are III* and II. We would say The church is a Grade II listed building. In Northern Ireland, the system is Grade AGrade B*Grade B1 and Grade B2. In Scotland, it is Category ACategory B and Category C.

living wage

there are various schemes. To signify the government’s version, we should cap it as National Living Wage. Also National Minimum Wage takes caps.


without an apostrophe for the bank (Lloyds) - but with one for the insurance underwriter and the register of shipping (Lloyd’s).

Lloyd Webber/Lloyd-Webber

The family name has no hyphen (eg: Julian Lloyd Webber). But Andrew Lloyd Webber became Lord Lloyd-Webber (ie with a hyphen) to take his seat in the Lords.


The verb "to loathe" means "to hate". "Loath" means "unwilling" (eg: He was loath to leave the comfort of his bed).


The city and county are Londonderry. The city should be given the full name at first mention, but may be referred to as Derry at second reference. The local council is Derry City Council

long-term, long term

as an adjective, it takes a hyphen (eg: He needs long-term care). But the noun is written as two separate words (eg: He will need care in the long term).

looks like

Use this phrase only to mean "resembles" (eg: She looks like her mother). Do not use it in the American sense of "looks likely" (eg: "It looks like there will be an election"). In this context, say: It looks as if… or It looks likely that…

Lords, House of

As with the Commons - initial caps for the full title, and also when you abbreviate it either to the Lords (eg: The bill was defeated in the Lords) or the House (eg: The lord chancellor told the House of the government’s plans). But use lower case for the upper house.


Lord’s cricket ground has an apostrophe before the "s".

low incomes


Be careful not to make judgments. Individuals may be “living on a low income” but not ‘ “in poverty” and “receiving” benefits rather than “dependent” on them.


(in Northern Ireland) ie lower case (except in the names of organisations).

should not be used as synonymous with unionist. While both want union with Great Britain, the label "loyalist" usually implies support for a degree of extremism in pursuit of that aim. The emphasis should be on political affiliation, not religious.



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.


(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.

mental health


In general, it is best to avoid defining people by their condition or illness - a schizophrenic, for instance. Say instead that the person "has schizophrenia" etc. Instead of “mental health patient” and “schizophrenic”, consider “a person with a mental-health condition” and “a person with schizophrenia”.

Bipolar disorder is the accepted term for manic depression, although this is acceptable in terms of clarification.

See disabilities/illnesses


(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.


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.


Nad Ali

Is our preferred spelling for the district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province - not Nad-e Ali or other variants. 


ie hyphenated. A region of Azerbaijan - and the subject of dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Capital, Stepanakert. 


ie initial cap only (the US stock market for high-tech companies. It is purely an electronic market, unlike the New York Stock Exchange).

Nasrallah, Sheikh Hassan

(leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah). Sheikh Nasrallah on second reference. 


The title is often misleading (eg: the National Rivers Authority does not cover Scotland).

National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers

is the full title - but it is possible to save space by using a label (eg: The teachers’ union, the NASUWT...) If it’s unavoidable, NASUWT is acceptable in a headline - but a better plan would be to rejig the headline. At second reference, it might be enough to refer simply to the union.

national curriculum

(ie lower case) the curriculum for state schools in England. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each has its own.)

national executive committee (Labour Party’s)

ie lower case (eg: Labour’s national executive committee has ruled that the MP should be expelled from the party). At second reference, can be the NEC or the committee. Similarly, other political committees are also lower case (eg: The Liberal Democrats faced uproar in the conference hall, after the party’s federal policy committee announced it would back a coalition with Labour and The Tory Party’s ethics committee confirmed it would investigate the affair).

National Hunt

(ie with initial caps) is horse racing over jumps (either fences or hurdles), as opposed to flat racing.

National Insurance

ie with initial caps.

National Lottery

ie with initial caps - but lower case if you refer to it as the lottery. The main draw is called Lotto.

National parties

The Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru sometimes dispute that they are nationalist - but they are certainly national. It is reasonable to refer to Scottish/Welsh nationalists, but not to the "Scottish nationalist party".

National Theatre

The full title of the London venue is the Royal National Theatre.

National Education Union, the


formed by merger of NUT and ATL. May be abbreviated to NEU ie all caps, no gaps.

National Vocational Qualification

is a qualification related to a particular industry or sector, taken at work, college or as part of an apprenticeship. NVQ at second reference.


ie one word, with the internal capital retained.


naught means "nothing" (eg: All his efforts came to naught), whereas nought means the figure "0".


ie lower case, even if you are referring to our own. But you do need initial caps if you name a particular one eg: the Royal Navy or the US Navy.

Nazi death camps

When reporting on World War Two, be careful about terminology. Poland considers the phrase "Polish death camps" to be libellous, even resorting to legislation. Camps such as Auschwitz and Sobibor were in German- or Nazi-occupied Poland so use a description such as "Nazi death camp in occupied Poland".  


usually takes a singular verb (eg: Neither Mr Brown nor Mrs Green was at the meeting). The exception is where at least one of the alternatives in the sentence is a plural - in which case the verb is also pluralised (eg: Neither Mr Brown nor the opponents of the measure are going to pursue the issue).


Citizens of Nepal and the language they speak are both Nepali. The adjective is Nepalese.

Netanyahu, Benjamin

(Israeli prime minister) ie not Binyamin.

Netherlands, the

is the correct name for the country. It should, therefore, be used in any formal context. But Holland is synonymous in common usage - even though it in fact covers just two of the Netherlands’ 12 provinces (North Holland and South Holland). Let the context decide: The Netherlands has taken over the presidency of the EU but also England will play Holland in Amsterdam next week.



neurodivergent people have brains that function in a way that diverge significantly from what is deemed the “societal norm”.

Some disabled people identify as neurodivergent, while others do not see neurodiversity as a disability.

A common misuse of language is to talk of “an individual’s neurodiversity” – “an individual’s neurodivergence would be better.

The term “normal” is offensive in this context and should not be used – “neurotypical” would be a better antonym.

new year

ie lower case. But initial caps for either New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve.


(Staffs) ie with hyphens.

Newcastle upon Tyne

(Tyne and Wear) ie no hyphens - and upon rather than "on".

news agencies

Use the full description if space allows, ie "the AFP news agency/the Associated Press news agency reports". But short-forms such as "AFP says" or "he told AFP" are acceptable.

news conference

And not "press conference", which might exclude some categories of journalist.

newspaper titles

Use lower case for the definite article at the start of a newspaper title, whether or not it is part of the masthead. Hence, the Sun, the Daily Telegraph, the Times. In newspaper reviews only, the title (but not the definite article) is in bold at first mention.

Note that the word "London" is not part of the title of the Evening Standard.

News of the World

The abbreviation for the defunct News of the World is NoW.


ie all caps, no gaps. If you do spell it out, it takes initial caps (National Health Service), but lower case if you shorten it to the health service.


