the U.s. Federal Aviation Administration. FAA acceptable on second reference.


A word that can mean almost anything. Avoid and be specific if possible, e.g., a base, a factory, a depot.


Abbreviation from the Spanish "Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia" or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, sometimes called FARC-EP from the Spanish "Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo" or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army. A guerrilla movement in Colombia since 1964. Currently the FARC and the Colombian Government are in peace talks in Havana.


Express in Celsius (the same scale as Centigrade) and Fahrenheit, using the scale of the country involved first, with conversion in parentheses. Spell out on first reference, using figures except for zero, abbreviating to C and F subsequently, e.g., 25 Celsius, 80F. Spell out minus for clarity, not -10C. Freezing point in Celsius is 0 degrees, in Fahrenheit 32 degrees. Note that temperatures are not hot or cold but high or low.

farther, farthest

Use “further,” “furthest” except when referring to physical distance.

faze, phase

Faze means to embarrass or disturb: "The worst insults cannot faze him."


The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States, which simultaneously serves as the country's prime federal law enforcement agency. Operating under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI reports to both the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. As with the CIA, FBI is acceptable in all references. Rather than begin a story, The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided.., we may write, FBI agents raided… A legitimate exception for spelling out Federal Bureau of Investigation would be a story that is actually about the institution, for instance a piece on reduced funding or on its role versus state law enforcement. In that case, it need not be spelled out on first reference but later in the story.


The U.S. Federal Communications Commission. FCC acceptable on second reference.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration. U.S. regulatory body for the safety and effectiveness of foods, human and veterinary drugs, medical devices and cosmetics. FDA acceptable on second reference.

fears, hopes

Beware of hopes and fears. Unattributed, they represent opinions. We cannot refer to hopes for a settlement of Middle East problems or fears of another oil price increase without saying who is doing the hoping or fearing. But we can refer, unsourced, to the common hopes and fears of humanity, e.g., “Hopes of reaching the trapped miners rose ...” or, “Fears that a new epidemic of cholera might sweep ...”


Arab or Islamic guerrillas. The singular is “feda’I,” so use “guerrilla” for simplicity’s sake when referring to one person.


Often unnecessary, especially before “countryman” or “countrywoman.”

felony, misdemeanor

In US law, a felony is a serious crime, while a misdemeanor is a minor offense against the law.

fewer, less than

Use “fewer” when referring to numbers of individuals or individual items, “less” for quantities, e.g., “Fewer than 10 rescuers were hurt” but “Less than 1,000 tons of coal was lost.”

fiance, fiancee

“Fiance” is the man, “fiancee” the woman.


Not fiefdom.

fighter jets, war planes

Prefer war planes. A fighter jet is different from bomber etc.


See numbers.


In the US political system, to filibuster means to make a long speech to obstruct the passage of legislation.


A native of the Philippines. Feminine Filipina. Plural Filipinos, Filipinas. The adjective is Philippine.

film titles

They take quotes. Capitalise every word in the title apart from conjunctions, articles, particles and short prepositions: “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”


Use “complete” or “finish.”


Use firm only for business partnerships; use company for publicly quoted corporations--but keep in mind that investment firms with private equity, real estate, hedge funds and other assets can be publicly listed and still be called firms rather than companies because they remain business partnerships.

first lady

Usually reserved for families of heads of state, but acceptable at lower levels such as governor or mayor if that is the local custom. Not an official title and always lowercase.

First World War

Use World War One. Not WWI.

fiscal, monetary, macro-prudential

In economics, tools available to manage economic growth include fiscal policy or the use of government revenue and spending, monetary policy or the use of interest rates and the money supply, while macro-prudential refers to the use of regulation of financial or business activity.

fiscal year

The one-year bookkeeping period or financial year used by a government. It varies from country to country. In the United States it is Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 and is named as the year in which it ends, so the year ending in September 2005 is fiscal 2005. In Japan the year is April 1 to March 31 and is named as the year in which it starts, so the year ending in March 2005 is fiscal 2004. In text write out, e.g., “fiscal 2003/04,” but in alerts and headlines “03/04” may be used for space reasons. Do not shorten to “03/4.”

flaunt, flout

To flaunt is to display ostentatiously, not just display. To flout is to defy. "By flaunting your wealth you flout good taste."

Fleet Street

No longer a useful synonym for the British press.

flight numbers

When scheduled flights come into the news – crashes, hijackings, bomb scares, etc. – give the flight number together with other identification such as type of aircraft, airline, destination and route.


Prefer “after” as a preposition, e.g., “After the crash... ,”not, “Following the crash...”


In most cases, “food” is enough.


See dimensions.

forbear, forebear

Forbear means to abstain or keep oneself in check, a forebear is an ancestor.


Do not write, “Troops were forced to open fire” or, “The company was forced to make staff redundant.” It implies a judgement.

forego, forgo

Forego is to precede, forgo to do without.

foreign language phrases

Use such phrases or quotes only in exceptional cases for instance, where no generally recognized English equivalent exists. They must always be explained, e.g., “Dismissing the libel action, the judge said, ‘De minimis non curat lex” (a Latin phrase meaning ‘The law does not concern itself with very small matters’).”

foreign exchange rates

Use mid-rate in general news stories high + low quote divided by 2. See exchange rates.


A widely used abbreviation for foreign exchange. It can be used in headlines if there are space constraints. Elsewhere, use the full description. Forex is also a club grouping foreign exchange dealers, and each major foreign exchange dealing centre has its own forex club.

former, latter

Avoid these expressions, which force readers to read backward to understand the meaning.


Do not abbreviate in the names of cities or military installations, e.g., Fort Lauderdale, Fort Bragg.


Prefer “two weeks.”


Fortuitous means by chance, not “fortunately.”

foul, fowl

Foul (adj) means offensive, disgusting; foul (noun) is a violation of the rules of a game; a fowl is a bird, especially the larger domestic birds used as food: chickens, ducks, turkeys.

four-wheel drive

Not “4x4” unless it is part of a proper name.

Fourth of July

Or July Fourth for the U.S. holiday.


Acceptable for hydraulic fracturing, a technique to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals.


Write thus: 4-1/2. Where mathematical precision is not essential, write “a quarter,” “a third,” “a half” rather than “25 per cent” “33 per cent,” “50 per cent.” In a lead on an opinion poll, for instance, it is better to write, “Two Germans in three prefer…” than it is to write, “Sixty-nine per cent of Germans prefer…” The precise figure should be given lower in the story. Do not mix decimals and fractions in the same sentence, e.g., do not write that “25 per cent of Germans prefer this, while two-thirds prefer that...” Hyphenate fractions like two-thirds, three-quarters.


The creator, not the monster.

Freddie Mac

Acceptable at first reference, but put the full title, Federal Home Mortgage Corp., later in the story.


Financial Services Authority, the British regulator for most financial services markets, exchanges and firms.


Federal Trade Commission


Hyphenate when used to form compound words, e.g., “full-length,” “full-service.”


Not a synonym for lavish. Fulsome praise is excessive and fawning.


Usually a person or group who believes in the literal truth of a sacred religious text such as the Bible or the Koran. Now more commonly used to describe extreme political and religious views, but the term is vague and emotive so try to avoid and use more specific descriptions of the person or groups beliefs or practices.

future plans

Tautology. “Plans” will do. Excise it from future prospects and future hopes as well.

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