P

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

Contents

PAC

In the U.S, acronym for political action committee. Raises money and makes contributions to campaigns of political candidates or parties in the United States. At the federal level, contribution amounts are limited by law and may not come from corporations or labour unions. Enforcement overseen by the Federal Election Commission. PAC acceptable on first reference; spell out in body of story.

A super PAC is a political action committee that may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including from corporations and unions, to campaign independently for candidates for federal office. Its activities must be reported to the FEC but are not otherwise regulated if not coordinated with the candidate or campaign.

Palestine Liberation Organization

Not Palestinian Liberation Organization. PLO is acceptable in all references. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is an organization founded in 1964 with the purpose of the "liberation of Palestine" through armed struggle. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed observer status at the United Nations since 1974. In 1993, the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist in peace, accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and rejected "violence and terrorism"; in response, Israel officially recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.

parentheses

Use in lieu of square brackets when interpolating words in Reuters copy, since brackets do not translate correctly.

parliament

As a general rule, outside the United States, refer to legislative assemblies initially as parliaments, regardless of their formal names. These can be given lower in the story, e.g., Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament ... Replying to questions in the House of Commons, he said ... In American style, capitalise when the name of a formal body, e.g., the British Parliament.

parliamentarian

“Member of parliament” preferable, although parliamentarian is becoming more widely accepted.

participles

There are cases in which an unattached participle is acceptable, e.g., “Considering the risks involved, you were right to cancel the trip.” Although it is not the writer of the sentence who is necessarily considering the risks, the sense is clear. But avoid the unattached, or so-called dangling, participle when it makes the sentence absurd, e.g.: “Having disarmed, Ruritania’s allies guaranteed its defence.” Here the participle “having disarmed” is wrongly attached to the allies; it is Ruritania that has disarmed. “Fetching anything between $16,000 and $40,000, onIy about 2,500 women around the world can afford to buy haute couture dresses.” The dresses, not the women, are worth $16,000.

partner

A person associated with another in some endeavor or relationship that can be either commercial, cultural, sporting or romantic. When referring to personal or romantic relationships, regardless of sexual orientation, "partner" or "spouse" or "husband" or "wife" may all be appropriate or acceptable depending on context.

Pashtun

Not Pushtun, Pushtoon, Pathan. This tribe in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and areas of Afghanistan speaks Pashto, also one of the main languages of Afghanistan.

past, last

Past refers to the time up to the present. “Sales increased over the past year” means the previous 12 months, wherever they fall. “Last year” is the previous calendar year. Also, check for redundancy in phrases such as past history, past record, past achievements.

per

Avoid the Latin. Six dollars each rather than six dollars per item.

percent

Reuters uses one word - percent.

The abbreviation pct is acceptable in alerts and headlines. Use numerals before percent, e.g., 4.3 percent, 12 percent. Use percent after both numbers when writing about a change, e.g., “rose to 5.5 per cent from 4.0 per cent”.

Do not confuse percentage with percentage points. If a bank rate rises from 1 per cent to 2 per cent, it is a rise of one percentage point and an increase of 100 percent, not 1 per cent. Note that a 100 per cent increase is twice the original figure, 200 per cent three times, 300 per cent four times, etc. It is a common error to write, for instance, that a 400 per cent rise means a quadrupling; in fact it means a fivefold increase.

To calculate percentages, divide the first figure by the second and multiply by 100. For example: 70 as a percentage of 350 is: 70/350 x 100 = 20 per cent. Use a calculator for complicated figures and express the result to the nearest two decimal places, e.g., 75 expressed as a percentage of 350 is 21.42857142 or 21.43 per cent.

percentage

Write many or most rather than a large percentage of.

perk, perquisite

Perk as an noun is an acceptable shortened form of perquisite, often used to describe fringe benefits. Not to be confused with the verb perk meaning to make lively or cheerful. And also not to be confused with the informal verb perk which is a shortened form of percolate when referring to a process for brewing coffee.

