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Avoid inventing acronyms or abbreviations and never invent short spellings of proper company names (but: Co, Inc, Ltd, etc.—no periods; see company titles for full list of abbreviations).

Space constraints on headlines make it tempting to invent short forms for words and company names, but a better and more accurate headline is almost always possible. It is not acceptable to change the spelling of a proper company name. Some common abbreviations—e.g., AIDS, NATO— may be used alone on first reference, with the full name given subsequently; see their separate entries. Abbreviations of two initials take full stops: U.S., U.N. The exceptions are EU (European Union) and UK (United Kingdom). Full stops may be omitted in alerts and headlines if there are space constraints. Abbreviations of three or more initials and acronyms do not take full stops. If initials are well-known, e.g., PLO, you need not bracket the initials after the first full reference: “The Palestine Liberation Organisation has sent two envoys ... A PLO statement said the two men would ...” If the institution is little known, bracket the initials after the first reference: “The Western European Union (WEU) decided on Tuesday ...” In the case of foreign groups, where the word order changes in the English translation, bracket the initials: “the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).” Do not bracket initials after a first reference if you are not going to use the initials again lower in the story.

Form the plural of abbreviations by adding a lower-case “s” without an apostrophe: ICBMs, not ICBM’s. Do not use full stops when abbreviating the names of months in datelines. The style is Jan, Feb, March, April, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec. In tabulated lists, use only the first three letters for all months. Abbreviate names of months in text when they are used with a specific date: Jan. 19. Lowercase abbreviations of uncapitalised phrases: mph.


Unless quoting someone, refer to aborted foetuses rather than unborn babies. Describe those campaigning for a woman’s right to have an abortion as “abortion rights campaigners” and those campaigning against abortion rights as “anti-abortion campaigners.” Terms such as pro-choice, pro-life and pro-abortion are open to dispute and should be avoided.


See ABS.

Academy Awards

While “Best Director” (etc.) is not the official name of the award, we follow common usage and capitalise.


Do not use except for copy coming out of Latin America.


Avoid as a verb unless in the context of computing and electronics.


Avoid where possible and replace with nouns such as “the committee,” “the organisation,” “the inquiry.” Use capital letters for acronyms of five letters and fewer: ASEAN, but Anacafe (Asociación Nacional del Café).


Do not capitalise before a title: acting Chairman and Chief Executive Paulo Georgio.


Actor is appropriate for man or woman.


Stands for Anno Domini (in the year of our Lord) and precedes the date: AD 73.

additional/in addition to

Use “more” or “and.”


Use sparingly. Inject colour into copy with strong verbs and facts first. If you have more than two adjectives before a noun, rewrite the sentence. A reader struggles with “the one-eyed poverty-stricken Greek house painter.” Avoid adjectives that imply judgement: “a hard-line speech,” “a glowing tribute,” “a staunch conservative.” Depending on where they stand, some people might consider the speech moderate, the tribute fulsome or the conservative a die-hard reactionary. 

When using an adjective and a noun together as an adjective, hyphenate them if it helps to avoid a realistic ambiguity: “a sliced egg sandwich” could mean two things; “a happy birthday card” can’t; “a blue-chip share,” “high-caste Hindus.” By extension, adverbs that end in “-ly” paired with adjectives modifying nouns do not need hyphens, since adverbs can’t modify nouns: “a poorly planned operation” cannot be misconstrued to mean an operation that is poorly and that is planned. The practice is always in flux; consider the dictionary (e.g., “well-known”).


Always lowercase: the Bush administration.


Use with care. If you say someone admitted something, you imply that it had previously been concealed or that there is an element of guilt. “Said” is usually better.


Refer to a child’s adoptive status only when the fact is clearly significant. Use the term “birth mother” to refer to the woman who gave birth to a child, if a distinction must be made with the woman who raised the child. ”Birth father” and “birth parent” are also preferred style. Do not use “real” or “natural” to describe parents or children. Avoid loaded and dated phrases such as “give away a child,” “give up for adoption” and “unwanted child.” “Adoptive” as an adjective can refer to parents or the general subject of adoption. Try to describe actions instead of creating labels such as “adopted child,” e.g,. “Hollywood actress Sharon Celebrity, who gave birth to a daughter on Friday, has two other children. She adopted Shenandoah, 4, and Alfalfa, 2, during her previous marriage to actor Tim Hunk.” Be wary of cultural bias or value judgements in covering international adoptions and disputes over parental rights involving families from different cultures or socioeconomic backgrounds.


See ADR.

advance planning

A tautology.


Like adjectives, they should be used sparingly. Avoid adverbs that imply judgement, e.g., “generously,” “harshly,” “sternly.”


