A-Z guide to Reuters sports style


Achilles - as

  • Achilles' – Cap A and apostrophe, as in Achilles' tendon.
  • ahead of – Use before.
  • All England – No hyphen. The home of Wimbledon tennis is the All England Club. One of badminton’s top events is the All England championships.
  • all-rounder – Hyphenated.
  • Alpine – Capital A, e.g. Alpine skiing.
  • American Usage – Some of the main differences between British and American usage in sport:

All Star – Adjective. Game of top players in their field. Also player picked for such a game e.g. The All Star quarterback …

assist – Statistical category used in ice hockey, basketball etc referring to the final pass to someone who scores a goal/makes a basket. Does not just mean help …

hockey – Use ice hockey for the sport on ice and hockey on grass.

game – Never match. Road games or on the road, not away games.

field – Baseball and American football are played on fields not pitches.

inning – Inning singular, innings plural unlike cricket where both singular and plural are innings.

MVP – Most valuable player i.e. player of the match or season, spelt out at first reference, then abbreviated.

officials – Baseball has umpires. NBA, NHL, NFL use referees.

overtime – Games played beyond regulation time are in overtime, not extra time.

rookie – Noun and adjective meaning new or first year player e.g. “in his rookie season…”

spelling – In American sports use American spelling e.g. center, maneuver, defense, offense, ballclub, postseason, preseason, lineman, line up, halfback, doubleheader.

sports – Used in plural. American sports, not American sport.

teams – Take a singular verb e.g. New York is playing San Francisco, the team is on the road. Teams with plural names take plural verbs e.g. The Chicago Bears are in town, Houston leads the division but the Saints play tonight.

  • America’s Cup – The sailing trophy has an apostrophe.
  • appeal – The verb takes the preposition against e.g. Real Madrid appealed against the UEFA ruling.
  • as – Overused, misused and lazy conjunction especially in sports copy and leads to link two developments that may be only loosely connected or occur at different times. The result is clumsy and sometimes meaningless.

e.g. Indian weightlifter Krishnan Madasamy became the first competitor to be stripped of medals for doping at the Commonwealth Games on Saturday as swimmer Ian Thorpe’s historic quest for seven titles failed.

The sentence should be split in two or and used in place of as.

As also implies a continuing action or state so should not be used for a sudden or one-off action. Goals are sudden events in a game of continuing action.

Examples: Champions Arsenal ended their run of four successive defeats in unconvincing fashion on Sunday as an own goal by Aaron Hughes gave them a 1-0 win at Fulham...

would read better as...

Champions Arsenal ended their run of four successive defeats in unconvincing fashion on Sunday, earning a 1-0 win at Fulham with an Aaron Hughes own goal ...

backhand - break point

  • backhand – One word in tennis and badminton).
  • batter – Batsman in baseball.
  • biannual, biennial tournaments – Better to write twice yearly, every two years.
  • bogey – One over par in golf, note spelling. Can be used as a verb e.g. Woods bogeyed the seventh…
  • boss – While this word may have pejorative or slang connotations outside sport it is acceptable in sports copy as an alternative to manager/coach to avoid repetition.
  • Bosnia – Not Bosnia Herzegovina.
  • bounce back – A cliché to be avoided in sports copy.
  • boy/girl – Anyone over 18 is a man or woman.
  • break point – Two words in tennis.

caddie - crowd

  • caddie – spelt with ie in golf. To caddie as a verb.
  • cancel – Matches or races that have been called off but are to be held at a later date are postponed. Those that are scrapped completely are cancelled. If an event is postponed we should give the new date if available.
  • capitals in sports titles – Capitals are used where the title is attributed directly to a named individual e.g. “FIFA President Sepp Blatter said …” but not when the title only is used e.g. “The president said…” or when using the title in general e.g. “FIFA presidents have always been drawn from South America or Europe …”
  • Champions League – Capital C and L, no apostrophe.
  • chequered flag – Not checkered flag.
  • claycourt – One word as an adjective e.g. The Barcelona claycourt tournament … but two words as an adjective and noun e.g. The slow clay courts at the Foro Italico …
  • cliché – Sports reporting is vulnerable to cliché, often prompted by less-than-articulate sports figures themselves. The “sick as a parrot” and “over the moon” variety is easily spotted but tired, old and often meaningless phrases sometimes creep into copy almost unnoticed. The main culprits are listed alphabetically in this guide. Particular attention should be paid to overused sporting hyperbole on the lines of … “Soccer icon George Best, major star of the legendary Manchester United side who won the crucial, hard fought European Cup final in 1968 against veteran Eusebio’s Benfica side ...

