NLN Style Guide
“Writing is the art of the second thought.” – Rene Cappon, Associated Press Guide To Writing News
|Numerals:||Do NOT use -st,-rd,-th|
|Numerals:||spell out below 10|
|Temperature:||“In the 80s”|
|A B C|
|D E F|
|No Periods:||FBI or “the bureau”|
|G H I|
|Usage:||imam (lowercase unless used with a name)|
|J K L|
|Spelling:||Quran (not Koran)|
|M N O|
|Usage:||mentally disabled (not mentally retarded)|
|P Q R|
|Quotes:||Avoid fragments (use entire quote)|
|Quotes:||He said “Use caps for first word.”|
|Quotes:||He said Even without quotation marks.|
|Spelling:||Quran (not Koran)|
|Spelling:||passer-by / passers-by|
|S T U|
|Spelling:||sit in (verb), sit-in (noun)|
|Spelling:||set up (verb), setup (noun)|
|Usage:||sneaked (not “snuck”)|
|Usage:||Speaker Quinn / Pelosi (caps – title)|
|Usage:||spokesman/spokeswoman (not “spokesperson”)|
|Spelling:||take over (verb), takeover (noun)|
|Spelling:||tape-record (verb), tape recording (noun)|
|Spelling:||tune up (verb), tuneup (noun)|
|V W X|
Be certain you have said all that you meant to say.
Be concise. Be direct. Keep it simple.
Slight reworking/rewording can produce major results.
Check spelling, hyphens, names, numbers, terms.
Fix long sentences, passive voice and non-parallel constructions.
Arrange pairs and series from short to long.
Arrange compound subjects/predicates from simple to compound.
Proofread everything. Twice.
“Poses a danger” -> “Is risky”
AVOID REDUNDANT ADJECTIVES
“Very urgent” -> “Urgent”
(ask yourself is ‘urgent’ somehow less urgent than ‘very urgent’?)
AVOID EXCESS MODIFIERS
“Body found stuffed into a” -> “Body found in a ..”
“In general” (cut)
“In particular” (cut)
AVOID FIFTY CENT WORDS, BE PRECISE/CONCISE
accomplish -> do
approximately -> about
component -> part
facilitate -> ease, help
initiate -> begin
lengthy -> long
methodology -> method
objective -> goal
peruse -> read
replicate -> repeat
utilize -> use
“Pleaded guilty to the ALLEGED crime”
If guilty, crime is not alleged.
“Arguably…” skip it.
“Possible strike” … strike possible.
AVOID NOUNS WHEN VERBS WILL DO
“Established conclusive evidence” -> “proved”
“Gave permission” -> “permitted”
“Held a meeting” -> “met”
“Reached an agreement” -> “agreed”
“Submitted his resignation” -> “resigned”
AVOID EXCESS NOUNS, PERIOD.
field of economics -> economics
level of wages -> wages
process of industrialization -> industrialization
AVOID EXCESS VERBS
have a tendency to -> tend to
make progress toward -> progress toward
the making of cloth -> making cloth
fill up the tank -> fill the tank
many of the x -> many x
DON’T START WITH “It” OR “There”
It was Henry… -> Henry …
PRONOUN CONFUSION – WHO’S WHO
Be clear who the pronoun refers to, rephrase/paraphrase
AVOID SUPERFLUOUS SYNONYMS
Use the correct, precise, term. Repeat as needed.
USE ACTIVE VOICE
“Police said …”
“Candles were carried…” -> “demonstrators carried candles”
“X was arrested by” -> “police arrested x”
“there was no one who did x” -> “no one did x”
“x did not [verb] y” -> “x [verb] y” (e.g. consider/ignored)
KEEP BACKGROUND FROM DERAILING THE TRAIN OF THOUGHT
If details are not related to main idea, move them to a new graf.
Clearly state the main news point and one detail that makes it unique.
Avoid secondary detail.
