Referring to the official school of Islam in Saudi Arabia
Do not use “in the wake of.” Use “after” or “following.”
war on terror
Do not use this phrase unless in a quote. It is poor English and part of the propaganda battle around militant violence.
It is acceptable to leave out the object of this verb, e.g., “Police warned of possible attacks.” The object of the verb, the public or travellers or just people, is implied. However, the verb is often stronger and clearer if you spell out who is being warned.
Washington, Washington, D.C.
Do not specify D.C. unless there is a clear need to distinguish between the western U.S. state and the federal district that serves as the U.S. capital.
Write “good/poor/stormy weather,” not “good/poor/stormy weather conditions.”
weather forecaster, not weatherman
- anticyclone: An area of pressure that has diverging winds and a rotation opposite to that of the earth. This is clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. It is the opposite of an area of low pressure, or a cyclone.
- atmospheric or barometric pressure: The pressure exerted by the atmosphere at a given point expressed in millibars, or in inches or millimetres of mercury (Hg). Also known as barometric pressure.
- Beaufort Scale: A system of assessing wind speeds. It is based on the Beaufort Force or Number, which is composed of the wind speed, a descriptive term, and the visible effects upon land objects and/or sea surfaces.
- blizzard: A severe snowstorm with winds of more than 40 km an hour, temperatures lower than minus 10 degrees Celsius and visibility of less than 500 metres.
- Celsius temperature scale: A temperature scale where water at sea level has a freezing point of 0 degrees and a boiling point of 100 degrees. Used mostly in countries that have the metric system of measurement. Also known as Centigrade.
- chinook: A warm wind in the Rocky Mountains that may occur after cold weather.
- cold front: The leading edge of a cold air mass displacing warmer air in its path.
- cyclone: A wind system rotating around a low-pressure centre, anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. The opposite of an anticyclone or a high-pressure system.
- depression: An area of low pressure.
- doldrums: An area noted for calm or light and variable winds, located between 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south latitudes near the equator.
- El Nino: A weather phenomenon that occurs in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific about every four to seven years. Winds change direction and sea temperatures rise in the affected area. The changes can disrupt weather patterns in the tropics and can affect jet stream winds above the Pacific, altering storm tracks and creating unusual weather patterns in various parts of the world. See also La Niña.
- Fahrenheit temperature scale: A temperature scale where water at sea level has a freezing point of +32 degrees and a boiling point of 212 degrees. More commonly used in areas that observe the Imperial system of measurement.
- flash flood*: A flood that rises and falls with little or no advance warning.
- foehn: A warm dry wind on the lee side of a mountain range, whose temperature is increased as the wind descends.
- front: The transition zone between two air masses of different temperatures. In a cold front, cold air displaces warmer air in its path. A warm front is the opposite. In an occluded front, also known as an occlusion, a cold front overtakes a warm front.
- gale: Force seven to 10 on the Beaufort Scale: a wind with speeds from 28 to 55 knots (32 to 63 miles per hour).
- haboob: a violent dust storm or sandstorm especially of Sudan.
- high-pressure system: An area of high pressure with winds that rotate clockwise the in Northern Hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Also known as an anti-cyclone. It is the opposite of an area of low pressure or a cyclone.
- hurricane: A tropical cyclone with wind speed higher than 65 knots in the North Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. West of the International Dateline, they are known as typhoons and cyclones in the Indian Ocean.
- Indian summer: A period of abnormally warm weather in mid to late autumn with clear skies and cool nights. A first frost normally precedes this warm spell.
- jet stream: An area of strong winds concentrated in a narrow band in the upper troposphere of the middle latitudes and subtropical regions of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
- La Nina: A weather phenomenon that involves unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. La Niña occurs less often than El Niño.
- low-pressure system: An area of low atmospheric pressure rotating in the same direction as the earth. This is anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Also known as a cyclone, it is the opposite of an area of high pressure or anticyclone.