Some to avoid:

crash out

crucial (crucial cup tie)

hard fought

historic win

made history


just (just four minutes from time, just three runs short)

key (key player, key fixture)



star, superstar


  • contractions – Avoid contractions such as couldn’t, didn’t, wasn’t, weren’t, can’t, there’s, it’s in copy except in direct speech. Use the two words: could not, was not, were not, it is etc., unless you are quoting someone.
  • conversions in sport – Sport uses only metric measurements except for American sport and golf where yards and feet are used and sailing where nautical miles are used. In boxing involving U.S. fighters and aimed at a U.S. market conversions into imperial may be added for height, weight etc. otherwise there is no need to convert in brackets. All currencies must show a conversion into dollars at first reference.
  • convince – The verb is transitive and needs an object. You must convince someone. e.g. Andrew Symonds failed to convince selectors he was back to his best … not Andrew Symonds failed to convince on his return from injury. An alternative is to use the adverb e.g. Andrew Symonds batted convincingly...
  • coolly – Ronaldinho coolly tapped the ball home not cooly which is an unskilled oriental labourer according to the OED.
  • crowd – Takes a singular verb.

defeat - dramatic

  • defeat – A team is defeated by another not to it e.g. After Bolton’s 2-0 defeat by Arsenal … not to Arsenal.
  • delight – To delight is a transitive verb and needs and object e.g. Marat Safin delighted Russian fans with a neat chip… not Marat Safin delighted with a chip…
  • different – Different from, not different to.
  • distances – In athletics, swimming etc we express distances as: 400 metres hurdles/400 metres freestyle (metres in plural). Say: the 400-metre pool, 100-metre track etc. Metres is always written out, never abbreviated to m. Kilometres are always abbreviated to km.
  • double fault – Two words in tennis.
  • drop shot – Two words in tennis.
  • disaster/tragedy – Do not use disaster or tragedy for sporting contests because this devalues the word. Losing a football match is not a disaster. A stand falling down and crushing fans is.
  • downhill – One word in Alpine skiing.
  • dramatic – Usually unnecessary. A penalty shootout is by its nature dramatic. Similarly last-minute goals, match points, athletes tumbling on the track.

evening - free kick

  • evening – Do not refer to evening or morning games because these vary round the world. Use the GMT time or say … “later on Thursday, earlier on Monday” etc.
  • extra cover – Two words fielding position in cricket.
  • fast bowler – Two words in cricket. Use only for genuine speedsters. See pace bowler below.
  • fears, hopes – Unattributed hopes and fears are opinions. All fears and hopes need to be sourced e.g. Fears that Manchester United might lose their Premier League title... We need to say who fears as one United fan’s fear might be a Chelsea or Liverpool fan’s hope.
  • feet – Feet, inches and yards are used only in golf and in American sport for U.S. audiences, otherwise use metric measurements without conversions.
  • first slip – Two words in the cricket fielding position.
  • flaunt/Flout – To flaunt is to display ostentatiously to flout is to defy e.g. By flaunting your wealth you flout convention.
  • flyhalf – One word for the rugby position.
  • focused – Not focussed. Overused in sport, especially by sportspeople themselves. Avoid except in quotations. An alternative is concentrated.
  • football – If soccer use soccer at first reference as several other games around the world are known as football. Similarly with other forms of football e.g. American football or NFL, Aussie Rules (ARF).
  • forehand – One word in racket sports.
  • Formula One – Capitalise in motor racing.
  • fractions – Try to use decimals but where fractions are unavoidable they are written 4-1/2, 6-3/4 etc.
  • free kick – Two words.