Avoid abstract, general language.
Use specific/concrete language – with a detail, irony and/or humor.
Attribution is essential but not necessarily in the lead.
(use short attributions where they are required: newspaper reports said,
“the NY Times reported that…”, “sources tell us”,
DON’T GET CUTE / AVOID GENTEELISMS
Political leaders are forced from office, not booted or fired.
Say poor, not disadvantaged
Say lazy, not underachiever
Say old or aged, not senior citizens
Mentally ill, not disturbed
Undertaker not mortician, burial not internment
Avoid overwriting, just speak plainly and clearly.
No Abstractions and euphemisms (unless to do otherwise would be
USE PLAIN ATTRIBUTIVES
said, continued, added – OK
asserted, stated, declared, remarked, commented, observed, revealed – OVERUSED
insisted, maintained, complained, cautioned, explained, recalled, predicted – NOT OK
pointed out, noted, warned, charged, claimed – BAD
use changes or revisions (law) not reforms
use acknowledged not admitted
Add living voices – provide significant passages, even when tedious (use subsequent
grafs to flesh out a quote in the lead)
Use quotes to support third person statements in the lead
Set off controversial material, legal issues, etc.
Delimit important distinctions – quote tricky passages.
Avoid excessive parenthetical comments (explanations) in quotes.
Avoid ellipsis – if the quote is unworkable, paraphrase.
Don’t over attribute quote – plant attribution at the beginning or end
Avoid fragmentary quotes of unremarkable words.
Avoid making speeches when asking questions.
Keep attributions simple, avoid overextended IDs.
Tread lightly but band-aids are allowed: fixing pronouns or spelling out ’cause (etc)
Paraphrase when in doubt.
Use expletives when they are critical to the story.
Avoid making people look foolish when they have innocently misspoken.
Avoid double attribution: he said he would do x about what he called y.
Rely on hard particulars – small details that are revealing but go unnoticed by most.
(Herbert Hoover had a cup of sharpened pencils – with the erasers worn down on each).
Use descriptive verbs (clamps his lips, narrows his eyes, stares transfixed, white
knuckle grip, etc.) Don’t overdo it but paint a picture with small, salient details.
Avoid cliches: glaring omission, hammer out, ready and willing…
Avoid strained metaphors, keep it simple and plausible.
Avoid mixed metaphors: x is the perfect storm and the latest chapter (ouch)
Avoid personification: assigning human traits to winter, destiny, etc.
Use humor sparingly.
** When in doubt, strike it out. **
Focus in on an actor in the drama
News begins with an event but features start with an idea (RNC, El Barrio)
Start reporting/interviewing with an open mind.
Keep open until you know you have the right theme.
If you have three anecdotes regarding a subject, use the best ONE
Tell the story chronologically, it makes for simpler, clearer, prose
Use “perpendicular” pronouns (asides) in third person accounts sparingly
Don’t crowd a profile with excess bio detail, leave that for the obit
Gender: use neutral/plural pronouns (all, babies, people, reporters, etc)
Sentences can end in prepositions to avoid stilted language
Avoid ANDS and BUTS
Don’t use “And/or” – or “if any” (legalese)
Avoid subjunctives (“as he WOULD later say” -> he said later)
Use dashes sparingly, to inject parenthetical matter, not to replace commas
Avoid “etc”, “among others”, “and similar x” -> use a simple series:
“x,y,z.” The commas and trailing dot imply an incomplete list.
With numbers, be precise. Use a range [x .. y] not “more” or “less”
Use “at least” or “over” rather than “about”
Use “that” where needed for clarity:
He said THAT years ago x did y
Avoid procedural detail, get to the point.