- monsoon: A seasonal wind in the Indian Ocean and South Asia, blowing from the southwest from April to October and from the northeast during the rest of the year. The monsoon is usually associated with the heavy rain that it brings when it blows southwest across southern India.
- ozone layer: A layer of the upper atmosphere that has a high proportion of oxygen in the form of ozone. It filters ultraviolet radiation from space.
- polar vortex: a pattern of frigid winds centred on the North Pole. When the flow pattern weakens, cold outbreaks occur.
- precipitation: Any form of water, liquid or solid, that falls from clouds and reaches the ground.
- ridge: An elongated area of high atmospheric pressure. The opposite of a trough.
- sirocco/scirocco: A hot wind blowing from the Libyan Desert across the Mediterranean into southern Europe, often bringing dust and sometimes accompanied by rain.
- tornado: A violently rotating column of air between a storm cloud and the surface of the earth. It occurs most frequently in the United States between the Rockies in the west and the Appalachians in the east.
- trade winds: Prevailing winds throughout most of the tropics, part of the general circulation of the atmosphere. They blow northeast in the Northern Hemisphere and southeast in the Southern Hemisphere.
- tramontana: A cold, dry wind that blows down from mountains, especially the wind that blows into Italy from the Alps.
- tropics/tropical: The region of the earth located between the Tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees north) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 degrees south).
- tropical cyclone: A warm-core low-pressure system that develops over tropical, and sometimes subtropical, waters.
- tropical depression: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface winds are 38 miles per hour (33 knots) or less.
- tropical storm: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface winds are from 39 miles per hour (34 knots) to 73 miles per hour (63 knots). At this point, the system is given a name to identify and track it.
- tropical wave: In the Atlantic, a type of atmospheric trough oriented north-south, which moves from east to west across the tropics, causing areas of cloudiness and thunderstorms. Tropical waves can lead to the formation of tropical cyclones.
- trough: An elongated area of low atmospheric pressure. The opposite of a ridge.
- typhoon: The name for a tropical cyclone with sustained winds of 74 miles per hour (65 knots) or greater in the western North Pacific Ocean. This same tropical cyclone is known as a hurricane in the eastern North Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean, and as a cyclone in the Indian Ocean.
- wind chill: The calculation of temperature that takes into consideration the effects of wind and temperature on the human body. Describes the average loss of body heat and how cold the temperature feels.
- wind shear: The rate of wind speed or direction change with distance. Vertical wind shear is the rate of change of the wind with respect to altitude. Horizontal wind shear is the rate of change on a horizontal plane.
Web, website, webcast
Not Webbies. And while “Best Director” (etc.) is not the official name of the award, we follow common usage and capitalise.
Use “over the weekend,” not “at the weekend.”
Hyphenated when serving as an adjective, but not when following a modified noun. The well-read man was well mannered.
Capitalise it when used in a political sense.
Capitalise for a book or film type, or when used in a cultural/political sense—e.g., Western thought, Western military forces.
Not Wailing Wall.
See that, which.
“Whiskey” is Irish, American and the general term, but “whisky” is Scotch, Canadian and Japanese. Scotch as a synonym is acceptable.
Hyphenated as adjective.
May be used as an alternative to the U.S. administration.
Government information paper. Two words, lower case.
World Health Organization (Geneva). See http://www.who.int/en/
Industrywide, nationwide, worldwide have no hyphen. Wide-open, wide-bodied, wide-eyed, wide-awake are hyphenated. Widespread is an exception.
Either of these is all right: the widow of President John Smith or the wife of the late President John Smith. “The widow of the late President John Smith” is tautological. Use “the late” only of those recently dead, not, for instance, of someone like John Kennedy, now dead for several decades.
A popular wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections for devices such as computers, mobile phones and video games.
As per Reuters style, use official names of companies or organizations. So WikiLeaks, not Wikileaks. WikiLeaks is an international non-profit organisation that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources.