Persian

Generic name for the language spoken in Iran, Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan. It is also known locally as Farsi in Iran, Tajik in Tajikistan and Dari in Afghanistan, but Persian is the preferred overall name.

personifications

Capitalize them: Grim Reaper, Father Time, Mother Nature, Old Man Winter, etc.

personnel

Use people, staff or workers.

personal names

Check them. Never presume you know how to spell a name, no matter how common and how familiar it may seem. Is it Smith, or Smyth or Smythe or Smif? Only if a given name is not available or if it is known that an individual prefers to be identified by his initials (e.g., Former South African President F.W. de Klerk) should you use initials. To help readers not familiar with names, use a he/she or his/her at second reference to make clear the gender of someone whose name could be of either sex or whose name is not readily known to a nonnative, e.g., Clare, Hilary. See also Chinese names, Ethiopian names, European names, Hispanic names, Korean names, Portuguese names, Thai names, Vietnamese names.

persuade, convince

You persuade people to do something, convince them of something or that something is the case.

peshmerga

A generic Kurish term for a militant group. Usually refers to the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

PGA

Professional Golfers’ Association. Spell out first or second reference.

phishing

A form of Internet fraud that tries to steal personal information such as credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, user IDs and passwords.

pilots

Military aircraft other than strategic bombers and transports normally carry only one pilot. Write the two crewmen, specifying pilot and one co-pilot or navigator, when reporting incidents involving fighter-bombers and the like.

PIN

OK on first reference for personal identification number. PIN number is tautologous.

pious

Avoid describing someone as, for example, a pious Muslim or Christian. Use “practising.”

plan ahead

Just plan will do.

plane

Use aircraft.

plea bargain

Noun. The verb takes a hyphen and is only used intransitively: “If he plea-bargains, he will be sent to a medium-security prison for eight years.”

pled

Legalese. Use “pleaded.” A defendant pleads guilty or not guilty but may not plead innocent.

PLO

Palestine (not Palestinian) Liberation Organisation. PLO is acceptable on first reference. Spell out in a subsequent reference.

plummet

Avoid in market reports unless it is a precipitous decline. A 2 per cent fall is not a plummet.

p.m.

pointed out

Avoid this term if the statement is in any way contentious, since it suggests that the writer accepts that what the speaker is saying is a fact. “Said” is better.

police

Use police officers, not policemen.

Polisario Front

Algeria-based movement seeking the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco. It fought a low-level war for independence for 16 years after Morocco annexed the territory with the pullout of colonial power Spain in 1975. Its name is the Spanish abbreviation for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro.

political parties

Capitalise the names of political parties and of movements with a specific doctrine, e.g., a Communist official, a Democratic senator. Use lowercase for nonspecific references, e.g., the communist part of the former Soviet Bloc, but the Communist Party of what was then East Germany. The settlement was run on communist principles. He proposed a democratic vote. The name of a political philosophy should be lowercase as noun or adjective unless it derives from a proper noun: communism, communist, fascism, fascist,. But Marxism, Marxist, Nazi, Nazism. Spell out political party names and affiliations as we write for an international readership e.g. Republican, Democrat.

polls

Stories based on public opinion polls should include information that allows the reader to evaluate the results.

1. Who conducted the poll and who paid for it? 2. How many people were interviewed? The larger a poll's sample size, the more precise its results. Samples drawn from panels of people who volunteer for online polls cannot be considered representative of larger populations because panel members are self-selected. • Balloting via websites, cellphone text messaging or calls to 900 numbers can also be unrepresentative as not everyone uses these technologies. 3. Who was interviewed? A poll conducted only in urban areas of a country cannot be considered nationally representative. Many political polls are based on interviews with registered voters, since registration is usually required for voting. 4. How was the poll conducted – by telephone or some other way? 5. When was the poll taken? 6. What are the sampling error margins for the poll and for subgroups mentioned in the story? The polling organization should provide sampling error margins, which are expressed as "plus or minus X percentage points," not "percent." The margin varies inversely with sample size: the fewer people interviewed, the larger the sampling error. 7. How were the questions worded and in what order were they asked? Small differences in question wording can cause big differences in results, and the results for one question may be affected by the preceding questions. The exact question wording need not be in a poll story unless it is crucial or controversial.