(National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) ie contrary to the usual rule, all caps - even though it is pronounced as a word.

9/11 (11 September)

is so well-known as shorthand for the attacks on 11 September 2001 that we can use it in headlines and copy, although, depending on the context, it may also be appropriate to include a specific reference to the date of the attacks. Separate the digits with a slash, not a hyphen.

Nobel Prize

All initial caps in Nobel Peace Prize - but the specifics of other prizes are not capped up (eg: Nobel Prize for chemistry).


takes a singular verb (eg: None of our aircraft is missing).


ie with a hyphen.


The Nordic countries are Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.

North America

should be used only to mean the continent of North America - which includes Canada and Greenland.

northern hemisphere

ie lower case.

Northern Ireland Assembly

ie initial caps for the full title - but lower case assembly at second reference.

Northern Ireland Executive/executive

is a mandatory coalition made up of the first minister and the deputy first minister (who are co-equals) and 11 other ministers. Capped up for the full title (eg: The Northern Ireland Executive declared its opposition); otherwise lower case (eg: The executive was headed by Brian Barnes).

Northern Ireland terminology

Some broad guidelines - check with Belfast if in doubt.

nationalist/republican (lower case, except in the names of organisations) Broadly, people in Northern Ireland who want to see a united Ireland tend to call themselves nationalists, while those supporting the right to use violence to achieve it call themselves republicans. Focus on political rather than religious affiliation.

unionist/loyalist (again, lower case, except in the names of organisations) should not be used as synonyms. Both want union with Great Britain. The label "loyalist" usually implies support for a degree of extremism in pursuit of that aim. As above, the emphasis should be on political affiliation, not religious.

paramilitaries - do not give spurious respectability to bombers and gunmen, of whatever affiliation, by duplicating their own military-style terminology ("Brigades" etc).

Irishman/Irishwoman are terms that are acceptable for people from the Republic and people from Northern Ireland if we know that is their preferred designation.  Ulster or Ulsterman/Ulsterwoman can be used in a direct quote or as part of the title of an organisation.

North Pole

ie initial caps.

No 10

(Downing Street) ie initial cap, and not "Number Ten".


is our style for the company (rather than "npower", which is how it refers to itself).

nuclear missiles

There are three types of nuclear missile:

Short-range: below 500km

Medium-range: 500 to 5,000km (intermediate missiles)

Long-range: in excess of 5,000km (strategic or intercontinental missiles).

number one

is the way to write it if you mean The Beatles had 27 number one hits or Harry Harris is Australia’s number one tennis player - and not "no 1", "No 1" or "no one".


For the most part, we use words for single-figure numbers, digits for anything above nine (ie eight, nine, 10, 11) - except with abbreviated units of measurement (eg: 3kg) and with percentages (eg: 4%).

However, in headlines we can use numerals for numbers below 10, as in Boy, 8, hurt in rollercoaster crash or Pound falls to 5-year low.

Don’t start a sentence or headline with digits (eg: Fifty MPs have been expelled; Four per cent of the patients have died) except with listicles, where using a digit may better suit the tone of the article.

The same rule works for ordinal numbers: (eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th).

Millions and billions are spelled out, except where they are used with currencies or in headlines (five million people10 billion grains of sand£5m). And remember that billion is widely accepted as meaning "one thousand million" (not "one million million").

Fractions are written as words or, where appropriate, as a decimal (eg: three-quarters or 0.75).

With heights, weights etc, follow our usual convention with numbers where the following unit is not an abbreviation eg: They walked two miles (3.22km); The troops are 20 miles (32km) from Baghdad; The child weighed less than two stone (12.7kg) at the time of his death.

But all numbers are expressed as digits if the accompanying units are abbreviated eg: Mr Atlas said he had once weighed 6st 9lb (42.18kg). Anderlecht have signed a striker who is 6ft 8in (2.03m).

Football, rugby etc use digits for scores eg: Arsenal 2-3 Leeds.

Cricket uses digits for all numbers, both in stories and in summaries eg: Anderson took 3-42.

Tennis scores use digits for all numbers, without commas between sets eg: Smith beat Jones 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (7-4). Note that tiebreak scores are inside brackets and separated by dashes.

Winning margins in matchplay golf are written in digits with an ampersand eg: Morris beat Rose 4&3.

Golf holes are referred to as the 3rd, 4th etc (not "the third", "the fourth" etc).

In Athletics events such as the 100m, where times below 10 seconds are regularly achieved, all numbers should be written as digits - and the word "seconds" need not be used throughout eg: X took gold with a time of 9.93 seconds. In second place was Y, on 9.94. And the bronze medal went to Z, on 9.96.

Elsewhere, the first reference to a time in athletics should spell it out in full, following the usual convention with numbers below 10 eg: one hour two minutes 23.34 seconds (with no commas between units). After that, switch to a more compact style eg: 1:03:25.67.

Insert commas into numbers of four digits and above eg: The race attracted a crowd of 65,000 - but not necessarily in athletics events eg: A smaller crowd watched the final of the men’s 1500m - where the figure is pronounced "fifteen hundred").

The "One" in Formula One is written as a digit eg: Formula 1 or F1.



(ie with cap "O" - not zero) is our style for the name of the company formerly known to its customers as BT Cellnet. 


means bluntinsensitive, or dull-witted. It does not mean "obscure" or "opaque". 


ie all caps. It stands for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - but you can eliminate the need to spell it out by substituting a label eg: The OECD, the club of industrialised nations… or similar.

Office for National Statistics

Don’t make the mistake of calling it the Office of National Statistics.


ie with a hyphen.


ie capped up - and not "okay" or "ok".


ie with a hyphen.


is typical management jargon - best avoided. Try continuing or developing or in progress, as appropriate. 


Put it as closely as possible to the word(s) it refers to - or risk getting the sense wrong eg: He drinks champagne only at Christmas means he does not drink it at other times of the year. He only drinks champagne at Christmas means he does not do anything else in the festive season. He drinks only champagne at Christmas means he does not drink anything else.  

on to

should be two words in all cases eg: He drove his car on to the beach or We left next morning and went on to Leeds.

opinion polls

The long-standing BBC rules are set out in full in the Editorial Guidelines.

Opinion polls must always be reported as providing pointers rather than hard evidence. They suggest or indicate; they do not "show", "prove" or "confirm". Always give the background to a poll: who commissioned it, who carried it out, size of sample, and the fieldwork dates (as appropriate, mentioning any events since which might have had a significant effect on public opinion: eg: The poll was carried out last Monday, before the party announced its programme of cuts.

In the interests of fairness, we should report all the national polls of political support carried out by the big six organisations (Gallup, ICM, Harris, Ipsos-Mori, NOP and Audience Selection): do not ignore one because it seems less interesting than the rest. And do not unquestioningly rely on the interpretation placed on the results by the commissioning organisation.

