baby boomer

Lowercase, no hyphen. But baby-boom generation for those born between 1946 and 1964.


A cliche. Avoid. It is more effective to describe what happened and why.

backup, back up

Backup is a noun and adjective. Back up (two words) is a verb.


See backwardation.


Property or money given as surety that a person released from custody will return at an appointed time. Another legal meaning is to deliver possession of goods for storage, hire, or other special purpose, without transfer of ownership.

balance of payments

In economics, the difference between a nation's total payments to foreign countries, including movements of capital for investment and debt repayment as well as payments for goods and services, and its total receipts from all sources from foreign countries over a period of time. A deficit on the current account of the balance of payments (payments and receipts for imports and exports) needs to be balanced or funded by a surplus on the capital account. The indicator is more important for countries with fixed foreign exchange rate systems where the central bank has to fund a current account deficit or absorb a surplus to balance supply and demand for the nation's currency and maintain the fixed exchange rate.

balance sheet

A listing of assets, liabilities and net worth showing the financial position of a business at a specific time. Not to be confused with an earnings statement or profit and loss account which shows the surplus or deficit of revenue over expenditure over a period of time. (See Reuters Financial Glossary).

balk, baulk

Use balk, not baulk. As a verb without an object, meaning to stop or refuse to do something. As a noun, a check or hindrance; defeat; disappointment.


Bands or other musical groups take verbs that follow their names grammatically, though usually take the plural: the Beatles are… etc


A company becomes formally bankrupt or insolvent when a court rules that it is unable to meet its debts. The ruling maybe sought either by the company concerned (voluntary bankruptcy) or by creditors. In many countries, courts then appoint trustees, or administrators, sometimes known as receivers to manage and realise the company's debts on behalf of creditors.

Terms like bankruptcy, insolvency and liquidation have different legal meanings in different countries, so be precise as to what the company or court says. For example, in France the normal form of bankruptcy is "faillite" whereas the term "bankroute" refers to fraudulent bankruptcy. The potential for legal danger if they are confused is obvious. Similarly, in Germany the term "Bankrott" is more serious than a normal liquidation.

In the USA, a company making a "chapter 11" application, seeks protection from its creditors, not the winding up of its business.

Applications under bankruptcy regulations may be technical manoeuvers only and business collapses are often progressive rather than sudden. Over-colorful reporting that implies a business crisis is hopeless may mean the media becomes part of the process, undermining the credit of the company, and may result in legal action against the media . See also the Reuters Financial Glossary bankruptcy.

Bank of China

A commercial bank, not the central bank. The People's Bank of China is the central bank.


With more than 20 separate Baptist church groups in the United States and elsewhere, it is incorrect to refer to the Baptist Church as a singular entity. The correct reference would be to Baptist Churches or to the specific Baptist group involved, e.g., the Southern Baptist Convention.


Volume measurement of liquid in the petroleum industry, equal to 42 U.S. gallons, 35 Imperial gallons or about 0.136 tonnes, depending on specific gravity. Barrels per day (bpd) is a measure of the flow of crude oil production from a field or producing company or a country.


Adds nothing to the meaning or strength of writing. Expunge.

basis point

See basis point.

bazaar, bizarre

A bazaar is a fair or market. Bizarre is an adjective that means unusual.

bear market

A period of generally declining stock prices over a prolonged period, often defined as a 20 percent or larger fall in benchmark stock indexes such as the Standard & Poor's 500.


Before Christ. Follows the year: 55 B.C.

beg the question

Since this expression is mostly misused, it is probably best to avoid unless you are sure of its meaning. It does not mean that a question begs to be asked. It means that what needs to be proved is being assumed, and is a form of circular reasoning or logical fallacy.

believes, believed

Beliefs must be sourced. Do not write, “John Smith was believed to have been killed in an ambush.” Say who believes and why.


Used as a metaphor to mean a person or thing that assumes leadership or shows the existence of a trend. Literally, historically a wether or other male sheep that leads the flock usually wearing a bell. Not “bellweather.”


Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. If Benelux is used, explain on first reference that it is an inclusive word for these three nations.