An internet based encyclopedia whose entries are created and edited by its users, regardless of their expertise. May contain useful links but should not be used as a primary source of information. It is operated by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, based in San Francisco.
Acceptable in a headline for the sake of brevity, but avoid journalese such as “economic woes” in text.
Acceptable contraction for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. See http://www.worldbank.org
World Council of Churches
Based in Geneva, the WCC is a Christian organisation dedicated to the search for Christian unity. It brings together some 350 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories, representing more than 560 million Christians. See http://www.oikoumene.org.
World War One/Two
Not First/Second World War. Not WWI / WWII.
World Wide Web
The web (no initial capital). A collection of documents and other resources in hypertext markup language linked via the internet by hyperlinks or URLs. They may contain text, images, video and audio.
Shorten to web, and website, webcast, webmaster.
Not wrought. She wreaked vengeance.
See also Reporting and Writing Basics in Guide to Operations: []
- Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched.
- Prefer the short word to the long and the single word to the circumlocution.
- Prefer the concrete word to the abstract.
- Avoid pompous words like ongoing, escalating, prestigious, meaningful, facility. More often than not, we can also do without special, key, dramatic, major, giant, large-scale, massive and crisis. Modish words like confrontation substitute polysyllabic vagueness for the crisp precision of (in this case) clash, dispute or even war.
News stories relying heavily on phrases that have become stale through overuse are like paintings done by number. They convey information but lack life or freshness. If it’s the word or phrase you think of automatically, it’s probably hackneyed. Try to become self-conscious about over-used words and think about synonyms instead. Some generic chestnuts:
announcements, events: came out and said, lashed out, slammed, poised to, set to.
comparisons: giant, major, massive, key, landmark, marathon, ground breaking, gruelling, hard-fought, iconic, last-ditch, prestigious
data and markets: slash, hike, turmoil, turbulent, bottom line, crunch the numbers, continued, doubled down.
disasters: mercy mission, rushed to hospital, massive aid, an air and sea search was under way, disaster probe, sifted through the wreckage.
meetings, talks: key talks, last-ditch, hammer out, face-to-face talks, key issues, rubber-stamp parliament, top-level meeting, spear headed a major initiative, took the helm, magic bullet, green light, led the charge, going forward.
violence: crisis, lone gunman, strongman, strife-torn province, embattled city, baton-wielding police, stone-throwing demonstrators, police swoop, pre-dawn raid, staged an attack on, anti-government rebels (tautological), armed soldiers (ditto).
Do not use language that perpetuates sexual, racial, religious or other stereotypes. Such language is offensive, out of date and often simply inaccurate. A person’s gender, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or marital status should not be cited unless it is relevant to the story. Even then, consideration must be given to where in the story such information needs to be placed. It is wrong to assume that police, firefighters or soldiers are men. Police is shorter than policemen, anyway. Do not describe a woman’s dress, hairstyle or general appearance where you would not describe a man’s. Where possible use the same term for men and women, e.g., mayor or poet, not mayoress or poetess. Use “chairman” or “chairwoman,” not chair; “spokesman” or “spokeswoman,” not “spokesperson.”
See also race []
Some words have emotional resonance, or their definitions are highly debatable, or are vague, so should be used with special care in the interests of neutrality and accuracy. Bear in mind that the unqualified use of words like "extremist", "guerilla", "insurgent", "militant", "radical", "terrorist", mean different things in different contexts.
One man's "terrorist" can be another man's "freedom fighter". One man's insurgent may be another man's lawful ruler driving out a usurper. Do you brand a guerrilla attack on a bus as terrorist but not the indiscriminate bombing of a village by government forces ?
Try to use more neutral or more specific words that describe what happened factually: "gunman", "shooter", "bomber", "hijacker".
