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TMN House Style Guide

abbreviations

Do get periods: Ms., Messrs., ed., Dr. This includes abbreviations for state names like Conn. or Ind. (More on this under state names below.)

abortion

Do not use “pro-life” to refer to someone who is otherwise “anti-abortion,” unless it appears in a direct quote or is a part of a group’s official name. “Pro-life” implies that pro-choice advocates are anti-life. Also avoid “pro-abortion.”

accents

Only use accents when aiding in pronunciation. Please note individual entries for foreign words adopted into English that do not use accents. When in doubt, consider using a different word.

acronyms

Per Merriam-Webster, no periods: USA, UN, UK, NYU, NATO, UNICEF, TV, MC, MP3, PDF, OK, mph, bpm, etc. (Capitalize per Merriam-Webster.)

  • USA: noun (God bless the USA)
  • US: adjective (US Constitution) except in hashtags, where it can be mistaken for the word “us”
  • Academic degrees: if you can’t spell it out for some reason (in quoted text, for example) use AA, AS, BA, BS, MS, MA, MPP, MFA, PhD, EdD, PsyD, MD, JD, MAcc, MSLP, etc.
  • Abbreviations of state names that are acronyms: NY, SC, DC (More on this under “State Names,” below.)

adverbs

Do not hyphenate with adverbs (hotly contested).

affect/effect

Your threats have no effect on me, though I could be affected by your body odor. He affected a limp, to little effect. In general, try to avoid phrases like “effecting change”—they are awkward and imprecise.

ages

Follow the same rules as listed under numbers. Hyphenate when using them as adjectives: “the five-year-old boy,” “the 11-month-old baby,” “the 57-year-old woman;” and as nouns: “The six-year-old was admittedly a little kooky.” Also OK: “I was 18, and my son was two years old.” When speaking vaguely about an era in one’s life, “He was in his mid-40s.” One exception: fortysomething, and all the ones that come before and after.

aka

No periods.

amendments

The word is capitalized when referring to a specific amendment to the US Constitution. Follow the regular rules on numbers. The First Amendment. The Ninth Amendment. The 15th Amendment.

amount, number

Anything that can be counted individually in a one, two, three format should be referred to as a “number” and calls for words like “more” and “fewer.” Items that are measured, rather than counted, are referred to as an “amount,” with the accompanying “more” and “less.” So, “fewer than 35 senators” but “He drank less than a pint of beer.” Lightweight.

Arab

Don’t use “Arab” as a catch-all for everything pertaining to the Middle East and North Africa. Be as specific as possible at all times. Also, please be aware that many factions and cultures within those countries, especially in Africa, do not identify as Arab (Kurds, Palestinians, Copts, Berbers). Look it up if there’s any question.

art

Art movements are generally left in lowercase, with a few exceptions, like Bauhaus.

bible

Lowercase “the” except at the beginning of the sentence. No italics and “biblical” is always lowercase.

bitcoin

Use “Bitcoin,” capitalized, as the proper noun describing the decentralized digital currency system. Use “bitcoin,” lowercase, for the virtual currency itself. The plural is “bitcoins.”

blond/blonde

Blond/e may be used as an adjective or noun. Brunette is a noun only: A brunette has brown hair, not brunette hair. Avoid “brunet” at all costs because, while correct, it looks so darn weird. Say “a brown-haired man” instead, if you can’t think of any other way to put it.

brand names

Brand names are capitalized when being used as a noun (Kleenex, Xerox) but kept lowercase when used as a verb (“I googled her before our blind date.”) But if not in common use as a verb, avoid.

British spelling

We will Americanize spelling wherever practical.

bullets

See lists.

capitalization

Do not use ALL CAPS for emphasis except in unusual situations for style purposes. Generally, use italics instead. Also, generally do not replicate capitalization used in a trademarked proper name, except for style purposes in humor pieces.

cell phone

Two words and don’t you hyphenate that when it’s being used as a modifier!

college course titles

Titles, such as “History of English” should be in quotes and appropriately capitalized, while course identifications, such as History 101, should be written as such. When you’re speaking about general subjects, like “My history class is boring,” they should be lowercased except for language courses (“French”) and others based on proper names.

college degrees

Use bachelor’s, bachelors of arts, master’s, doctorate. A master’s in business administration can be “an MBA” on first reference, and a doctorate for a medical doctor can be “an MD” on first reference, a master’s of fine arts may be “an MFA.” All other secondary degrees can be referred to as “a master’s in philosophy,” “a doctorate in economics,” etc., if they must be specified.