Use “advisor” when writing about proxy advisory firms (an industry standard). Otherwise, stick with “adviser.”


See race


Prefer “results.” Use “after” rather than “in the aftermath of…”


German company title: abbreviation of Aktiengesellschaft, a joint-stock company.


“Aggravate” means to make worse. Do not use in the sense of “to irritate.”


Use numerals for all ages: the 6-year-old girl. “The 66-year-old president” or “an 18-year-old youth” are fine. Avoid “the 66-year-old Smith,” which suggests he is being distinguished from another, 65-year-old Smith; say instead, “Smith, who is 66,” or “Smith, 66.” In many countries it is illegal to identify a defendant under the age of 18. Use sensitivity and be guided by local legal rules.

aged, elderly

Avoid, because the terms are always relative. In some societies a 50-year-old is aged. In others a sprightly 90-year-old who has just written a novel or run a marathon would object to being called aged or elderly.




Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The term “AIDS” applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. The initials AIDS and HIV are used at first reference, with the full name given lower in the story. Do not write “HIV virus,” which is redundant.

aircraft, airplane

Most airliners and military aircraft are jets, so there is normally no need to specify that a plane is a jet (but be sure not to confuse fighters and bombers). Capitalise the names of aircraft: Concorde, Tomcat. When the number designating an aircraft is preceded by a letter or letters, hyphenate, e.g., Boeing 747 but DC-10, F-111. 

Be specific when giving aircraft models in economic stories because there are cost differences, e.g., Boeing 747-400, not just Boeing 747. Use makers’ names in the form given in Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, e.g., MiG-21. Give numerals for aircraft speeds, e.g., Mach 1, not Mach one. Aircraft names use a hyphen when changing from letters to figures, no hyphen when adding a letter to figures, e.g., F-15 Eagle/747B, but Airbus 3000 is an exception.

Air Force One

This is the radio call sign of any fixed-wing aircraft used by the president of the United States. The U.S. Marine Corps is responsible for presidential helicopter support. Marine One is the radio call sign of any helicopter used by the president.


Do not use as a synonym for “fly,” e.g., “The injured man was airlifted to hospital.” Reserve it for shuttle services: “The United States airlifted 50,000 troops to the Gulf.”

air strike

Two words.

al Qaeda

Created by Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s, al Qaeda ("The Base") is a militant movement that supports violent attacks on the West, Israel and governments in Muslim countries allied with the West that it believes prevent the creation of a “pure” Islamic world.

The term “al Qaeda” is used by different people to mean different things. When authorities speak about an "al Qaeda plot," we should try to pin down whether they mean it was ordered and directed by "core al Qaeda" or generally inspired by the anti-Western ideology of bin Laden.

all-time, all time

The greatest singer of all time, but an all-time low. Do not write “an all-time record”; it is simply a record. Ensure that superlatives such as “all-time high” are checked and sourced.

Allahu akbar

“God is Greatest” (not, as often written, “God is Great,” a common Muslim rallying cry). Also chanted when Muslims perform their five daily prayers.


Do not report allegations without saying who made them. Use of the word “alleged” before a defamatory statement does not provide immunity against an action for libel. Do not use “allegedly.”

al Shabaab


An altercation is an argument or heated exchange of words, not a fight.


There can be only two alternatives; any more and you face choices, options or possibilities.


Convert metres to feet, not yards, when giving altitudes.



Use for a man or a woman.

American Indian

Acceptable, but “Native American” (capitalised) is preferred, bearing in mind that this includes, e.g., Inuit, who are not Indians. Where possible, be more specific and give the name of the tribe (e.g., Navajo, Cherokee). See race.

America's Cup

The sailing trophy, named after the yacht America.


Not “amidst,” but journalese in any case, although sometimes hard to avoid in headlines. Usually we mean “because of,” “due to,” “in,” or “over.” Or consider recasting: “Consultants said developers were bidding more cautiously amid a softening private-residential market and rising construction costs” is stronger as “A softening private-residential market and rising construction costs are making developers bid more cautiously.” Where preserving the sense of “in the middle of” is desired, “as,” “during” or “in” can usually be substituted: “The protests became more violent amid visits from U.N. officials who were investigating claims of human rights abuses/The protests became more violent as U.N. officials were in the country investigating…”

among, between

“Between” is restricted to two choices or two parties. “Among” is for several options or parties. Use “between” in referring to bilateral contacts, e.g., relations between France and Germany. Use “among” for a collective linkage, e.g., “relations among the NATO states.” Be careful to use “between” if there are just two groups to choose from, even though it looks like several, e.g.: “It was hard to decide between a touring holiday in France, Belgium and Spain or in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania” or, “It was hard to decide among a holiday in France, in Belgium or in Spain.”