A poll story should not be the first item in any section or on the front page; nor should it be in the top three stories on an index except where the poll story has itself prompted a story deserving of prominence.


ie without a hyphen.


Do not confuse ordinance, which means "an authoritative order", with ordnance, which means "heavy guns, military supplies". Ordnance Survey is the mapping agency of Great Britain.

Orkney/the Orkney Islands

are both acceptable, Orkney being the name given to the group of islands off the north coast of Scotland. It is wrong to refer to "the Orkneys". The inhabitants are Orcadians.


The BBC is moving towards the name of Odisha for the Indian state as it becomes better known globally. For now, use a phrase such as “Orissa (also known as Odisha)” near the top of a story. Retain Orissa for headlines and maps.


for a website/online service that temporarily breaks down.


ie lower case.

Outward Bound

is a registered trademark - and must not be used in a generic sense. Use adventure training or similar. The term can, of course, be used in connection with Outward Bound International centres - of which there are five in the UK: at Aberdovey in Snowdonia; Eskdale, Howtown and Ullswater in the Lake District; and Loch Eil in the Scottish Highlands. There is also a non-residential centre in Glasgow.

owing to

is adverbial (ie it qualifies a verb) and means "because of" eg: Play was stopped owing to rain. It should not be confused with due to, which is adjectival and means "caused by" (eg: There was one stoppage due to fog, and another due to rain).  



is a plural. The singular is paparazzo - but it would read better to say one of the paparazzi...


Whether police or forces, they should not be described as "troops".


Note that paratrooper is singular. The plural is paratroops (and not "paratroopers").


The initial cap is always retained when referring to Westminster. Otherwise, it is used only in an official title eg: The Scottish Parliament was the scene of a fierce debate. But: The parliament in Edinburgh is to be recalled for an emergency session. And: The Dutch parliament sits in The Hague. The adjective parliamentary should always be lower case, unless it is part of a proper name.  

Parliamentary Commissioners/Ombudsmen

As with ministerial job titles, capped up when used in conjunction with the name of the office-holder. Otherwise, lower case. So: Philip Jones was appointed Parliamentary Commissioner to succeed Elizabeth Smith and The constituents complained to the parliamentary ombudsman that they had been inadequately represented by their MP.


The Pashtun live in north-west Pakistan and south-east Afghanistan. The language they speak is Pashto.


(missile) ie initial cap. Compare cruise missile, which is lower case because it refers to a type of weapon (low-flying, long-distance, computer-controlled winged missile), rather than a specific one.


Use PC (ie both letters capped up) as an abbreviation for police constablepersonal computer or politically correct

peacekeepers, peacekeeping

ie one word, no hyphen.

Pearl Harbor

is spelt the American way (ie without a "u").


Use it when the story is actually about pensioners (eg: Pensioners are to lose their winter fuel allowance) - but not where it is incidental, as in South African police have released British pensioner Martin Smith. Avoid "OAP" which means nothing to anyone outside the UK.


The Pentagon is not, strictly, in Washington DC. Like the Reagan National Airport, it is in Arlington County, Virginia.


Do not confuse the two. When talking about the public, we would say Government aims to measure people’s happiness or She was the people’s princess. When talking about more than one ethnic group, the apostrophe goes after the "s": They were attending the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit. 


It is acceptable to write about mph - but the Latin "per" should be avoided as much as possible. Do not say "£200 per capita" or even "£200 per head". Stick to English and say £200 a head or £200 each.


Our usual style is to use digits - even with numbers we would normally write out as words (eg: 8%), but a percentage should be expressed in words if it comes at the beginning of a sentence (eg: Ten per cent of the budget will be devoted to the war effort).

There is no such thing as a percent, so don’t say "half a per cent" - it should be a half per cent or half of one per cent.

And there is a distinction between percentages and percentage points. If an exam pass rate goes up from 80% to 100%, this is a rise of 20 percentage points - and not "a rise of 20%" - because 20% of 80 is 16. Be aware that official sources often get this wrong.

Performing Right Society

ie there is no "s" at the end of "Right".


(with a double "p") is the name of the islands - but Filipino (single "p") for male national; Filipina for female. The adjective is Philippine.

picture captions

Picture captions should be one or two lines long - ideally one on desktop. Avoid going to three on mobile. Occasionally captions in picture galleries might be longer.

The wording should follow the geography of a picture, from left to right (eg: if Smith is on the left and Jones on the right, the caption should not say "Jones and Smith").

A caption should not be a literal description of the picture - that is the function of an alt tag. It’s important to give the reader enough information to understand what they are looking at independently of the alt tag, while also adding value (eg: Smith and Jones: Lifelong friends). 

In News, where space allows, use both first and second names of anyone pictured. Sport can follow the sporting convention of surnames only (eg: Robson says he’s putting in for a transfer).

For direct quotes, use a colon and double quotation marks (eg: Sheila Vine: “Nothing will stop me”). Any colon in a caption, whether or not introducing a quote, must be followed by a capital letter (eg: Lisa Simpson: Genius at work).

If you need to focus on one individual among several, use brackets and not commas - so a picture of a group of children might be captioned eg: Bart Simpson (centre) was never his teacher’s pet. If space is short, abbreviate such labels to their initial capital letter only ie (C) (L) or (R). But don’t be too literal if it’s obvious who is who, as in: Boy George (L) chatted to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

There is no full stop at the end of a caption, except in picture galleries. And a caption is often not necessary at all for a map or a generic graphic.

Pin number

ie initial cap only, no hyphen. This term is acceptable, although tautological (since "Pin" stands for "personal identification number"). But Pin code is a perfectly good alternative.


Be consistent in giving locations. No-one in London would ever refer to "Mansfield in England" - they would say Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. So do not write "Kirkcaldy in Scotland" - it should be Kirkcaldy in Fife; similarly not "Tenby in Wales", but Tenby in Pembrokeshire. However, where a city or town shares a name with a unitary authority eg: Newport or Bridgend, it can be acceptable to say in south Wales.


ie with a hyphen.


ie the capital in the middle is retained.


lower case - stands for public limited company. But avoid unless the company’s status is relevant to the story.


Some words remain the same even as plurals, such as aircraftcannonsheep and fish (although you would use fishes when referring to different kinds of fish, eg He studied freshwater fishes of the UK). 

Be careful with some words that are plural but often mistakenly used as singular: criteria (criterion), bacteria (bacterium), phenomena (phenomenon). Data is strictly a plural, but we follow common usage and treat it as singular, as we do with agenda.

Our preference for words ending in -ium, such as stadium, is stadiums. For index, our favoured plural form (as in stock markets) is indexes. The plural is indices only in a mathematical/scientific context.

Watch names when using the plural. If you were writing about a family called Phelps, you would say: The Phelpses were going for a day at the seaside.