college departments

These are lowercased unless they stem from proper names, like “the Spanish department.” The word “department” is always lowercased.

commas

We use the serial comma (this, that, and the other).

compare to vs. compare with

Generally, “compared to” is the one you want. Use “compared with” only in fanciful purposes.

composition titles

Italicize the names of movies, books, other magazines, newspapers, albums, and television shows. While we are The Morning News, do not capitalize or italicize an introductory “the” with other magazines or newspapers. Short stories, songs, works of art, and headlines of newspaper and magazine articles get quotation marks. If making a title plural, such as in the case of the three installments of The Godfather, add an “s” but do not italicize it: Godfathers.

Congress

is capitalized. But “congressional” is lowercase, always.

Constitution/constitution

Capitalize this when referring to the US Constitution (even without the “US” part). Otherwise, including the constitutions of other countries, lowercased.

contractions

fine but not required. Writer’s choice.

courtesy titles

We generally don’t use these, except for special effect. On those occasions, abbreviate. See also titles, job.

cover-up

a noun

crisscross

and crisscrossing and crisscrossed

dashes

em width, with no spaces on either side unless it is being used to show a trailed-off quote. (If using within quotation marks, no space before the closing quote mark.) Use to set off parenthetical information or, in interview, freeform, and quote formats, to show a trailed off or redirected thought. See hyphen.

dates

Write as “June 20, 1939,” and please note the comma after the year. But “June 1939” with no commas. When using a date, months from August through February should be abbreviated. If you’re talking about an event, use time, date, and place, in that order. “The Shins will be performing at 10 p.m. Friday at the Knitting Factory.” If one of those pieces has already been mentioned or is already known, just use the remaining two, still in the same order. “Easter Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.”

DJ

for disc jockey. Not deejay. Verbs are DJ’ed, DJ’ing, DJ’s. Plural noun: DJs.

Earth/earth

When referring specifically to the planet on which we live, it is capitalized, either “Earth” or “the Earth.” When referring to the ground or a planet hypothetically, should be lowercased.

ellipses

Use three periods, with spaces on either side. These should be used only to mark missing copy from quoted material. Ellipses shouldn’t be used to indicate trailing off at the end of a sentence. See dashes.

email

Use an uppercase E at the start of a sentence. Email is God’s gift to editors.

English, Queen’s

Our contributors from Great Britain and other nations that use the Queen’s English (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, etc.) should be advised that we will change all spellings to American ones (realise/realize, honour/honor, theatre/theater, etc.). One exception: If the spellings are meant to be part of the humor of a piece, we will consider leaving them in. We will, however, leave diction and colloquialisms intact (take a decision vs. make a decision, for example) as long as the meaning is intelligible to an American reader.

Eskimo

an outdated name for the Inuit people. As with Arab, this is not a catch-all term for people living in a particular part of the world. Please use the correct, specific name of the ethnic group (Inuit, Yupik, etc.).

et cetera

Write out in quotes or when the circumstances and style of the article call for it. Otherwise, abbreviate, and punctuate it as you would the end of a series. Follow with a comma if not at the end of a sentence: “Rosecrans, Andrew, etc., did X and Y.”

EU

like this. First reference doesn’t necessarily have to be spelled out. Check for context, writer’s preference, et cetera.

euro

monetary unit, always lowercase except when at the start of a sentence. When using it as a prefix referencing something European, like Eurotrash, capitalize. The plural is euros.

famous people

Consider the average intelligent reader’s recognition of the name, or lack thereof, when deciding whether to include a first name. Also consider the possibility that other well-known people share that last name. If not including a name, consider referring to a book or movie that person has been involved in, as a way of description. Include a middle initial if it is commonly used. Same with nicknames, which should be inserted using quotes. Confirm names in the Columbia Encyclopedia, available online at www.bartleby.com.

fete

no accent

file sizes

Spell out kilobytes, megabytes, etc. in copy, but for informational purposes following titles, write thusly: 5MB, 800KB

foreign phrases

are appropriate if they’re relevant to the article. If they’re just throw-offs in an essay otherwise fully American, and particularly if they are confusing, consider changing them.