Don’t use an before h – use a
Avoid “ad hoc”
An antiques store sells antique objects
Use split or division, not dichotomy
Dilemma – must off two choices (not just be a predicament)
Disinterested means disppasionate, not uninterested
Exit should not be used as a verb (Please exit the plane)
Expect, not anticipate (unless action is involved)
Farther means literal distance, Further means metaphoric
light beer has Fewer (number/amt) calories not Less (quantity) calories
Fewer modifies a plural noun, Less modifies a singular noun
Flaunt the imperfection, flout the rules
Fortunate means good, fortuitous means by accident or chance
Founder means break down, Flounder means move clumsily
From x To y: use as diverse as: x, y, and z
Infer means to deduce, Imply means to insinuate
Jurist is a legal scholar, not a judge
Media is plural – the Media are …
Pragmatic: to use an approach regardless of ideology
Practical: to be handy
Reason Why – the reason why I did x is redundant
Self-Confessed is redundant
Use “mixed feelings” not ambivalent
Don’t use “bottom line”
Use inhibiting, restrictive, etc – not “chilling effect”
Avoid overuse of term “community”
Use notion, idea, scheme, not CONCEPT
Use argument, scuffle, shouting match, shoving NOT confrontation
Defining Moment is a bad cliche
Pursuit of Excellence
Explain not Explicate
use ‘have a say/voice’ not have Input
Avoid Icon, Innovative, Kudos (singular), Legendary, Lifestyle,
use goal not Objective
use choice not Option
use see, understand, grasp not Perceive
use also, moreover .. not Plus
Prestigious/Coveted – Nobel Prize needs no modifier
Avoid Relate To, Remains To Be Seen
say repeat or duplicate not Replicate
Skills – say mastering mathematics not mastering math skills
Sophisticated, Stance (use attitude, position)
Supportive Of – use supported
Surrogate – use representative, stand-in
Thrust – use gist, drift, tenor
Utilize – use
Viable – capable of survival, use workable, sound, practical
Whence/Albeit/Wherein/Thus – archaic -> Hence – still used
Youth – use children, teenagers, adolescents
Datelines on stories should contain a city name, entirely in caps, followed by the name of the state, county or territory.
No state with the following:
ATLANTA MILWAUKEE BALTIMORE MINNEAPOLIS BOSTON NEW ORLEANS CHICAGO NEW YORK CINCINNATI OKLAHOMA CITY CLEVELAND PHILADELPHIA DALLAS PHOENIX DENVER PITTSBURGH DETROIT ST. LOUIS HONOLULU SALT LAKE CITY HOUSTON SAN ANTONIO INDIANAPOLIS SAN DIEGO LAS VEGAS SAN FRANCISCO LOS ANGELES SEATTLE MIAMI WASHINGTON
Stories from all other U.S. cities should have both the city and state name in the dateline, including KANSAS CITY, Mo. and KANSAS CITY, Kan. Spell out Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah. Abbreviate others per AP stylebook. Use Hawaii on all cities outside Honolulu. Specify the island in the text if needed.
STATE ABBREVIATIONS (AP) Alabama Ala. Montana Mont. Alaska Alaska Nebraska Neb. Arizona Ariz. Nevada Nev. Arkansas Ark. New Hampshire N.H. California Calif. New Jersey N.J. Colorado Colo New Mexico N.M. Connecticut Conn. New York N.Y. Delaware Del. North Carolina N.C. Florida Fla. North Dakota N.D. Georgia Ga. Ohio Ohio Hawaii Hawaii Oklahoma Okla. Idaho Idaho Oregon Ore. Illinois Ill. Pennsylvania Pa. Indiana Ind. Rhode Island R.I. Iowa Iowa South Carolina S.C. Kansas Kan. South Dakota S.D. Kentucky Ky. Tennessee Tenn. Louisiana La. Texas Texas Maine Maine Utah Utah Maryland Md. Vermont Vt. Massachusetts Mass. Virginia Va. Michigan Mich. Washington Wash. Minnesota Minn. West Virginia W.Va. Mississippi Miss. Wisconsin Wis. Missouri Mo. Wyoming Wyo. Washington DC D.C.