For words ending in "o", there are no hard and fast rules, though the principle is that most words just add an "s" but there are exceptions. However, there are a few general patterns. If a word is a short version of a longer word, just add an "s": memosphotosdemos. The same applies to words that clearly have their roots in another language, such as stilettoscalypsoschinosbistroscasinos. And where a word ends with two vowels, just add an "s", as in videos and cameos

The best way of checking is to take the first version offered by the Oxford English Dictionary, so we would use: avocados, banjos, flamingos, ghettos, manifestos, mementos. Those taking an "e" include: buffaloescargoes, dominoes, echoes, embargoes, haloes, heroes, mangoes, mottoes, potatoes, tomatoes, torpedoes, vetoes, volcanoes, tornadoes and mosquitoes (though Tornados and Mosquitos when talking about the planes).


can be used to  mean "prime minister" in headlines, but should be written out in stories.

poet laureate

ie lower case

police ranks

Chief Constable should not be abbreviated in any circumstances. Revert to "Mr", "Mrs" etc at second reference.

Assistant Chief Constable should also be written out in full at first reference - but can then be shortened to ACC. In the Met and City of London police, use Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner etc at first reference then "Mrs Smith", "Sir John" etc.

Other police ranks should be used in abbreviated form, even at first reference: 

Commander - Cdr

Chief Superintendent - Ch Supt

Superintendent - Supt

Chief Inspector - Ch Insp

Inspector - Insp

Sergeant - Sgt

Police Constable - PC

For Detective ranks, put Det in front of the above ranks, except for Detective Constable - Det Con.

There is no longer a rank of WPC, so women police constables should also be PC (and women detective constables Det Con).

Write out ranks in full when not accompanied by a name (eg: It took eight police constables to restrain him).

police and crime commissioners

These elected roles in England and Wales follow the same convention as political titles - capped with the name, lower case on their own. If we’ve established the abbreviation earlier, we may say Liverpool’s PCC Jim Smith has called for.... Afterwards Mr/Mrs/Ms as appropriate.

political parties

The word "party" is capped up when giving the title (eg: the Labour Party) - but is lower case if the full name is dropped (eg: The vote represented a new low in the party’s fortunes).

Party names are also capped up if used adjectivally (eg: Portugal’s Social Democrat prime minister) provided the proper party name is used (in full or short-form) - as opposed to a label that summarises a political stance. So, French Socialists would mean paid-up party members, whereas French socialists would mean people in France of a socialist persuasion. But to avoid ambiguity it would be preferable in the first case to say members of the French Socialist Party

political titles

Political job titles - including all members of a government - have initial caps only when the title is used next to the individual, in whatever order eg:

UK Prime Minister Glenda Goodwin (and not "British Prime Minister Glenda Goodwin")

Foreign Secretary David Jones

Harry Smith, the Home Secretary

Mr Curran, who has been prime minister since 2015.

Any post mentioned without reference to the post-holder should be in lower case e.g: The prime minister will be out of the country for several days.

The same rule applies for former holders of political office (eg: The former President, Jimmy Carter, is to make a political comeback. The former president said he wanted to spend less time with his family).

Similarly, Leader of the Opposition is capped up only if accompanied by the name. Otherwise, opposition portfolios are always lower case, with or without the name (eg: The shadow chancellor, Thomas Hurn, was furious. There was jeering when the shadow chancellor left).   

political parties The word "party" is capped up when giving the title (eg: the Labour Party) - but is lower case if the full name is dropped (eg: The vote represented a new low in the party’s fortunes).


Always use an initial cap for the Pope, whether or not his name is attached. But use lower case in any reference to the pontiff - also when referring to popes in general, or using the terms papal or papacy. Do not refer to the Pope as "the Holy Father" - a term which might offend some non-Catholics.

post-mortem examination

ie with a hyphen. It should not be shortened to "post-mortem" in text (although this is acceptable in headlines - but not "PM" or "pm"). 


These are not synonyms: practicable means "capable of being carried out"; practical means "useful in practice".


Use with care. The noun is practice; the verb is practise - eg: The players hold a practice every Monday. They practise for two hours.


Do not use "premier" as a synonym for "prime minister". It should be used only where it is the proper title eg: China, Australian states, Canadian provinces, German states and some West Indian islands.

Premier League

(The top football league in England) ie initial caps. In Scotland, it is the Premier League or SPL.


This is jargon - much used by the police (eg: "A suspect has been located in premises adjacent to the town hall"). Ask the police to be more specific.


takes a capital if accompanied by the name (eg: President Porter is to visit the Middle East). Lower case without the name (eg: The president will arrive on Tuesday). The same rule applies for former presidents (eg: The former President, Bill Clinton, is starting a new career. The former president said he was very excited). But always use lower case for the president of an institution (eg: The president of the Bank of America, Ivor Fortune, has resigned).

At first reference it's US President Joe Biden, in later references President Biden or Mr Biden or the US president, in headlines Biden.


ie one word - and the internal capital "C" is retained. The short form PwC is acceptable in headlines - and in text at second reference.

Prime Minister’s Questions

ie initial caps.


In general, they have an initial cap if used with the name; lower case in references to the prince or the princess.  


Principal means "first in order of importance". A school head is sometimes known as the principal; the leading role in a pantomime is often the principal boy. The word principle means "a rule or belief governing one’s personal behaviour" (eg: It is against his principles to kill animals).

prisoner of war

ie no hyphens. Abbreviated form is with lower case "o" ie PoW.

private member's bill

ie lower case. Apostrophe before the "s" where only one MP is involved (eg: A private member's bill often falls at the first hurdle). Otherwise, apostrophe after the "s" (eg: The ballot for private members' bills will be held on Monday).


Try to avoid using this in the tabloid sense of "investigation". It can be used in a headline if no alternative will fit - but where possible say inquiryinvestigation, or similar.


In common with our style on Dr, we should abbreviate to Prof on first and subsequent references. But, when used as a generic rather than a title, full out and lower case: He was appointed as a professor of psychology last year.


We generally report pre-tax profits that include any one-off gains or losses ("exceptional"). But sometimes we like to give the pre-tax profit before "exceptional" are added /subtracted in order to give a clearer picture of the underlying strength of the company. 

The US agencies tend to refer to "earnings", so it is important to check whether or not these include tax and/or "exceptional". Sometimes they mention "earnings per share", which may be useful when making a comparison with the predictions of Wall Street analysts - but generally it is best to focus on the overall profit figure.


The spelling without the final "-me" should be used only when using the noun/exact phrase "computer program/computer programs". Otherwise, always use programme as noun or verb eg: He said he wanted to programme his new computer.


When writing about prostitutes, male or female, it's important to acknowledge that they are first and foremost individuals. To label someone simply as a prostitute tends to be derogatory and demeaning - so a news story concerning an attack might say at first reference eg: A woman has been assaulted in the King's Cross area - with a subsequent reference: She was working as a prostitute. In headlines, try to avoid the label "prostitute". 