foreign spellings and transliterations from non-Roman alphabets

In general, use the Americanized versions if they exist. So, “Kiev” instead of “Kyiv,” and “organization” instead of “organisation.” Confirm spellings in the American Heritage Dictionary, available online at www.bartleby.com. One exception: If the usage of a foreign set of spellings will be throughout a story and overt, making a point relative to the article. If that is the case, go to town. Just check to make sure you’re being consistent throughout.

foreign words

Any foreign words not listed in the American Heritage Dictionary should be italicized and defined on first reference. Double-check the spelling and any diacriticals. The definition, if not directly in the text, should be in parentheses but not in quotation marks. On second reference, let the words stand in roman type. So, for example, words like prosciutto and amigo would be always in roman type with no definition, but unfamiliar words should be set like this: “An entire chapter describes how to make the relatively simple two-week testa (cured pork belly).” Similarly, if using a foreign word or part of one as a definition to illustrate a point, do it as follows: “I decided to make guanciale. The Italian name for a pig’s jowl (guancia) that has been cured and dried, guanciale resembles bacon.”

french fries

not capitalized

from…to

If you use one in establishing a range, use the other. Otherwise, use a hyphen, especially with numerals. Avoid ranges that do not actually span anything (“From doctors to plumbers, everyone loves to eat at Wendy’s!”).

games

Trademarked board games and video games are capitalized but not italicized or set off with quotation marks: Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Gears of War, Legend of Zelda. Generic games are not capitalized unless there is a proper noun in the name: chess, Chinese checkers, hopscotch, backgammon, poker.

gender issues

Naturally, we would like to be as inclusive as possible. That means avoiding gendered speech no matter how ingrained it is in our language. “Fireman” or “policeman” should simply be “fire fighter” or “police officer.” Avoid faddish constructions, like “humankind” in place of “mankind.” For gender-neutral singular pronouns and possessives, use “they” and “their” when needed and avoid “he or she” and “his or her.” Never use phrases like “male nurse” or “lady doctor” except humorously or sarcastically. Ultimately, gender neutrality is something to work toward and we encourage writers to use their best discretion.

gentile

one who is not a Jew. It is lowercased.

God

gets uppercase, and is never referred to as “it.” Uppercase the pronouns referring to Him. Or Her. Buddha is not a god and doesn’t get a capped pronoun, but Allah is God and He does. “God damn it” and other such uses also use uppercase, but any use of the word “God” in a single-word construction for cursing, for example, “goddammit” should be lowercased. It’s the writer’s preference how “goddammit” is spelled, as long as it is consistent. If you’re talking about a polytheistic society, names are capped but pronouns aren’t (“Athena leapt fully formed from her father’s skull”).

Google/google

Lowercase it as a verb, but uppercase it when you’re speaking of the company or the website.

gray

not grey

Greek/greek

lowercase when referring to social organizations or honor societies. Uppercase when referring to the culture, language or people of Greece. The phrase “Greek-letter organizations” has a capital G because the word “greek” refers to the letters, which have their origin in Greece.

hashtags

Keep hashtags short and sweet. Hashtags are not punctuated—letters and numbers only.

Brevity

  • Avoid articles unless they are integral to the meaning: #embracethesuck
  • Use acronyms and abbreviations as long as they are commonly and easily understood: #nytpaywall

Clarity

  • Make sure possessives/contractions are still understandable without apostrophes: #imalittleteapot
  • It’s nice to avoid a jarring diphthong or some other awkward phonic pile-up: #gethigh
  • Watch out for inadvertent double meanings: #kidsexchangetoys
  • Make sure your acronyms/abbreviations are as unambiguous as possible. To that end, use “usa” instead of “us” for “United States”: #usasoccer; and be careful with acronyms that are also either prefixes or words: “un” (United Nations), “now” (National Organization of Women), etc.

Style

  • Hashtags are lowercased, even if they contain proper nouns: #japanaid, #charliesheen (except for TMN-related things: #TMNheadlines, #ToB, etc.)
  • (Trying to keep the barbarians outside the gate a little longer) Avoid text/instant-messaging abbreviations unless it’s part of the joke: #nothingcompares2u

headlines section

Only use numerals at the start of a headline when it is absolutely unavoidable. Also refrain from using the passive voice in headlines (“Earthquake kills 49 in California” vs. “49 killed in California earthquake”). When inserting two links into a single headlines item, do not link any connecting punctuation or conjunctions. So, for example, “Explosion kills 549 in Tehran, and tornados kill 47 in Missouri.” Periods and other punctuation at the end of the headlines should be linked if the word directly before the mark is linked. Also make sure that any complete sentences following a colon are capitalized, a common occurrence in the headline column.

health care

two words as a noun, hyphenated as an adjective.

heaven

and hell

he-said, she-said

”It’s a case of he-said, she-said.”

hip-hop

hyphenated. Also, keep in mind that “hip-hop” refers to the four foundational elements of an entire movement: graffiti, break-dancing, MC’ing, and DJ’ing. All rap is hip-hop but not all hip-hop is rap.

holdup

Gimme all your money; also, a delay.

hyphenation

Is a hairy beast. We will try to tame it here.