Poona

Use Pune, India.

Pope

Capitalize when used as a formal title before a name; lowercase in all other uses. For example, "Pope Francis said on Tuesday that he really enjoyed being the first non-European pope in 1,300 years and the pontiff added that he hoped the next pope would also be an non-Italian." (see proper names). On second reference, the name may be used alone: Francis, Pius (unless omitting the numerals would cause confusion). See religious titles.

polls, surveys

Stories based on public opinion polls must include basic information that allows the reader to evaluate the results. Carefully word such stories to avoid exaggerating the meaning of poll results. Every story based on a poll should include answers to these questions: 1. Who did the poll and who paid for it? Start with the polling firm, media outlet or other organization that conducted the poll. Be wary of polls paid for by candidates or interest groups; their release of poll results may be done selectively and is often a campaign tactic or publicity ploy. Any reporting of such polls must highlight the poll's sponsor, so readers can be aware of potential bias from such sponsorship. 2. How many people were interviewed? The larger a poll's sample size, the more precise its results. Surveys with 500 respondents or more are preferable. How were they selected? Only a poll based on a scientific, random sample of a population – in which every member of the population has a known probability of inclusion – can be considered a valid and reliable measure of that population's opinions. Among surveys that do not meet this criterion: • Samples drawn from panels of people who volunteer for online polls. These cannot be considered representative of larger populations because panel members are self-selected – often including "professional respondents" who sign up for numerous surveys to earn money or win prizes – and exclude people without Internet access. (Online panels recruited randomly from the entire population, with Internet access provided to those who don't already have it, are valid.) • Balloting via websites, cellphone text messaging or calls to 900 numbers. These too are self-selected samples, and results are subject to manipulation via blog and email campaigns and other methods. If such unscientific pseudo-polls are reported for entertainment value, they must never be portrayed as accurately reflecting public opinion and their failings must be highlighted. 3. Who was interviewed? A valid poll reflects only the opinions of the population that was sampled. A poll conducted only in urban areas of a country cannot be considered nationally representative; people in rural areas often have different opinions from those in cities. Many political polls are based on interviews with registered voters, since registration is usually required for voting. Polls may be based on "likely voters" closer to an election; if so, ask the pollster how that group was identified and what percentage of the voting population it totaled. Are there far more "likely voters" in the poll than turnout in comparable past elections would suggest? Polls that screen for likely voters at the sample level by only attempting to interview those who have a history of voting leave out some potential voters and ought to be avoided. 4. How was the poll conducted – by telephone or some other way? Avoid polls in which computers conduct telephone interviews using a recorded voice (sometimes referred to as IVR polling). Among the problems of these surveys are that they do not randomly select respondents within a household, and they cannot exclude children from adult samples 5. When was the poll taken? Opinion can change quickly, especially in response to events. 6. What are the sampling error margins for the poll and for subgroups mentioned in the story? The polling organization should provide sampling error margins, which are expressed as "plus or minus X percentage points," not "percent." The margin varies inversely with sample size: the fewer people interviewed, the larger the sampling error. If the opinions of a subgroup – women, for example – are important to the story, the sampling error for that subgroup should be noted. (Some pollsters release survey results to the first decimal place, which implies a greater degree of precision than is possible from a sampling. Round poll results to whole numbers. However, the sampling error margin – a statistical calculation – may be reported to the first decimal place.) 7. How were the questions worded and in what order were they asked? Small differences in question wording can cause big differences in results, and the results for one question may be affected by the preceding questions. The exact question wording need not be in a poll story unless it is crucial or controversial. If a pollster or sponsor of research refuses to provide the information we need to answer these questions, we should not cover the poll. When writing and editing poll stories, here are areas for close attention: –Do not exaggerate poll results. In particular, with pre-election polls, these are the rules for deciding when to write that the poll finds one candidate is leading another: • If the difference between the candidates is more than twice the sampling error margin, then the poll says one candidate is leading. • If the difference is less than the sampling error margin, the poll says that the race is close, that the candidates are "about even." (Do not use the term "statistical dead heat," which is inaccurate if there is any difference between the candidates; if the poll finds the candidates are tied, say they're tied.) • If the difference is at least equal to the sampling error but no more than twice the sampling error, then one candidate can be said to be "apparently leading" or "slightly ahead" in the race. –A poll's existence is not enough to make it news. More often than not, they are better used as supporting material with other stories. Do not feel obligated to write about a poll simply because it meets AP's standards. –Comparisons with other polls are often newsworthy. Earlier poll results can show changes in public opinion. Be careful comparing polls from different polling organizations. Different poll techniques can cause differing results. –Sampling error is not the only source of error in a poll, but it is one that can be quantified. Question wording and order, interviewer skill and refusal to participate by respondents randomly selected for a sample are among potential sources of error in surveys. –No matter how good the poll, no matter how wide the margin, the poll does not say one candidate will win an election. Polls can be wrong and the voters can change their minds before they cast their ballots.