People may protest againstprotest at or protest over a ruling - but never (as in the US) "protest a ruling".


ie with an initial cap.


is our favoured spelling - and not "protestor".


(Public Sector Net Cash Requirement) - ie all caps. The gap between government income and spending, or, in other words, the amount of money the government has to borrow. It shows whether the government is running a budget deficit or surplus. 


Spell out at first if possible - post-traumatic stress disorder (lower case and hyphenated) - then PTSD afterwards.

Pull quotes

Should not contain full-stops, either in the middle of at the end.

Pyrrhic victory

(means a victory that comes at heavy cost to the victor) ie Pyrrhic has an initial cap.



(Australian national airline) ie without a "u".


(ie no gap - and a digit) is acceptable even at first reference for the liner Queen Elizabeth 2. Note it is not named after the current monarch, but is the second ship named Queen Elizabeth, therefore it is "2" rather than "II".


(Pilgrimage centre in Iran) ie without a "u". Do not call it a "holy city" but it can be described as a seat of Islamic learning.


ie all lower case (it stands for quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation).


ie hyphenated.


Use Roman numerals with names (eg: Elizabeth II).Only our own monarch retains the initial cap in all circumstances (eg: The Queen has arrived in Australia). Other monarchs are capitalised only when the name is used (eg: Queen Noor - but the queen).

Queen’s College/Queens’ College

The one in Oxford has an apostrophe before the "s" (Queen’s). The one in Cambridge has it after (Queens’).

Queen’s Speech

ie both words capped up for the Westminster occasion (as opposed to the Queen’s speech at the opening of the Windsor branch of Tesco).

Queen’s University

(in Belfast) ie with the apostrophe before the "s". 


as a verb, it should be avoided in text - use question, or similar. It is acceptable in a headline if nothing else fits.

quotation marks should be single:

in headlines and cross-heads (eg: UK ‘to leave EU’); in promos and for quotes within quotes (eg: Tom Bone said: “They say ‘The Labour Party is finished’ before every election.”) and inside quote boxes (eg: They sprayed ‘go home’ on our front door – Sandra Harris).

In headlines where the attribution is clear, do not include unnecessary quote marks (eg Britain won’t hold referendum, says PM rather than Britain 'won’t hold referendum', says PM).

should be double:

outside the categories listed above - on the ticker, in regular text, summaries and picture captions. Also, at first use of phrases such as “mad cow disease” or “road rage”. (But quotation marks will be single if the phrase comes inside a direct quotation (eg: The minister said: “The spread of ‘mad cow disease’ has ruined thousands of lives.”) Either way, no punctuation is required after the first reference.

No quotation marks are required for film, TV or song titles. Use initial caps to indicate that it is a title (eg: Madonna's early chart-toppers include Into the Groove and La Isla Bonita). 

When referring to a nickname or similar, it’s either lower case and quotes or caps and no quotes, eg Mrs Thatcher was known as the Iron Lady.


A direct quotation, or a series of direct quotes, can capture the essence of a story - but select only the best lines. Put the rest into indirect speech, or leave it out altogether.

Ensure the quotation is comprehensible and makes sense. Do not expose a speaker to ridicule by bringing his/her grammatical/linguistic incompetence to a wider audience. Again, a combination of indirect speech and omission should solve the problem.

Never anticipate a direct quote by using its main point in the cue-line (eg: The minister promised free beer for all. He told the party conference: "There will be free beer for all.")

With complete sentences, the closing quotation marks go after the full stop (eg: Mr Franklin said: "This is a farce."). When quoting a single word or phrase, the quotation marks go before the full stop (eg: Mr Franklin called the episode "a farce".).

Where you want to indicate that a sentence is unfinished, or that part of a quote has been omitted, use triple dots (eg: "I believe the way forward is clear… there is no alternative."). The space should be after, not before the dots in order to avoid a new line beginning with dots.

When using snippets of a quote, make sure they are worth quoting. Mr Jones said he was "gobsmacked" by the award is fine. But Mr Jones said he was "surprised" and "never thought" he would win is best left as indirect speech.

Quran (updated March 2021)

is our spelling of the Islamic sacred book - not Qur’an or Koran 



race and/or ethnicity should be mentioned only when relevant.

For example, it could be an important identifying factor in the case of a missing person.

race is the legally protected characteristic in UK law. 

Editorial Policy guidance on the reporting of racial slurs states: “The editorial justification test will now carry a presumption that such language will not normally be used unless, for exceptional editorial reasons, there is a judgment – at divisional director (or their named delegate) level – that it should be used because of the specific context.”

Someone’s ethnic and/or racial identity is often a deeply personal expression of their identity and ancestry.

Thus, where possible, be specific. 

BAME is best avoided unless within direct quotes or when it is a stated parameter of a report or study - and only in a UK context, as it is not a term used anywhere else. There is a low level of understanding of the term among many audiences and it should be defined in the accompanying text.

It’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) at first mention, BAME at second reference and in headlines, ie follows our usual rule for initialisms of all capitals with no full stops or spaces.

It can include anyone who identifies as belonging to an ethnicity other than white British, including:

  • black (black African or black Caribbean) or black British people
  • Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or other South Asian or Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese or other East Asian or South East Asian) or Asian British people 
  • Arab (or North African) or Arab British people 
  • people of mixed race or mixed heritage 
  • GypsiesRomany Gypsies or Irish Travellers

And it is usually better to use this more specific terminology where possible. If an umbrella term is necessary, however, (people belonging to) ethnic minorities is preferred. Avoid "non-whites".

“immigrant” is often wrongly used to describe someone born in the UK. Instead of “she is from an immigrant family”, consider “her family settled in the UK from India”, for example.

people of colour, which is used in the US, obviously excludes entirely white ethnic minorities but, even when this is the intention, it is also best avoided in copy and scripts unless within direct quotes or when it is a stated parameter of a report or study.  Avoid “brown”, unless in the words of a contributor.

Many Hispanic and/or Latino Americans identify as people of colour but others, who prefer to emphasise their European heritage, do not.

And the same is true of East Asian and South East Asian Americans

Similarly, the more specific black Americans, where relevant, is preferred to people of colour

Caribbean Americans and Africans living in the US do not generally identify as African American, even if they are black. 

And African American is, therefore, best avoided other than to differentiate between these groups, within direct quotes or when it is a stated parameter of a report or study. 

If referring to specific individuals, where possible and appropriate reflect how they self-identify. 

The Duchess of Sussex and Oona King identify as mixed race, for example, while

Barack Obama and Lewis Hamilton identify as black.

Kamala Harris identifies as black and South Asian American

And while she also identifies as African American, as many Caribbean Americans do not, even if they are black, it may be better to stick to black and/or South Asian American.

rack and ruin

is our favoured spelling, rather than "wrack and ruin". Similarly, we prefer nerve-racking. 


rather than racket when referring to the equipment used by a tennis player.


Not to be confused: radiologists are consultants with specialist qualifications; radiographers are medical technicians operating X-ray equipment; they should not be described as "medics".