Do not use “analysts” alone, but qualify political analysts, stock market analysts.


Do not start a sentence with “and.”


Etymology (“returning annually”) is a reminder to avoid using for “first anniversary” or “one-year anniversary,” six-month anniversaries, etc.

annual meeting

Lowercase. For companies, use “annual meeting,” not “annual general meeting.”


Avoid when you are trying to say “additional” or “extra.” It should be used only when referring to things of the same type, size and number—e.g., “Two teams were at full strength; another two were short of players.”

antennae, antennas

Antennae are insect feelers. Antennas are aerials.

Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

ABM Treaty on second reference.

anticipate, expect

Not synonyms. If you anticipate something, you not only expect it but take precautionary action to deal with it.

anxious, eager

“Anxious” means uneasy with fear or desire. Prefer “eager” if the promised experience is desirable. I am anxious about going to the dentist but eager to go the party.

any more, anymore

”Any more” (two words) means “no more”; “anymore” (one word) means “now” or “currently.” e.g., “I do not have any more stories to edit”; “I don’t edit stories anymore.”


Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, a forum aimed at promoting regional trade and economic cooperation. The group comprises 21 Pacific Rim countries.


For singular proper names ending in “s,” use only an apostrophe: Gates’ tenure; Kansas’ schools. Reuters’ early decades, but Reuter’s birthplace in Kassel. Add ’s for plurals of a single letter: “They were all given A’s.” Do not add for plurals of numbers or multiple letter combinations: the 1980s, RBIs.


“About” is shorter and simpler. So is “almost” or “nearly.”

Arab names

Reuters style is to end Arab names in “i” rather than “y” -- e.g., Ali, not Aly; Gaddafi, not Gaddafy. The words “al” and “el” both mean “the.” They are usually in lower-case and followed by a hyphen. (But al Qaeda, al Shabaab). We prefer al- to el- but should use el- if that is how the person spells his or her name in English. In personal names starting al- or el-, include the particle only on first reference, e.g., Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on first reference, thereafter Assad. In place and other names, the particle is retained on second reference, e.g., al-Arish, (the newspaper) al-Akhbar. Particles that go in lowercase are ait (Mohamed ait Atta), bin and bint (Aziza bint Ahmed), ben (Ahmed ben Bella), bar, bou and ould (Moktar ould Daddah). See also sheikh.

arbitrator, arbiter, mediator

An arbitrator or arbiter is appointed to make a decision and hand down a ruling. A mediator tries to produce a compromise agreed to by both parties in a dispute.

Arctic Sea, arctic chill

Uppercase when referring to geography (Arctic Circle); lowercase to describe the cold (arctic wind). Also use uppercase when referring to the weather phenomenon that originates within the Arctic Circle (e.g. Arctic vortex).

Argentina, Argentine

Avoid “Argentinian” as an adjective.


Only capitalise for specific armies: the U.S. Army, the Palestine Liberation Army, the Red Army. Use figures for military units: 1st Army, not First Army.


Use “about” for approximation “about 30,” not “around 30.”


To avoid prejudging the issue, do not write “arrested for murder.” Instead, write “arrested on a charge of murder. See also allege.


An overused conjunction, especially in leads, to link two developments that may have only a distant connection and may occur in different time frames, e.g., “Jones issued new threats against Ruritania as Brown considered his options in the region.” Use with restraint, preferably when actions are both contemporaneous and closely linked, e.g., “Brent futures slipped below $108 a barrel as data showing a fall in China's exports added to fears of a slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy.”

as, like

“As” compares verbs, “like” compares nouns. He fought as a hero should, but he acted like a hero.

Asian subcontinent

Don’t use. Instead, use “South Asia” for the region that includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

at the present time, at this time

Use “now.”


“ATM machine” is tautologous.


Not a formal title: lowercase.

attorney general

The plural is “attorneys general.” However, for the plural possessive, make it “the attorney generals’ arguments.”

Australian Labor Party

(not Labour)


Never “authoress.” Avoid as a verb.


Place the word “average” where it correctly qualifies the item or quantity intended. “Reporters drink an average of six cups of coffee a day” -- not “The average reporter drinks six cups of coffee a day”. 

An average is calculated by adding all the constituent parts together and dividing by the number of parts. The average can also be called the mean. There are also the median, or middle value, with the number of values above it is the same as the number below it, and the mode, or the most commonly occurring value.

“Average” takes a singular or plural verb according to what it refers. The average age is 24, but an average of three men die each day.


Prefer this form to “awoken,” awaked,” “awoke.”

awhile, a while

I will rest awhile, or I will rest for a while.

This page was last modified 19:36, 14 October 2014.

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