girl - gully

  • girl/boy – Anyone over 18 is a man or woman.
  • goalkeeper – One word. Keeper may be used without an apostrophe.
  • Grand Prix – In capitals in the title of a race or event e.g. The Monaco Grand Prix … but lower case generally e.g. Michael Schumacher won his first grand prix … The plural is grands prix.
  • grand slam – Lower case tennis and rugby, e.g. The Australian Open, first grand slam event of the year … and … Ireland are aiming for their first grand slam for 11 years …
  • grasscourt – One world as an adjective e.g. The grasscourt tournament at the Queen’s club … but two words as adjective/noun e.g. Wimbledon’s grass courts are famous …
  • group – Teams are often divided into groups in competition. We should refer to these in upper case in copy: Group One, Group Two etc. Similarly Group One races in horse racing.
  • guineas – Horse race: 2,000 Guineas, not 2000 guineas.
  • gully – Without an e in the cricket fielding position.

halftime - ironically

  • halftime – One word.
  • hardcourt – One word as an adjective e.g. The Boston hardcourt tournament …Two words as adjective/noun e.g. The new hard courts were designed for big servers …
  • hat-trick – Hyphenated.
  • hiccup – Not Hicough.
  • honorifics – Do not use titles in sports tories. Don Bradman and Alex Ferguson, not Sir Don and Sir Alex.
  • icon – Banned on the sports file for describing sporting figures. Use only in religious contexts.
  • impress – A transitive verb that requires and object: Smith impressed slectors, not Smith impressed during his two-hour innings. The passive, was impressive, is permissible but weaker and less informative.
  • Ireland – Not Republic of Ireland or Irish Republic.
  • ironically – Best avoided. What is said or done is rarely ironic, merely coincidental.

jargon - kilometres

  • jargon – See cliché. Avoid.
  • judoka – Adjective used to describe someone who plays judo.
  • just – Often superfluous in sports stories, as in: He has won just one title in 23 years … and Capriati was just 14 when she turned professional. Avoid.
  • key – Overused in sports stories as an adjective e.g. key players, key positions, key issues. Usually superfluous, so avoid.
  • kickoff – One word, no hyphen.
  • kilometres – Use km, no full point, same for singular and plural.

lady - long-off

  • lady – Do not use, except in the title of teams at first reference e.g. Fulham Ladies football. Where organisers use the title “Ladies’ Championship” as at Wimbledon, substitute “women’s championship”.
  • leaderboard – Mostly used in golf, one word.
  • leave – Using the verb to leave instead of a more accurate and active verb is a sloppy device that frequently creeps in. In sports copy, the device which slows down the story and often means nothing e.g. Two clumsy tackles LEFT Robben suffering from torn ligaments ... should read ... Robben suffered torn ligaments after two clumsy tackles … And. ... Three defeats in a row LEFT Henman wondering whether he should retire ... translates as ... After three successive defeats Henman wondered whether he should retire ....
  • left-arm spinner – Slow bowler in cricket, note hyphen.
  • legend/Legendary – Confine to for real legends e.g. Greek myths, Robin Hood. No sports person is a legend.
  • leg slip – Fielding position in cricket. Two words.
  • leg-spinner – Bowler in cricket.
  • Ligue 1 – French first division in soccer.
  • like/such as – Often we mean such as when we say like. Like means similar to; such as is used when we are offering examples, e.g. … Players such as Deco and Ricardo Carvalho have increased in value following Portugal’s success … not players like Deco and Ricardo Carvalho … but … Bowlers like Andrew Flintoff, who put a lot of pressure on their leading leg, are at particular risk of a stress fracture … means bowlers with a similar action to Flintoff.
  • lineup – One word.
  • lineout – One word in rugby.
  • long-off, long-on – Cricket fielding positions, note hyphen.

major - morning

  • major – Avoid as an adjective such as major signing, played a major role, major importance etc. These are hackneyed phrases. Often the adjective is superfluous or can be substituted by important, expensive, big etc. One exception is golf where the four biggest tournaments are known as the majors.
  • masterful/masterly – Masterly means very skilful, worthy of a master/champion and is the word we most often mean; masterful means imperious, domineering, and is particularly associated with the hero in cheap romantic fiction: Tiger Woods put on a masterly display of putting … not a masterful display.
  • Masters Series – Leading tournaments in men’s tennis e.g. Rome Masters Series tournament. Note capitals.
  • match point – Two words in tennis, racket sports.
  • medal – Do not use as a verb. Competitors win medals. They do not medal.
  • metres – Spell out in copy. Say … the 100 metres backstroke … not … the 100m backstroke … Use English spelling, -re not -er. If copy, particularly swimming, mentions several races the word metres can be dropped as understood in later references e.g. … Thorpe won the 100 metres freestyle and qualified from the heats of the 400 backstroke … There is no need to convert to feet or yards except in golf and U.S. sport.
  • mid-on, mid-off, mid-wicket – Cricket fielding positions, note hyphens.
  • morning – Avoid morning, evening, afternoon because these change around the globe. Use later on Monday, earlier on Tuesday etc.