populist

Usually a politician who appeals to popular interests or prejudices and is often critical of establishment politicians, parties or policies. The term is vague and ill-defined so try to specify what the policies advocated.

Portuguese names

Portuguese and Brazilians, like the Spanish, include the family names both of their father and their mother in their full names. Unlike the Spanish, they put the mother’s name before the father’s and they normally retain both names at second reference. Where they use one it would always be the patronymic, i.e., the last name. Thus Jose Cabral Nettim could be either Cabral Nettim or Nettim at second reference.

posh

Slang. Avoid.

positive

Avoid as a synonym for good or fruitful.

possessives

Plural nouns not ending in s: Add 's.

Plural nouns ending in s: Add only an apostrophe e.g. the churches' needs.

Nouns in plural form but singlular in meaning: Add only an apostrophe e.g. mathematics' rules, measles' effects. Apply the same principle when a plural word occurs in the formal name of a singular entity: General Motors' profits, the United States' wealth.

Nouns the same in singlular and plural: Treat them the same as plurals, even if the meaning is singular e.g. one corps' location, the two deer's tracks.

Singular nouns not ending in s: Add 's e.g. the church's needs, the girl's toys.

Singular common nouns ending in s: Add 's unless the next word begins with s e.g. the hostess's invitation, the hostess' seat; the witness's answer, the witness' story.

Singular proper names ending in s: Use only an apostrophe e.g. Achilles' heel

Pronouns: Personal interrogative and relative pronouns have separate forms for the possessive. None involve an apostrophe e.g. mine, ours, your, yours, his, hers, its, theirs, whose.

Compound words: Applying the rules above, add an apostrophe or 's to the word closest to the object possessed e.g. the major general's decision, the major generals' decisions, the attorney general's request, the attorneys general's request.

Joint possession: Use a possessive form after only the last word if ownership is joint e.g Fred and Sylvia's apartment, Fred and Sylvia's stocks. Use a possessive form after both words if the objects are individually owned e.g. Fred's and Sylvia's books.

Adjectival phrases: Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when it is used primarily in an adjectival sense e.g. citizens band radio, a teachers college, a writers guide.

post-mortem

Hyphenated. An examination of a body after death.

post-war, postwar

Hyphenated in British English, no hyphen in American English.


pound

Spell out. The abbreviation lb for weight (with no full stop and the same in the singular and the plural) can cause confusion internationally.

pound sign

Do not use.

precautionary measure

Precaution will do.

precondition

Tautological. Condition is enough.

predawn

If something happened shortly before dawn, predawn may be technically correct, but it is a cliché to be avoided. Never use it to mean merely that something happened during the night.

preplanned

Tautological. Planned is enough.

Presidents Day (US holiday)

No apostrophe. Unofficial name of the U.S. holiday celebrating George Washington's birthday, and observed on the third Monday in February.

press conference

Use news conference unless broadcast journalists and photographers have been excluded.

prestigious

Avoid this pompous and often tautological word. If something is prestigious, or famous, then we need hardly say so.

price-earnings ratio

On second reference, “p-e ratio.”

prime minister

See titles.

prior to

Prefer “before.”

proactive

Overused. “Active,” “energetic” or “takes initiative/self-starter” are apt to suffice.

process

Can usually be excised in phrases such as development process.

professor

See titles.

profit, income, revenue

Always take care to specify whether the figures are comparisons with the previous quarter/half or the same quarter/half the previous year.

