Not Sahara Desert – sahara means desert in Arabic.


Countries of the arid area of sub-Saharan Africa including Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan.


Use St. with full point.


A strict Sunni Muslim who attempts to live by the example of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed and his earliest followers. Salafists include peaceful, politically inactive Muslims who focus on living according to religious precepts, political activists who seek the implementation of Sharia law, and militants who advocate violence to establish states they might regard as representing true Islam. Modern Salafist thought originates from the teachings of a 18th century preacher whose doctrine, also widely known as Wahhabism, effectively became the official Muslim school of Saudi Arabia.


Avoid sanction as a verb. It has conflicting meanings, to approve and to punish.


Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. A flu-like and potentially fatal viral disease. Use SARS at first reference and spell out the full name lower in the story.

savings and loans associations (U.S.)

Not banks. Use associations on second reference.


This comprises Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The Nordic countries are these three plus Finland and Iceland. Because of the danger of confusion, list the countries even if you use Nordic or Scandinavian in a lead for the sake of brevity.

skeptic, sceptic

American English spelling is skeptic; British English often uses sceptic. A person who habitually doubts the authenticity of accepted beliefs.


Use the noun with caution and prefer “plan” or “initiative." The noun has a neutral meaning in British English but can be pejorative in American English.

Scots, Scottish, Scotch

A native of Scotland is a Scot. The people are the Scots. Scotch is a whisky or a brand of transparent packing tape. Be particularly careful with names beginning Mac. They could be MacLaren, Maclaren, McClaren. Check and check again.


See SDRs.


Members of the U.S. Navy's special operations force, the acronym standing for SEa, Air, and Land. Always capitalize.


Be careful in writing of summer and winter, spring and autumn (fall), since the seasons are reversed north and south of the equator. Seasons are not capitalised unless part of the formal name of an event. Be specific about when something happened rather than use the season. e.g., The transport strike last August ... rather than ... The transport strike last summer.

Secret Service

In the United States, a federal agency administered by the Department of Homeland Security. The Secret Service Uniformed Division protects the president’s residence and offices and embassies in Washington.


"Industry" is better.

Security Council

The 15-member United Nations Security Council in New York is the body that takes many of the decisions on U.N. action around the world, often through numbered resolutions, e.g., Resolution 649. It consists of five permanent members with the power of veto over any resolution – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. There are also 10 nonpermanent members of the Security Council, made up of other U.N. countries that serve in rotation, representing different areas of the world. The Security Council presidency rotates monthly, by English alphabetical listing of its member states.

The U.N. Security Council becomes the council (lowercase) at second reference.

see, saw

Inanimate objects do not have the power of sight. Do not write, "The game saw several violent incidents" or "the club’s progress has seen them climb to seventh in the table." The device is less absurd but similarly lazy when overused to apply to people, e.g., Bill McGreer saw his shot go wide.


A self-portrait photo generally taken with a camera-equipped phone or webcam. A photo is most commonly called a selfie when shared over a social network.


Prefer twice-yearly or twice a year. A synonym for biannual. Do not confuse it with biennial, which means once every two years.


sell-off, not selloff




Jews of Spanish or Portuguese descent as opposed to Ashkenazim who are of central and eastern European origin.

Sept. 11

The date can stand alone without reference to the Twin Towers or the year 2001, as can the alternative reference 9/11.

sex change

Avoid. Use transition to describe the process of transitioning from male to female or female to male. Use the terms gender confirmation surgery or sex reassignment surgery to describe medical procedures that are part of the transition process. Avoid using the terms “post-op” and “pre-op.” One can transition from one sex to the other without having such surgery.

sexist language

Do not use language that perpetuates stereotypes of women. Sexist references should be avoided. Do not assume police, firefighters or soldiers are men. Do not refer to a woman’s looks, hairstyle or clothing unless the details are relevant to the story and similar remarks would be made about men. Where possible use the same term for men and women, e.g., actor, comedian, poet; not actress, comedienne, poetess. Use chairman, chairwoman not chair (except for Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who requested it); spokesman, spokeswoman not spokesperson.

sexual harassment, sexual misconduct

These are broad terms that cover a variety of behaviour. Be as specific as possible in stories - groping, unwanted kissing, physical abuse or assault. The more general term sexual misconduct may be safer where the evidence is unclear. Allegations should be well -documented and corroborated, including an attempt to get comment from accused individuals or their representatives.

sexual preference

Avoid. Use sexual orientation. Also, when talking about sexual orientation, transgender is not an orientation and should not be included. See transgender.


Islamic religious law (note lowercase s).