names - only

  • names – Always use first and surnames at first reference in results and copy. Surnames at second reference except for Thai names. In Korea and China the surname comes first.
  • nationalities – Nationalities are written out rather than abbreviated in results and copy, the only exception being U.S. for United States. Use Britain, not United Kingdom or Great Britain. In some sports such as soccer, cricket and badminton and at the Commonwealth Games, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales compete separately. Use The Netherlands, not Holland, and Taiwan not Chinese Taipei. Make a distinction between North and South Korea.
  • news conference – Not press conference as this implies non-print media are excluded.
  • off-spinner – Bowler in cricket, hyphenated.
  • OK – not ok or okay.
  • Olympiad – Use only to mean the period of four years between two Olympic Games.
  • only – Should be placed immediately before the word or phrase it qualifies e.g. … Didier Drogba has been sent off only once in his Premier League career … not … Didier Drogba has only been sent off once … or …Tiger Woods earned only seven billion dollars last year … not … Tiger Woods only earned seven billion dollars ….

pace bowler - quarter final

  • pace bowler – A quick bowler in cricket who may not have the speed of a genuine fast bowler.
  • Pari-mutuel – the French tote (not Paris-mutuel).
  • player of the year – Lower case. Many of these awarded by dozens of different bodies. Storify only the most prestigious and say who is offering the accolade, e.g. FIFA world player of the year Ronaldinho.
  • playoff – One word.
  • postpone – Matches or races that have been called off but are to be held at a later date are postponed. Those that are scrapped completely are cancelled. If an event is postponed we should give the new date if available.
  • Portuguese players – In soccer Portuguese and Brazilian players, like Spanish players, may be known by several names, one name or a nickname and this we use in copy e.g. Pele, Joao Pinto, Edu.
  • practice/practise – Practise is the verb, practice the noun e.g. … Maria Sharapova practised with Svetlana Kuznetsova … but … Sharapova hurt her knee in practice for the French Open …
  • Premier League – The English premier league has an upper case P and L.
  • Primera Liga – Spanish first division in soccer.
  • prize money – Two words.
  • quarter-final – Hyphenated.

rack - rugby positions

  • rack/wrack – Nerve racking, racked with pain. Wrack is used only for seaweed.
  • racket – Not racquet.
  • record – Not new record which is tautological because any record time, distance etc must be new e.g. Asafa Powell set a world 100 metres record … not … Asafa Powell set a new world record …
  • reigning – Redundant. Reigning champions are simply champions.
  • repeat/repetition – The noun is repetition, the verb is to repeat e.g. … Carlos Moya tried to avoid a repetition of the tiebreak blunder … not … tried to avoid a repeat …
  • repechage – Contest between runners-up usually for a place in the final, especially rowing.
  • rugby positions – Run two words together e.g. flyhalf, scrumhalf, fullback, as opposed to soccer positions which are expressed as separate words. Also tighthead prop, inside centre, loosehead prop, hooker.

saint - stretcher

  • saint – Use St without full point.
  • seasons – Avoid using seasons because this can cause confusion between the northern and southern hemispheres. A European summer transfer could be described as a close-season transfer, for example, or use the month.
  • see – Avoid giving inanimate objects the power of sight in sports copy.

Here are some examples: The game saw Steve McClaren take charge of England for the first time .... The bad-tempered match, which saw two red cards ... The club’s progress in that time has seen them climb to seventh in the table ...

Better to say ... The game was Steve McClaren’s first as England coach. ... The club have climbed in that time to seventh ...

The device is overused in stories applied to people ... Lionel Messi saw his shot go wide ... Shane Bond pitched the ball up but saw Hussey flick it past first slip to the boundary …

It would be tighter to say … Lionel Messi shot wide ... Shane Bond pitched the ball up but Hussey flicked it past first slip ...