(computer term, short for "random-access memory") ie initial cap, no punctuation.


is a religious observance marked by Muslims. It is largely a solemn period of reflection that involves fasting during daylight hours. Muslims observe or mark Ramadan. There is a one-day festival at the end of Ramadan called Eid al-Fitr, which Muslims celebrate. Another festival in the Islamic calendar is that of Eid al-Adha, and follows Hajj, a pilgrimage.


ie with hyphen.


is the official name of the Scottish football team - and not "Glasgow Rangers" or "The Rangers". If referring to financial matters at the club, seek guidance from BBC Scotland on terminology.

Reader’s Digest

ie with an apostrophe before the "s".


A receiver is not the same as a liquidator. A receiver is put in to keep a company going if possible. A liquidator comes in when there is no chance of a company surviving in order to sell off the assets.

Red Planet

(Mars) ie both words capped.


is our favoured plural of referendum (rather than "referenda"). We can refer to the campaigns and votes as Yes and No ie capped up and without quote marks (eg: The Yes campaign is under way and Spaniards voted Yes to the EU constitution).


Use only to mean "disprove". Do not say "Mr Harris refuted the allegation" unless you know unassailable proof was produced. Use denydismissreject etc.

register office

ie not "registry".


from magistrates’ court may be in custody or on bail. We should say which.


The term “welch” or "welsh" can been seen as offensive in this context and should be avoided.


ie without a hyphen.

reported speech

The tense in which someone speaks often has to be changed in indirect (or reported) speech to avoid ambiguity. What determines this is the tense used in introducing the indirect speech.

For example, imagine Harold Higgins says: "I am resigning" (ie he uses the present tense). If you introduce this with either the present tense ("He says") or the perfect tense ("He has said"), then you should retain the present tense within the quotation: ie the text can say either Harold Higgins says he is resigning or Harold Higgins has said he is resigning.

If you opt for the past tense ("He said"), then you have to "knock back" by one tense from that used in the original eg: Mr Higgins said he was resigning. By the same rule, if Mr Higgins’ next words are "I saw the Queen on Tuesday", then you can write either Mr Higgins says/has said he saw the Queen on Tuesday or Mr Higgins said he had seen the Queen on Tuesday

With remarks looking to future events, the word "will" survives into reported speech only if the introduction uses the present or perfect tense. Thus: if Mr Higgins continues: "I will leave No 10 on Saturday" - then this can become either Mr Higgins says he will leave No 10 on Saturday or Mr Higgins has said he will leave No 10 on Saturday. But if you use the past tense as an introduction then "will" becomes "would" - eg: Mr Higgins said he would leave No 10 on Saturday.


You can sidestep the whole debate over the suitability of such phrases as "Hamas says it was responsible" by substituting eg: Hamas says it planted the bomb.

Retail Prices Index/RPI  

ie initial caps. The RPI is based on the same basket of goods and services as the Consumer Prices Index, plus mortgages. We should normally mention both rates, because the CPI is usually a key driver for the Bank of England’s interest rate decision, while the RPI is the benchmark for inflation adjustments of state benefits and many wage negotiations.


(the news agency) ie no apostrophe.

Revenge porn

The term revenge porn, while widely understood, often misrepresents the motives of the distributor. However, it is often the best way to convey meaning in a short headline. In body text, at first mention use either so-called revenge porn or in quotes “revenge porn” and try to limit repeated use of the termExplain early that victims often prefer the term non-consensual porn or non-consensual pornography.

Revenue & Customs

The full title is HM Revenue & Customs. Leave off the HM when written out in full, but keep HMRC as the abbreviation.


The title Reverend has an initial capital. It requires the definite article and the Christian name eg: the Reverend John Smith. Under no circumstances should you say "Reverend Smith", "the Reverend Smith" or "the Reverend Mr Smith". At second reference, just say Mr Smith (Dr Smith if he has a doctorate) or, if he is a Roman Catholic, Father Smith. Some Anglicans also prefer Father to Mr; the only safe rule is to follow local practice.

rhythm and blues  

ie lower case when written out in full - but caps when abbreviated to R&B.


Cap up when part of the name eg: the River Thames, but lower case in eg: "the Mississippi river". The same applies for eg: the Severn Estuary.

right-wing, right wing

(Hyphenated if used adjectivally; no hyphen if used as a noun.) This term can be useful when defining a political party or group in terms of where it stands in relation to others on the political spectrum. However, it should not be used loosely or where the party can more clearly be defined by reference to a specific policy (eg: UKIP, which wanted the UK to pull out of the European Union...)

R. Kelly

(US R&B performer)

ie with full-stop


(a broad plan for a Middle East peace settlement) ie one word, no quote marks. At first reference, use a phrase such as the Middle East peace plan known as the roadmap or the so-called roadmap. After that, just roadmap.

road rage

should be inside double inverted commas at first mention in text (“road rage”) - or inside single quotes if the first mention is in headlines/sub-heads. Either way, no punctuation required afterwards.


is not synonymous with "theft". Robbery involves the use or threat of violence.


ie with TWO apostrophes.


ie two words, both capitalised, separated by a hyphen. Two companies share the name: Rolls-Royce, which is primarily an engine-maker, and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, owned by BMW.


(computing - stands for "read-only memory") ie initial cap. Also CD-Rom ie capped up - and hyphenated.


The term Roma must be included in all stories about the Romany people of Eastern and Central Europe and the Middle East - but in headlines only where there is no possibility of ambiguity with the Italian football team of the same name. The first mention in text should be to Roma (Gypsies), or Roma, or Gypsies, after which you should stick to the Roma, capped up.

For ethnic Gypsies in the UK, we do use Gypsy/Gypsies (capped up) as that is how their distinct racial group has been recognised in a key High Court ruling.


This word is a great favourite with tabloid headline writers - use sparingly. Many political "rows" are mere jousting and rhetoric, better characterised as an argument, a difference of opinion, a debate.

Royal Air Force/RAF

Ranks: Where possible, they should be abbreviated at first reference. But many cannot be abbreviated until second reference - and some cannot be abbreviated at all. But ranks should be spelt out in full (lower case) when they are used without reference to a specific name - eg: The air vice marshal attended the meeting.

Abbreviations to be used at first reference:

  • Group Captain - Gp Capt
  • Wing Commander - Wing Cdr
  • Squadron Leader - Sqn Ldr
  • Flight Lieutenant - Flt Lt
  • Flight Sergeant - Flt Sgt
  • Sergeant - Sgt
  • Corporal - Cpl

 Abbreviations to be used only at second reference:

  • Air Chief Marshal - ACM
  • Air Marshal - AM
  • Air Vice Marshal - AVM
  • Air Commodore - Air Cdre
  • Senior Aircraftman/woman) - SAC 
  • Leading Aircraftman/woman) - LAC
  • Aircraftman/woman) - AC
  • Warrant Officer - WO
  • Chief Technician - Ch Tech

 Ranks that we do not abbreviate:

  • Marshal of the Royal Air Force (never becomes just "Marshal")
  • Flying Officer
  • Pilot Officer

The RAF has a regiment with a number of squadrons, doing ground-based protection work. Its members are correctly called gunners, though airmen/airwomen is acceptable - never "soldiers".