  • Prefixes: Hyphenate according to Merriam-Webster. We don’t mind clever neologisms. If a prefix-plus-word combo is not in the dictionary, but it’s comprehensible, keep it and give it a hyphen (“He was feeling decidedly sub-peachy after last night’s bender.” “The alter-verse described in Fringe…”).
  • Compound words: Hyphenate according to Merriam-Webster (kilowatt-hour, alt-rock, in-laws, high school, cell phone, blue jeans).
  • Compound modifiers: You generally only need to hyphenate to avoid ambiguity, reader hesitation, or tittering (clear blue sky, high school dance, World Cup finals, opening-weekend draw, comedy club act, radio-controlled airplane, no-account hillbilly) Remember: Keep hyphens in hyphenated compound words used as modifiers (alt-rock radio station, small-time crook); and keep hyphens that mean “and” (apple-walnut pie, Texas-Oklahoma border, Jewish-Christian conflict).

I, me

When deciding whether to use I or me in coordination with another person’s name, remove the other person from the equation and see which of the two words fits better. For example: “Paul Ford and I/me like running in Prospect Park.” Whip Paul out (sorry, dude) and you’re left with “I/me like running in Prospect Park.” Makes it easy to see that “I” is the right choice. Similarly, “Did you get the email from Andrew and I/me?” Dump Andrew and you’ll be left with “Did you get the email from I/me?” And any passing fourth-grader can help you if you need to make a choice after that.

ID

is a noun and verb. I carry ID so that I can be ID’ed.

instant messaging

spell out; never use “IM” except in direct quotes. Hyphenate as a verb.

internet

lowercased

iPad/iPhone/iPod

As with all Apple products, the lowercased i remains little unless at the beginning of a sentence, in which case you have “IPads are cool.” Avoid using it at the beginning of the sentence.

Al Jazeera

Capitalize the A at the start of a sentence.

jew

is a noun for both men and women. Jewish is the adjective. Judaism is the religion. Jewish congregations have a rabbi and a cantor. Please consult the dictionary for the spelling of Jewish celebrations and holy days.

jihad

lowercase

koala

not koala bear. A koala is a marsupial, not a bear.

bin Laden, Osama

Yep, goes under L (more on this in the names section). Please note that Osama bin Laden was stripped of his Saudi citizenship, so if necessary, refer to him as “Saudi-born.” At the beginning of a sentence, capitalize the B.

laissez-faire

no italics

laws and mandates

Use full and official name on first reference (i.e., Affordable Care Act); popular name reference (i.e., Obamacare) OK on second reference. Spell out full names of backronyms (DREAM Act, PATRIOT Act) on first reference.

links

Outside of the headlines column, when inserting a link within an article to another page on the site or outside the site, only hyperlink the words that offer the most immediate description of the linked item. So, for example, “In R.W. Apple’s column about the war in Iraq, he said the mixed intents and results showed no one knew what the country was getting into,” we could make the phrase “R.W. Apple’s column” into a hyperlink.

lists

When the items being listed are not in sentence form, do not use periods. Do use capital letters. Bullets are optional. When listing parts of a sentence as bullets:

  • Use a colon at the end of the introductory line
  • Capitalize the start of each line
  • Make the references parallel, as in this case (all full, declarative sentences)
  • Do not put a comma at the end of each line
  • Do not use a conjunction at the end of the second-to-last item
  • Use no period at the end

But in general, avoid bulleted lists except in the most formal settings in which one might theoretically want to check things off one at a time and the order isn’t important. For example:

  • Groceries
  • Course requirements
  • People’s names
  • A list of things to put in bulleted lists

If you’re tempted to put commas, a conjunction, and a period in your list, that should be an indication that you should try to write it as a normal sentence.

lend/loan

”Loan” is the noun used to indicate money and the verb used for all instances of one borrowing money from someone else. “Lend” is the verb used to indicate borrowing something that is not money. For example, “She loaned me the money for the downpayment,” and, “He lent me the book.”

letters as letters

uppercase. To make plurals, use an apostrophe. “I got all A’s.”

magazine

If the word “magazine” is included in the name of a magazine, then uppercase it and include it in the italics. If it isn’t, don’t. See also composition titles.