Not sheik or shaikh. A courtesy title in Saudi Arabia but avoid in this context. The real sheikhs there are religious figures and sheikh should be used at first reference. Elsewhere in the Gulf, it applies to members of ruling families as well as religious figures and should be used at first reference.


Senior officials from G7/G8 countries who meet three or four times before each summit to agree topics to be discussed and to draft the final communiqué. Named after the Himalayan people renowned for their mountaineering ability who are often employed as guides on expeditions. Best avoided as jargon or explained if you need to use it.


Use Shi’ite unless in a direct quote.

ship tonnage

See tonnage.

ship names

Do not use HMS or USS to designate British or American warships if the nationality of the ship is already clear. Write the British frigate Battleaxe not the British frigate HMS Battleaxe. But in datelines write, for instance, ABOARD HMS BATTLEAXE. Routinely check the names of ships in Jane’s Fighting Ships, Lloyd’s Register or the weekly Lloyd’s Shipping Index. Do not put quotation marks round the names of ships. Always use neuter pronouns.

short ton

See ton, tonne.

Sierra Nevada

Not Sierra Nevada mountains (tautologous).


Do not use to mean because.

single out

By definition, this phrase should be used only for single examples. Do not write, e.g., He singled out Britain, France and Italy for blame.


Jargon. Avoid if possible.


Use only of fishing vessels. Otherwise captain.


Slang. Prefer said.


Avoid slang not be readily understood outside the English speaking world or your own country. It creates problems for translators. If a vivid quote contains slang, explain it in brackets or give a paraphrased version, e.g., “He’s in the catbird seat (in a favoured position),” or “Saying Smith was in a favoured position, he added: ‘He’s in the catbird seat.’”


An advanced mobile device, such as an iPhone, that can be used to make phone calls, check email, browse the Web and download applications.

so as to

Use "to."


The expression is in lieu of quotations marks; use one or the other: “He was killed by so-called friendly fire” or “He was killed by ‘friendly fire.’”

social media

When using social media such as Twitter as a source, Twitter-verified accounts and those that are known to be regularly used by an individual or organization are strongly preferred. If a tweet looks suspicious or out of character, be sure to check its authenticity before reporting. Twitter accounts can be hacked.

As with all reporting, it is important that we not serve as a megaphone to proliferate baseless allegations and claims. If an official tweets something that is obviously wrong and unsubstantiated, first consider whether it is newsworthy before reporting it. To be clear, we have no requirement to be "of record." If you decide a tweet is newsworthy, then be sure to supply context immediately, making it clear that the person did not offer any evidence for the assertion. For instance, the headline of the story can take the form “John Smith, citing no evidence, says xxxx.”

If the tweet is important enough to be snapped, we can send a follow-up snap to say explicitly that the person did not provide any evidence in the tweet. Always include context and balance in the story, such as evidence that contradicts the assertion. If a controversy stirred up on social media appears aimed at diverting attention from other issues we should include that context. We should also disclose if Reuters is unable to verify the information in a tweet. Finally, include the person’s Twitter handle and a link to the post.

software titles

Capitalize but do not use quotation marks around such titles as Windows, but use quotation marks for computer games.


Not Somalian.


Write "about 500 people" rather than "some 500 people." As an indication that a figure is an approximation, "some" is more likely to confuse translators than "about."

song titles

Capitalise every word in the title apart from conjunctions, articles, particles and short prepositions, e.g., "All You Need Is Love", "Son of a Preacher Man."


A modish word when applied to weapons. Most weapon systems are sophisticated. If you just mean modern, say so.

South Asia

Use this for the region that includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Space Age

Began with the launch of Sputnik 1 on Oct. 4, 1957.

Spanish names

See Hispanic names.


Avoid. It rarely adds value. Instead tell us directly what is special about the person or the event.


Where not referenced in this Reuters Style Guide, use the Merriam-Webster dictionary for American English and the Oxford English dictionary for British English.


As a noun, used in corporate news when a company forms a separate company out of a division, a subsidiary or other holdings. The shares of the new company are usually distributed proportionately to the parent company holders.

spokesman, spokeswoman

not spokesperson. If the sex of the person is not known, use representative.

sports events titles

Use lowercase for sport names, junior, men’s, women’s, championship, tournament, meeting, match, test, race, game etc. Use uppercase for an event title, 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, U.S. Open tennis championships (men’s, women’s, doubles). Use the name of the sport before championship, tournament etc.

stadiums, not stadia

stanch, staunch

The verb is stanch though sometimes spelt staunch in British English, meaning to stop the flow of a liquid. The adjective is staunch, meaning firm and dependable.