See also "extremist" [] See also 'fundamentalist" [] See also "Islamist" [] See also "jihadi" [] See also 'leftist" [] See also liberal [] See also "militant" [] See also "radical" [] See also "terrorist" []
Euphemism, beloved of bureaucrats and social scientists, seeks to cloak reality, sometimes unpleasant, in innocuous words. Shun it. Except in quotation, write “elderly people,” not “senior citizens”; “kill,” not “terminate with extreme prejudice”; “poor,” not “disadvantaged,” “died of cancer,” not “passed away after a fight with cancer.” Severe storms kill people, they do not leave them dead.
Technical and professional jargon has no place on the Reuters file unless you are writing for a narrow, specialist audience and are certain that your story is not likely to interest a broader readership. “Backwardation” might have a place without explanation in a report written uniquely for the gold market on a dull trading day, but if gold hits a high in a time of crisis your story should explain it or convey the meaning in simple terms without using the word itself.
Similarly, stories should not contain jargon associated with a specific profession, least of all our own, e.g., do not use “stringer” in a story about a journalist. Use “freelance journalist.” Think carefully before using quotes laced with jargon. Paraphrase instead.
Journalese stems from importing into the text language used as shorthand in headlines. Some examples to avoid: Aimed at ... amid reports that ... burgeoning (growing) ... cutback (cut) ... dubbed (called) ... due to (when what you mean is because of) ... economic/fiscal woes ... embattled... giant (large) ... global (unless we mean literally that)... hit by fears that... lash out ... longtime foe ... looks set to ... major (big, large) ... massive (big) ... meaningful (real, significant) ... modalities (means, procedures) ... mum (silent)... OKs (approves) ... oil-rich ... parameters (limits) ... proactive … probe (inquiry) ... reportedly … rocked by ... the statement came as ... war-torn.
An entry addressing only the four most frequently made mistakes. If you feel on shaky ground, they are easily drilled on the Internet:
- The misplaced modifier, or so-called dangling participle: “Having disarmed, Ruritania’s allies guaranteed its defence.” The participle “having disarmed” is wrongly attached to the allies rather than Ruritania. “When Ruritania disarmed, its allies guaranteed its defence.”
- Incorrect use of the so-called possessive gerund. Consider:
- Most member countries paid their dues without us asking them.
- Peabody said it expects U.S. coal consumption to continue to be hurt by muted economic growth and more companies switching to natural gas from coal.
- Both are wrong. “Asking” and “switching” are verbal nouns, or gerunds, therefore they also require possessive pronouns. So
- Most member countries paid their dues without our asking them.
- Peabody said it expects U.S. coal consumption to continue to be hurt by muted economic growth and more companies’ switching to natural gas from coal.
- Not using the subjunctive when a “contrary to fact” condition obtains. “Its stock price is watched as if the industry is watching its own electrocardiogramme.” But the industry is not, in fact, watching its own electrocardiogramme, so use the subjunctive: “as if the industry were watching…”
- Who/whom. Who is the subject, whom the object of a verb. As a rough guide as to which word to use, substitute “he” or “him” for the “who” or “whom” and see which makes sense. Also: He asked to speak to whoever was in charge. The object of the preposition is the entire clause, so the pronoun is decided by its role in that clause: here, it is the subject, hence “whoever.”
long words and clumsy titles
Avoid unnecessarily long words and clumsy strings of names and titles. Foreign Minister Amr Moussa is fine. Under-Secretary for Military Procurement Major-General Abdul Karim al-Razzak is not. Split up such names and titles; either the Under-Secretary for Military Procurement, Major-General Abdul Karim al-Razzak, or Major-General Abdul Karim al-Razzak, under-secretary for military procurement. People who are not well-known do not necessarily need to be named in the lede where a title will suffice. Here are some long words commonly and unnecessarily used when there is an acceptable shorter and simpler version:
- additional - more
- alternative - other
- approximately - about
- attempt - try
- confrontation - clash, dispute
- construct - build
- cutback - cut
- demonstrate - show
- dispatch - send
- discover - find
- escalation - rise, increase
- establish - set up
- extinguish - put out
- facility - plant, base etc.