“Bereft” comes from bereave and means robbed of or deprived. If you are bereft of friends, they have all gone away. Not applicable if you never had any friends.

beside, besides

“Beside” is near or by the side of. “Besides” is in addition to.

best-seller; best-selling


betting odds

Use figures and a hyphen: The odds were 5-4. But remember that odds, chances and probability are not expressed the same way. Odds are ratios of a player’s chances of losing to his or her chances of winning. If a player owns 1 of 4 tickets, the probability of winning is 1 in 4 or 25 percent, but the odds are 3 to 1 because there are 3 chances of losing and only 1 chance of winning. To convert odds to probability, take the player’s chance of winning, use it as the numerator and divide by the total number of chances, both winning and losing. For example, if the odds are 4 to 1, the probability equals 1 / (1 + 4) = 1/5 or 20 percent. Odds of 1 to 1 (50 percent) are called “evens,” and a payout of 1 to 1 is called “even money.”

between, among

“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. “It was hard to decide between a touring holiday in France, Belgium and Spain or in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.” “It was hard to decide among a holiday in France, in Belgium or in Spain.”

biannual, biennial

It’s clearer to write “twice-yearly” instead of “biannual,” and “every two years” rather than “biennial.”

big brother, Big Brother

One's older brother is a big brother. Big Brother (capitalized) refers to the watchful eye of big government, from George Orwell's novel "1984."

Bible, biblical

"Bible", with an initial capital, is usually the collection of sacred writings of the Christian religion, comprising the Old and New Testaments, but sometimes used with lower case as "bible" to mean the sacred writings of any religion or the authoritative book on any subject. As an adjective, "biblical" can mean evocative of or suggesting an event or time of epic proportions but this usage is usually too colloquial.


Noun and verb used with object to mean express (bid farewell), order (bid them depart), or offer a price (bid $25,000 for contract). Technically in financial markets a bid is not the same as an offer. A bid is the price a buyer is willing to pay, whereas the offer is the price the seller is willing to accept. In foreign exchange market jargon, one "pays" or "takes" an offer, and "hits" or "gives" a bid.


Can be abbreviated to “bln” in headlines. Always use figures before million and billion: 2 billion. When reporting a range of figures, use the style 1.2 billion to 1.4 billion, not 1.2-1.4 billion. See also billions.

bird flu

Bird flu (two words) is acceptable for avian influenza, and viruses that mostly infect poultry and other birds. Several types are known to infect humans and the deadliest form so far appears to be H5N1. Other strains that have infected people include H7N9, H9N2 and H6N1. The viruses mainly infect people who have direct contact with sick birds but human-to-human transmission occasionally occurs.

biweekly, bimonthly, semimonthly

Avoid. Use “every other week” or “twice a week.” Write “every other month” for bimonthly and “twice a month” for semimonthly.

bin Laden

Osama bin Laden. Use bin Laden on second reference. Founded al-Qaeda militant group; killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2011.


See BIS.


A digital currency created and exchanged independent of banks or governments. Use bitcoin, or bitcoins, with lowercase first letter, like other currencies when referring to the use of the digital currency or transactions. Capitalize first letter when referring to the Bitcoin Foundation which promotes bitcoin use.

Most media have now settled on the use of bitcoin (no first letter capital) for all uses including the concept and the currency.


Capitalize the “B” in “Black” when describing people, culture, communities and institutions. See race.

black box

Popular term for aircraft recording equipment. Although the devices are not black, but in fact usually an orange colour, the term can be used if it is made clear that the reference is to a plane’s flight recorder or flight-deck voice recorder.

blackout, brownout

A blackout (one word) is a total power failure over a large area or the concealing of lights that might be visible to enemy. A brownout is a partial electricity failure. As a medical term, a blackout is a loss of consciousness.


Treat with caution. In accidents, apportioning blame can cause legal problems. Strong sourcing is required here.

bloc, block

A bloc is a group of people united for a particular purpose. Not to be confused with block or a solid mass of wood, stone or other materials.


A cliche. Use sparingly, unless you have figures to support profit, return on investment, etc.


A website usually containing personal news, commentary, memoirs, photos, video or other material often in an informal style and sometimes in reverse chronological order. As a verb, to add entries or update to the site.

blond, blonde

“Blond” for a man, “blonde” for a woman. But the adjective is always “blond.” Avoid "blonde" as a noun.


Cliche. Use “plan” or “proposal.”

Boko Haram

A militant Islamist group in northern Nigeria.


Use Mumbai unless it is a proper name, e.g., the Bombay Stock Exchange.

book titles, movie titles, song titles

Use quotation marks around the title and capitalize the main words in the title including a definite or indefinite article if it is the first word of the title. Do the same for computer game titles, movie titles, opera titles, play titles, poem titles, album and song titles, radio and television program titles, and works of art. For example, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," "Gone With the Wind," the NBC-TV "Today" program, Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa", Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro".


See bond.

book titles

Capitalize every word in the title apart from conjunctions, articles, particles and short prepositions, e.g., “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”


“Both sides agreed” is a tautology, as is, “They both went to the same play.” Write, “They went to the same play.”


Bosnia-Herzegovina - The country has been divided into a Bosnian Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation since 1995. Both have wide autonomy but share a common presidency, parliament and government. In datelines: SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The people are Bosnians.