S&P 500 stock index, Dow Jones Industrial Average

The official name of the benchmark U.S. stock index, supplied by S&P Dow Jones Indices, is S&P 500 (not Standard & Poor's 500) stock index. This index includes about 500 leading U.S. companies and captures about 80 percent available market capitalization.

Similarly the full name is Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) for the popular index tracking the top 30 U.S. stocks on a price weighted basis that trade on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ.

Given SPDJ provides a variety of different equities indices we need to be clear which index we are referring to in all copy.


One word (n. and adj.) to describe a new business venture.

Star Wars

OK for U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative.


Avoid. Do not use in sports reporting.

state names

Abbreviate the names of states in the United States only in datelines. In text, spell out the names in full.


Do not capitalise when describing aircraft or weapons. See military.


A storm is more severe than a gale. The most severe of all storms is a cyclone, in which winds blow spirally inward toward a centre of low barometric pressure. The word "cyclone" is used of such storms in the Indian Ocean and Australia. In the China Seas and West Pacific, such a storm is a typhoon and in the Caribbean and on the east coast of the United States a hurricane. A tornado is a violent whirling windstorm with a very narrow focus, common in the United States. In many countries, meteorological offices give tropical storms the names of men and women in alphabetical sequence. Japan numbers them sequentially, beginning afresh on Jan. 1 each year. To be recognised as a typhoon, a tropical storm has to have winds of 17 metres (56 feet) per second or stronger. The Beaufort scale measures wind speed. The only official storm names come from the National Weather Service, and they are for tropical storms and hurricanes, not winter snowstorms. Names generated by the U.S. Weather Channel must be attributed if used.


Avoid using to merely mean "important". The distinction between strategy ( the overall plan of a military or political or commercial campaign) and tactics (manoeuvring to obtain a short term or minor goal) is worth preserving. A mountain pass, a bridge or even a building is of strategic importance if its possession could affect the conduct of a campaign as a whole. If it is only of local importance its value is tactical. If we describe something as strategic we should explain how it affects the overall goal.

subsequent to, subsequently

Use after or later.

substitute for

The verb "substitute" takes the preposition "for." Do not confuse with "replace with" or "replace by."


Preferable to straight, as in “showed profits for 12 successive quarters.”



Can often be excised, as in “They successfully sailed round the world.”

such as, like

“Such” is used when offering an example. Like means similar to. “Politicians like Brown have short tempers and long memories,” but “Players such as Smith, Patel and Jones are essential in the team.”


Not the Sudan.


Generally prefer "enough."


Stories about suicide should be written with sensitivity and care. Typically, how the person killed himself or herself should not be the lede and stories should not go into detail on the method used. Exceptions can include cases involving unusual means or public disruption. Avoid the phrase “committed suicide” unless you are quoting authorities, as the phrase implies criminality. Instead say died by suicide, killed herself or took his own life.


Use this term only for meetings of heads of state or government. You cannot have a summit of foreign ministers or of trade union leaders. Do not use mini-summit. Two leaders can make a summit.


Be careful with first, largest, biggest, highest and oldest because such descriptions are often challenged. Have a source for them, but be particularly sceptical about news releases claiming records, especially auction records. Avoid similar value judgements. Do not call a company giant, because many companies are giants in one way or another. When does a company become a giant?

Sunni, Shia

Muslims split into two main groups, Sunni and Shia. Sunnis, regarded usually as the orthodox majority, are estimated at about 80 percent of all Muslims and include the vast majority of Arabs. As well as adhering to the Muslim holy book, the Koran, they follow the Prophet Mohammad's rule of life (the Sunna) and traditions based on his sayings. Shias, also known as Shi'ites, give weight mostly to the Koran and the interpretations of their theologians. They hold that the headship of Islam should remain always in the Prophet's own family. Since the direct line was broken not long after the death of Mohammad, Shias believe that there is a Hidden Imam who will reappear one day.

super PAC

In the U.S, a super PAC is a political action committee that may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including from corporations and unions, to campaign independently for candidates for federal office. Its activities must be reported to the FEC but are not otherwise regulated if not coordinated with the candidate or campaign.


Stands for sport-utility vehicle. (Note singular "sport" and hyphen.) OK on first reference.

swath, swathe

Swath is the usual noun and describes a length of space such as a swath or strip of grass or grain cut by a scythe. Metaphorically, one can cut a swath, meaning to scythe through something to make a striking display. As a verb with an object, swathe means to wrap, bind or envelop with some material.

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