- finalise - complete, finish
- following - after
- large-scale - big
- manufacture - make
- modalities - means
- negotiations - talks
- numerous - many
- participate - take part
- permit - let
- requirements - needs
- sufficient - enough
- target (verb) - aim at
Avoid long-dead (“full speed ahead”) or mixed metaphors, e.g., “The Egyptian swimmers walked away with the championships,” and metaphors whose literal sense is absurd, e.g., “a growing bottleneck,” which would solve rather than aggravate a problem. Think twice before using a metaphor drawn from sport. They are often particular to a single sport or culture and are difficult to translate. Not everyone knows what you mean by “bowling a googly,” a “full court press” or “standing up to the plate.” Avoid military metaphors.
Misplaced phrases in a sentence can make it absurd, even libellous, e.g. "The magazine ran an article about adultery by the Archbishop of Canterbury", when what was meant was "The magazine ran an article by the Archbishop of Canterbury about adultery".
Phrases that start and end with a preposition are usually verbose. Avoid expressions like: in order to ... in accordance with ... at this moment ... in respect to ... in receipt of ... with a view to … in connection with ... in the wake of … apprehension as to the outcome.
Avoid excessive repetition of words and of stereotyped descriptions of people or things, but do not overdo the search for variations. If you are writing about Myanmar call it Myanmar and not “the Southeast Asian country.” It is better to repeat the United Nations than to avoid repetition by calling it “the world body.” It is better to repeat the word “base” than call it a “facility.”
Do not retain the present indicative in reported speech. Change “is” to “was,” “are” to “were,” “will” and “shall” to “would,” “has” and “have” to “had.” Thus it is “He said it was ...,” not, “h\He said it is ...”
In news agency style, there is an exception in lead paragraphs that have the source at the end instead of the beginning of a sentence, where to avoid the present indicative would lead to lack of clarity or smack of pedantry. For example, it is acceptable to write in a lead paragraph: “Giant Oil Corp will order three supertankers from the Pusan shipyard in Korea next month, the company said.” If the source were at the beginning, we would write: “Giant Oil Corp said it would order three supertankers from the Pusan shipyard ... ”
Spin can be insidious and subliminal, conveyed in words and phrases that trip off the tongue or flow easily onto the page but disguise an agenda. Operation Iraqi Freedom was the name the United States gave to the military campaign in 2003 that it said was designed to liberate Iraq. We wrote that the United States invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Verbs bring action and life to a story, but the wrong verb can indicate bias on our part. The verb “to say” is usually the best, neutral choice in reporting a speech or statement.
“Alleged,” “claimed” or “maintained” could imply that Reuters does not believe a statement and “noted,” “pointed out,” “recalled” or “emphasised” suggest that we do. Use “announced” with care. Only competent authorities have the right to make announcements.
Except in election coverage, avoid “concede,” which implies an admission of guilt or previous error. Prefer “said.” Do not write “refute” (which means disprove) when you mean “deny” or “reject.”
Other potentially partisan verbs to avoid include admitted, asserted, affirmed, contended, stressed, suggested.
“Come,” “leave” and “give” are verbs too often misused in flabby phrases. Go for positive construction. Avoid limp phrases like. “The demands came when...,” “The fire left six people dead...,” or, “The strike left commuters angry...” Demands do not come; people make them. Fires do not leave people dead, they kill them. Strikes anger commuters, not leave them angry.
Also avoid “continued” (or worse, “ongoing”), especially in the lead paragraph. The word gives the impression of monotonous action. “That said” is self-evident and the lamest of transitions. Finally, there is always a better verb than “to get.”
World Trade Organization. Based in Geneva and launched in 1995 to supervise existing international trade accords and provide a forum to negotiate agreements and adjudicate in disputes.
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Formerly World Wrestling Federation.
The new official name for the World Wide Fund for Nature. Explain somewhere in the story.
Category: The Reuters General Style Guide