Royal Commission/royal commission

Capped up when it is a reality (eg: The report of the Royal Commission on Lords Reform has been submitted to the Queen). Lower case if the reference is non-specific (eg: A government is not bound to accept the advice of any royal commission).

Royal Navy

When identifying a Royal Navy ship, HMS should be included at first reference - eg: HMS Rhyl, a frigate, or the frigate, HMS Rhyl. Do not precede HMS with "the". In later references, HMS can be dropped - in which case the definite article should be included eg: the Rhyl.

Ranks: where possible, they should be abbreviated at first reference. But many cannot be abbreviated until second reference - and some cannot be abbreviated at all. But ranks should be spelt out in full (lower case) when they are used without reference to a specific name - eg: The rear admiral attended the meeting.

Abbreviations to be used at first reference:

  • Admiral of the Fleet - Adm of the Fleet
  • Admiral - Adm eg: Adm Lord Boyce; second reference Lord Boyce
  • Vice Admiral - Vice Adm
  • Rear Admiral - Rear Adm
  • Captain - Capt
  • Commander - Cdr
  • Lieutenant Commander - Lt Cdr
  • Lieutenant - Lt
  • Sub Lieutenant - Sub Lt

 Abbreviations to be used only at second reference:

  • Warrant Officer - WO
  • Chief Petty Officer - CPO
  • Petty Officer - PO
  • Commodore - Cmdr

Ranks that we do not abbreviate:

  • First Sea Lord
  • Midshipman
  • Able Seaman


Ours, as a family, are always capped; foreign families are not capped (eg: Most of the Royal Family are spending Christmas at Sandringham, entertaining members of the Dutch royal family.) Also cap up Royal Household.

Our monarch is unique among royal individuals in retaining the initial cap in all circumstances (eg: The Queen and Prince Charles arrived this morning. The Queen and the prince will be there until the weekend.) Foreign royals are capitalised only when the name is used (eg: Queen Noor - but the queen).

Royal Family

The following are forms of address specific to prominent members of the Royal Family:

  • At first reference it's the Duke of Cambridge, in later references Prince William or the duke or the prince, in headlines William
  • At first reference it's the Duchess of Cambridge, in later references the duchess or Catherine, in headlines Kate
  • At first reference it's the Prince of Wales, in later references Prince Charles or the prince, in headlines Charles
  • At first reference it's the Duchess of Cornwall , in later references the duchess or Camilla, in headlines Camilla
  • At first reference it's Prince George, in later references the prince, in headlines George
  • At first reference it's Princess Charlotte, in later references the princess, in headlines Charlotte
  • At first reference it's Prince Louis, in later references the prince, in headlines Louis
  • At first reference it's the Duke of Sussex, in later references Prince Harry or the duke or the prince, in headlines Harry
  • At first reference it's the Duchess of Sussex, in later references the duchess or Meghan, in headlines Meghan
  • At first reference it's Archie, in later references Archie, in headlines Archie
  • At first reference it's Diana, Princess of Wales, in later references Princess Diana or the princess, in headlines Diana
  • At first reference it's the Duke of Edinburgh, in later references Prince Philip or the duke, in headlines Philip
  • At first reference it's the Princess Royal, in later references Princess Anne or the princess, in headlines Anne
  • At first reference it's the Duke of York, in later references Prince Andrew or the prince, in headlines Andrew
  • At first reference it’s the Duchess of York, in later references the duchess


  • The possessive of duchess is duchess’s
  • The possessive of Wales is Wales’
  • The possessive of Charles is Charles’s
  • The possessive of princess is princess’s
  • In Scotland, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are also known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are also known as the Earl and Countess of Strathearn


is fine as a noun. But do not use as a verb (eg: "French manager rubbishes England") unless it is part of a direct quote.

rushed to hospital

is a phrase much used by the tabloids. Given that casualties are bound to be moved with as much speed as possible, it is preferable to say simply taken to hospital.


Sabra and Shatila

(refugee camps in Lebanon where hundreds of Palestinians were killed in 1982) ie both words begin with an "S". We do not use the spelling "Chatila".

Saddam Hussein

Second reference can be to the former Iraqi president or the former Iraqi leader - or even Saddam Hussein again. But "Saddam" is acceptable only in headlines.


ie with an apostrophe before the "s" (the company being J Sainsbury plc).

St Catharine’s College/St Catherine’s College

The one in Cambridge has the "a" in the middle (ie St Catharine’s). The one in Oxford is spelt with an "e" in the middle (ie St Catherine’s). 

St James Park, St James’ Park, St James’s Park

The football ground in Newcastle is St James’ Park and in Exeter it is St James Park. The open space in London is St James’s Park (also St James’s Palace).

St John Ambulance Brigade

ie not "St John’s".

St Peter’s

(in Rome) is not a cathedral - it is a basilica. The cathedral in Rome is St John Lateran.

St Thomas’ Hospital 

(London) ie just one "s".


salary is a fixed sum paid regularly, usually for non-manual work. Wages are usually paid weekly or monthly for the labour or service of an employee.

same-sex marriage

The term same-sex marriage is preferred to "gay marriage", where relevant. And civil partnerships, while in many ways distinct, can equally be same-sex or opposite-sex, where relevant.


is acceptable shorthand for satellite navigation system.


is the abbreviation for standardised assessment tasks - but better to call them national curriculum tests, often known as Sats. For headlines, Sats is fine; initial cap only as it is pronounced as a word. In the American education system, SATs are "scholastic aptitude tests" (pronounced as separate letters).


ie one word, no hyphen.


ie one word, no hyphen. Similarly, schoolmaster and schoolmistress.

Scilly Isles

They are properly called either the Scilly Isles or the Isles of Scilly. Do not say "the Scillies".

Scottish National Party

ie not "Nationalist".

Scottish Parliament

The word "parliament" is capped up if prefaced by "Scottish" (eg: A report will be laid before the Scottish Parliament). But it is lower case if you are not giving the full title (eg: He announced his resignation to parliament in Edinburgh). Its members are MSPs.

Scottish Power 

ie two words - in line with its company registration, Scottish Power plc (and despite its rebranding as "ScottishPower").


(lower case) is correct for all those who are part of the Scout Association. They are no longer "boy scouts".


(ie all caps) is acceptable even at first reference to the Social Democratic and Labour Party. In a story likely to be placed on indexes other than Northern Ireland, you should note in the first four pars that it draws most of its support from the nationalist community (or... from the Catholic community). But do not call it "the mainly Catholic" SDLP.