Revenue: The amount of money a business received, including interest earned and receipts from sales, services provided, rents and royalties.

Sales: The money a company received for the goods and services it sold which may or may not include other revenue from rents, royalties etc.

Gross profit: The difference between the sales price of an item or service and the expenses directly attributed to it, such as the cost of raw materials, labor and overhead linked to the production effort.

EBITDA: Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization.

Net income, net profit, net earnings: Usually the amount remaining after all expenses and taxes have been paid. Some of what remains may be paid in dividends to holders of common stock. The rest may be invested to obtain interest revenue or spent to acquire new buildings or equipment to increase the company's ability to make further profits. To avoid confusion, do not use the word income alone. Always specify whether the figure is income before taxes or net income.

Extraorinary gains, losses or items: An expense or source of income that does not occur on a regular basis, such as a loss due to a major fire or the revenue from the sale of a subsidiary. Extraordinary items should be identified in any report on the company’s financial status to avoid creating the false impression that its overall profit trend has suddenly plunged or soared.

Earnings per Share (EPS): The figure obtained by dividing the number of outstanding shares of common stock into the amount left after dividends have been paid on any preferred stock. EPS can be manipulated by companies buying back their stock to reduce the denominator in the calculation.

profit-sharing

Hyphenated for both noun and adjective.

pro-life

Use anti-abortion.

pronouns

Use neuter pronouns for countries, ships, cars, aircraft, animals, etc., e.g., Portugal and its territories, Aboard the liner when it sailed. The occasional bright story may be enhanced by the use of a feminine or masculine pronoun to personalise a machine or animal, but these should be rare exceptions.

There should never be any doubt the noun to which a pronoun refers. In "the president told the prime minister he was the target of an assassination plot" it is unclear whether the president or the prime minister is the target of the plot.

"Who" is the subject, "whom" is the object of a verb. As a rough guide as to which word to use, substitute "he" or "him" for "who" and "whom" and see which makes sense. Example: "Brown, whom the prosection says planned the robbery...". Would you say "Him planned the robbery" ? No, so the correct pronoun is "who".

"You and I" is usually wrong. "You" and "I" as nominatives must be the subject of the sentence.

Use neuter pronouns for countries, ships, cars, animals etc, e.g. "Portugal and its territories".

pronunciation

When a difficult personal or place name appears on the file for the first time, insert a guide to pronunciation. Assume familiarity with the principles guiding pronunciation of European languages like English, French, German, Italian and Spanish and do not provide guides to pronunciation of most names phonetically transcribed from another script, e.g., Arabic or Japanese. Give guidance in parentheses after the name, hyphenating the syllables and capitalizing the syllable stressed, e.g., General Michel Aoun (pronounced OW-oon), a rail strike in Bydgoszcz (pronounced BID-gosh).

proper names

If proper names are in English, use the style and spelling as it appears on the organisation’s nameplate and business cards, e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Scottish Labour Party, U.S. Department of Defense. If proper names are translated into English, use the spelling convention of that region.

proven

Use "proved" except in two cases: in writing of oil reserves or of the Scottish legal verdict not proven (neither guilty nor not guilty).

proverbial

Best excised. If you are using or describing a proverb then there is no need to say so.

publications

No quotation marks around the titles of newspapers or magazines, blogs, websites or trade newsletters. Do not capitalise articles and particles in English-language publications: the New York Times. But Le Monde, Die Welt.

public school

In some countries, this term refers to a private or fee-paying school as opposed to a state or government school. Use only when quoting someone and then explain it.


Pune

Not Poona, India.

punter

Prefer gambler, not bettor, which is unfamiliar outside the Americas. Do not use in financial stories as a synonym for investors or speculators unless it is in quotes, in which case explain.

purchase

"Buy" is shorter and better.  

This page was last modified 15:09, 20 June 2016.

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