  • semi-final – Hyphenated.
  • Serie A – Italian first division soccer, capitalise.
  • set point – Two words in tennis.
  • set to – Looks set to is a phrase never used naturally. Often you can say will and source it or could, may, might, is preparing etc.
  • Sir – We do not use titles in sports, just plain Alex Ferguson, Don Bradman, Bobby Charlton.
  • ski/sky – Use the verb to ski for winter sports and to sky for a ball hit high (cricket, baseball etc) … Kostelic skied the Sestriere course … but … Gilchrist skyed the ball to long leg …
  • soccer positions – Written as two words e.g. wing back, centre half, full back, centre forward except for goalkeeper.
  • Spanish names – In soccer, Spanish and South American players may be known by their full names, one name or a nickname. Use this name we use in stories.
  • sponsors – Writers should not become billboards for a profusion of sponsors, though journalists must note that it is legitimate to use sponsor names within strict criteria. Usage should be related to the way media in general use sponsors’ names.

Sponsors are becoming increasingly aggressive and are more likely to refuse to accredit journalists to events where the sponsor’s name is not used. On some occasions it may be counter-productive to refuse to comply with this, but on principle it should be resisted as far as possible.


team names: Sponsors names should not be used in team names when the sponsorship may change on a periodic basis e.g.Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg (correct usage SV Salzburg).Exceptions should be made for teams which began as works sides e.g. Bayer Leverkusen or for teams where sponsorship provides the only means of identity (some cycling teams).

events: Most sporting events have a sponsorship name attached. Where it is clear what the event is without the name of the sponsor, we should drop it e.g. world championships, the FA Cup etc. Where we would have to invent a name to describe the event, we should go along with the sponsor name e.g. Johnnie Walter championship (golf) Florida.

rankings and statistics: sponsors’ names should be used only where it is necessary to distinguish them as a legitimate source e.g. Reuters golf rankings. FIFA world soccer rankings is a source in itself and would not need to have a sponsor’s name. In soccer, avoid sponsors’ names on domestic leagues that can all be described by their category e.g. English Premier League.

  • square leg – Fielding position in cricket, two words, but hyphenated as as adjective as in the square-leg umpire.
  • stadiums – Not stadia.
  • star/superstar – Do not use for sports personalities.
  • straight – Use British English three successive wins, rather than American three straight wins.
  • stretcher – Do not use as a verb: Gary Neville was carried off, not stretchered off.

team mate - Tri-nations

  • team mate – Two words.
  • teams – Teams and clubs are used as plural nouns, except in American sport, in headlines: Soccer-Arsenal buy Spanish keeper; Cricket-Sri Lanka collapse under England seam onslaught; and in copy: Manchester United said they would not rush into the transfer market in January.
  • test – Cricket and rugby union test matches, lower case t.
  • third man – Fielding position in cricket is two words.
  • tiebreak – one word in tennis.
  • titles of sports events – Use lower case for: sport names, junior, men’s, women’s, championship, tournament, meeting, match, test, race, game etc. Use upper case for title of the event e.g. French Open tennis championships, Dutch Open golf tournament. Use singular championship when one title is at stake and plural championships for more than one. E.g. U.S. Open tennis championships (men’s, women’s, doubles). U.S. Open golf championship (one winner). The name of the sport should precede the word championship, tournament etc.
  • topspin – One word in tennis.
  • Tri-nations – Southern hemisphere international rugby union competition. Upper case T, hyphen, lower case n.

UEFA - yards

  • UEFA – Union of European Football Associations, the governing body of European soccer. Use always in capitals and as singular noun e.g. UEFA said it would …
  • v – We use v not versus or vs to describe a fixture.
  • veteran – Overused in sports copy. Avoid as adjective or noun. Be more precise, giving the age of competitor or saying how many tournaments he or she has contested.
  • West Indies – Not The West Indies (Windies may be used in headlines only).
  • wicketkeeper – One word.
  • wicketkeeper-batsman – Hyphenated. A cricketer who is a recognised batsman but also fulfils a wicketkeeping role when his side is fielding.
  • winter – Avoid using seasons as they are different north and south of the equator. Give the month instead.
  • wrack/rack – Use wrack only for seaweed. The injured Owen was racked with pain.
  • yards – Use metres except in golf and American sports.

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