Sea of Japan

is the term we generally use to describe the body of water between Japan and the Korean peninsula. However, when a story is predominantly of interest in Korea, or there is any scope for confusion, we write Sea of Japan/East Sea, in recognition that East Sea is the term used in Korea.

seasonal affective disorder/SAD  

It must be spelt out in full at first reference. Subsequently, it can be abbreviated to SAD ie all caps - despite our usual style with acronyms (because the alternative carries the potential for confusion).


are lower case (spring, summer, autumn, winter). But references to the seasons should be kept to a minimum because many of our readers live outside the UK. We should not say eg: "An election will be held in the spring" - say instead An election will be held in five months’ time, or similar.

second half, second-half          

There is no hyphen in the noun (eg: Germany were on the defensive throughout the second half). There is a hyphen in the adjective (eg: England scored three second-half goals).


is a decommissioning and reprocessing site. It is not a nuclear power station, though there was one on the site – Calder Hall, now defunct.


are best avoided.


ie hyphenated.


In distinguishing between two family members with the same names, our favoured form is Sr with an initial cap for the older (and Jr for the younger party).


is the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, not Environmental.


(collective noun, upper case "S") These are Jewish people of Middle Eastern or North African origin. Adjective: Sephardi.

serial killer

Whether in the context of Harold Shipman or anyone else, avoid the phrase "the world’s worst serial killer". It could be taken to mean someone who is uniquely unsuccessful.


is acceptable shorthand for the attacks in London on 7 July 2005. It may be used in headlines, but not in copy unless within direct quotes. Separate the digits with a slash, not a hyphen.


The nasty stuff called sewage is treated in a sewerage system.


Unless you are sure only males are involved, avoid words such as "newsmen", "businessmen" and "policemen". Substitute journalistsbusiness leaderspolice officers etc, as appropriate.

sexual offences

Our policy is dictated by the need to protect the identity of victims of sexual offences. A frequent problem has been "jigsaw identification" in cases of offences within the family - where the victim’s identity can be deduced because some of the media name the accused and others specify the offence. In line with most of the media, our usual practice is to name the accused, but not the specific charge - instead, saying "a serious sexual offence". This means we do not refer to specific cases of incest, or of rape or sexual assault within the family. If in doubt over a specific case, refer to the Editorial Policy Unit.

The terms child pornography or child porn trivialise the nature of what is criminal material. We should use other language such as "images that show child sex abuse" or "indecent images of children". In headlines and/or summaries, use child abuse images.  Technically paedophile is a clinical term for someone with a sexual attraction to children, but the meaning has widened to take in various forms of child sex abuse and associated images.

Technically paedophile is a clinical term for someone with a sexual attraction to children, but the meaning has widened to take in various forms of child sex abuse and associated images.

However, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 draws a distinction between children under 13 and those aged 13-16. For instance, it is deemed that any child under 13 will not have given consent to any sexual activity. But where someone is accused or convicted of a sexual relationship with a child aged 13-16 we should weigh up the information available before describing them as a paedophile.

The word is often inappropriate as an adjective - rather than talking about "paedophile pictures", refer to images of child sex abuse.

Finally, people are put on the sex offenders register - lower case and no apostrophe.


In a political context, the word shadow is always lower case - whether the reference is to the shadow cabinet or to an individual politician, with or without the name (eg: The shadow health secretary backed the proposal. The shadow chancellor, Michael Mitchell, begged to differ).

Shankill Road  

is in Belfast (ie not "Shankhill", which is an area of Dublin).


Islamic religious law - capital "S" no "h" at the end. ("Sharia law" is tautologous).


Informal honorific, sometimes for a religious figure or leader, but can also be a family name.


The name Shetland applies to a group of islands. So you can properly say Shetland, or the Shetland Islands or the Shetland Isles - but not "the Shetlands".


(one of the two main denominations of Islam) ie no apostrophe, and not "Shiite" or "Shi’ite". Shia should be used for both the noun and the adjective.


Ships should not be treated as feminine (eg: A US aircraft-carrier has disappeared in the Atlantic. It was carrying 400 men - and not "She was carrying..."). Ships are unloaded - and not "offloaded". Naval ships and liners generally have captains. Cargo ships, including tankers, have masters (although, if a name is used, they too are referred to as Capt). Trawlers have skippers.

short-term, short term 

as an adjective, it takes a hyphen (eg: Experts see this as a short-term investment). But there is no need for a hyphen for the noun (eg: Big gains can be expected in the short term).


is acceptable as an abbreviation of showbusiness only in informal contexts.

Silicon Valley

(Californian centre of the US high-tech industry) ie both words capped.

Sim card

It stands for "subscriber identity module" or "subscriber identification module" and, like most acronyms, we cap the first letter and put the rest in lower case.

Singulars and plurals

Treat collective nouns - companies, governments and other bodies - as singular. There are some exceptions:

  • Family, couple or pair, where using the singular can sound odd
  • Sports teams - although they are singular in their role as business concerns (eg: Arsenal has declared an increase in profits)
  • Rock/pop groups
  • The police, as in Police say they are looking for three men. But individual forces are singular (eg The Metropolitan Police says there is no need to panic).

Press and public should be treated as singular, but rewording may be advisable (replacing eg: "The press arrived soon afterwards. It had lots of questions"  with Journalists arrived soon afterwards. They had lots of questions.) 

Be consistent within a story (eg: don’t say "The jury has retired to consider its verdict" followed by "The jury are spending the night at a hotel"). 

Some words remain the same even as plurals, such as aircraft, cannon, sheep and fish (although you would use fishes when referring to different kinds of fish, eg He studied freshwater fishes of the UK). Be careful with some words that are plural but often mistakenly used as singular: criteria (criterion), bacteria (bacterium), phenomena (phenomenon).  Data is strictly a plural, but we follow common usage and treat it as singular, as we do with agenda. Our preference for words ending in -ium, such as stadium, is stadiums. For index, our favoured plural form (as in stock markets) is indexes. The plural is indices only in a mathematical/scientific context.

Watch names when using the plural. If you were writing about a family called Phelps, you would say: The Phelpses were going for a day at the seaside.

For words ending in "o", there are no hard and fast rules, though the principle is that most words just add an "s", but there are exceptions. However, there are a few general patterns. If a word is a short version of a longer word, just add an "s": memosphotosdemos. The same applies to words that clearly have their roots in another language, such as stilettoscalypsoschinosbistroscasinos. And where a word ends with two vowels, just add an "s" as in videos and cameos.

The best way of checking is to take the first version offered by the Oxford English Dictionary, so we would use: avocadosbanjosflamingosghettos,manifestos,mementos. Those taking an "e" include: buffaloescargoesdominoesechoesembargoeshaloesheroesmangoesmottoespotatoestomatoestorpedoesvetoesvolcanoestornadoes and mosquitoes (though Tornados and Mosquitos</