This word has pejorative or slang connotations and should not be used in serious contexts, e.g., “A presidential aide said his boss...” “Mafia bosses” would be permissible and the word can be used in an informal context, e.g., “Bill Smith said he was sick of correcting his boss’s spelling.” It is acceptable in sports stories as an alternative to “manager” or “coach.”

Boxing Day

Boxing Day - A post-Christmas holiday Dec. 26 in British Commonwealth countries. Term came from practice of giving gift boxes to employees and others. Sometimes confused with St. Stephen's Day, the first Christian martyr, celebrated on 26 December in the Western Church and 27 December in the Eastern Church.


Any young male, usually 18 years old or younger.

boycott, embargo

A boycott is the refusal of a group to deal with a person or use a commodity. An embargo is a legal ban on trade.


Bpd (barrels per day) is a measure of the flow of crude oil production from a field or producing company or a country. A barrel is the volume measurement of liquid in the petroleum industry, equal to 42 U.S. gallons, 35 Imperial gallons or about 0.136 tonnes, depending on specific gravity.

brackets, parentheses

In text, Reuters uses parentheses rather than square brackets for interpolated material: “’He (Galsworthy) just didn’t get it,’ the paper reported.” Square brackets are used to set off story links: “Yanukovich, is expected to win popular approval for Crimea to become part of Russia. [ID:nL6N0MB15L]” RICs take another style of bracket: < CMIG4.SA>. If an entire sentence is in parentheses, put the full stop (period) inside the closing bracket: “(The story had been reported earlier.)” If a sentence has such a section at the end, the full stop goes outside the closing bracket: “(the story had been reported earlier).”



brand names

Use a generic equivalent unless the brand name is important to the story.

breach, breech, breeches

Breach is a break, breech is the lower part. A breach in the wall, but a breech birth. And breeches are trousers.


Brent blend is an international benchmark crude oil from the British North Sea against which other crude oils are priced.


Acronym for the leading emerging market economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.


Great Britain or Britain comprises England, Scotland and Wales. Compare the United Kingdom which comprises Britain plus Northern Ireland. Use Britain unless the Irish context is important. Do not use England as a synonym for Britain or the United Kingdom. The adjective is British and a British person can be a Briton.

British Commonwealth or Commonwealth

A voluntary association of independent nations and dependent territories linked by historical ties, as parts of the former British Empire, and cooperating on matters of mutual concern, especially regarding economics and trade. Some Commonwealth countries also recognize the British monarch as head of their state. The members are: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Canada, Cyprus, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, Vanuatu and Zambia. (Zimbabwe withdrew in 2003.)

British English spelling

Reuters uses both British English spelling style and American English spelling depending on the source of the story and the media clients needs. For British English spelling the reference is the Oxford English dictionary and for American English spelling the reference is Merriam-Webster.

British Isles

A geographical, not political, term. They comprise the United Kingdom, islands under the British Crown such as the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland.

British thermal unit (Btu)

The amount of heat required to increase the temperature of a pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. Btu (the same for singular and plural) is acceptable on second reference. In commodity markets, natural gas is priced in Btu.


Stands for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a progressive neurological disease that afflicts cattle; also known as “mad cow disease,” (acceptable on first reference; elaborate if appropriate).” The disorder caused in humans by eating meat from diseased cattle is called “variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.” 

bull market

A period of generally rising stock prices over a prolonged period, generally defined as a 20 percent or larger increase in broad stock indexes such as the Standard & Poor's 500.


An overused adjective. “Burgeoning” means putting forth shoots or beginning to grow rapidly. Otherwise use “growing.”


Legal definitions vary, but usually burglary involves entering a building unlawfully to commit a crime.


Use Myanmar. In copy, refer to “Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.”

Burmese names

An exception to the rule about dropping honourifics on second reference. U means Mr. and Daw means Mrs. When U is followed by a single name, it should be retained, e.g., U Nu.

burka, burqa, chador, hijab

See entry on Muslim dress.


A unit of measurement for dry goods like grains equal to 4 pecks or 32 dry quarts. The metric equivalent is approximately 35.2 liters.


Overused as a transition and often gratuitous.


The digital basis for quantifying the amount of storage in computers and mobile devices. A byte consists of characters known as bits. For instance, a kilobyte translates into 1,024 bytes under the binary method and 1,000 bytes in decimal terms. The disk storage on most devices is determined under the decimal system, which defines a megabyte as 1,000 kilobytes (or 1 million bytes), a gigabyte as 1,000 megabytes (or 1 billion bytes) and a terabyte as 1,000 gigabytes (or 1 trillion bytes). Abbreviate GB for gigabyte, KB for kilobyte, MB for megabyte and TB for terabyte.

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