Mass

uppercase. Catholic Mass can be said or celebrated but not “read.”

matinee

no accent

McDonald’s

as in the fast food megalith, has an apostrophe.

MC

for master of ceremonies. Not “emcee.” Verbs are MC’ed, MC’ing, MC’s. Plural noun: MCs.

Mecca

holy city in Saudi Arabia. Uppercase when referring to the city, lowercase when using in general: “The Apple Store is a mecca for laptop aesthetes.”

miles an hour

Use this, with either numbers or numerals following the numbers rule. Please avoid the overly technical “m.p.h.” abbreviation.

money

Once you’ve crossed the barrier into millions and billions, write out those two words (and trillions, quadrillions and all the way up to gazillions), using numerals and the currency marking for just the first part of the amount, so “$15 million” and “$103,000.” Follow rules for numbers to determine when to write out the initial number and when to use numerals. References, particularly in quotes, to things like a million-dollar trust fund and a theoretical five-dollar hotdog, should be treated with the inexactitude with which they often are intended and written as above. But if “he stuck me with the bill for $157.63,” then say so. It’s also fine to use forms such as “a nickel” or “a dollar” or “a ten” inside or outside quotes, but these aren’t necessarily preferred over “five cents” or “25 cents.” Do not include a hyphen and a dollar sign in the same adjectival phrase. It is “an $11.7 billion stadium” but “a million-dollar outlay.”

Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms.

These are rarely used except for effect. We do not use courtesy titles.

Muhammad

capitalized

music

Album titles are in italics. Songs are in quotes. So are lyrics, unless there are several lines, in which case use a block of text. When speaking of a band, choose verbs based on the words you’re using, not the idea you’re trying to get across. So “The Rolling Stones [stones, a plural word] are [plural verb] my favorite band, and Whitehouse [singular word] is [singular verb] my least favorite.” Subsequent references also will go along with whatever the noun is: “The band is large, and its members are diverse.” (This also goes for sports teams and other named groups of people: “The Mets are my favorite team, and the Heat is my least favorite.”)

mujahedeen

also, mullah, madrassas

naive

no umlaut

names

Different languages produce different modifiers for names: al, el, bin, ben, bar, de, de la, il, von, van der, etc. Be conscious of what each of these mean and what language they come from, be it Hebrew for “son of” or German for simply “of.” Most are not capped and when listed alphabetically, list by the name and not the modifier. Mac and O’ are generally capped, as is the second half of the name (MacDonald, O’Fallon). In all cases, verify spelling where possible. Also be aware of people without surnames. In Nigeria, for example, the name can sometimes be “[blank], the son of [blank], from the town of [blankety-blank].”

NASA

no periods

Native American

refers to the vast array of indigenous tribes and groups living in the US. Never use “Indian” or “American Indian.” Both words are capped, with “native American” meaning someone who was born in the US.

Nazi

capped, but nazism is not.

The Netherlands

a gorgeous country of legalized vices. Do not use Holland, as that represents only part of the country. “Dutch” is the appropriate adjective.

New Year’s Day

also, New Year’s Eve. But if you’re just speaking hypothetically, “In the new year, I will exercise every single day.” And “Happy new year!” but “Happy New Year’s!” Since the second is referring to the holiday.

New York City

or New York on second reference. If you mean the state, please specify: “New York state.” Our nation’s capital is Washington, D.C., on first mention unless it is manifestly obvious that we’re not talking about Washington state. “Washington state” is preferred on first mention if it’s not manifestly obvious we’re not talking about the capital.

911

when referring to the emergency phone number. See also Sept. 11.

numbers

Write out whole numbers one through nine, use numerals for all partial numbers and for whole numbers 10 and above. Similarly, use first through ninth and 10th and above (avoid superscripts in the ordinals). For millions or billions, use these same guidelines: “nine million, 11 billion, 6.7 trillion.” These rules apply to all instances, including quotes. When speaking imprecisely, write out, “thousands of hats,” “millions of people,” etc. Do not use numerals at the start of sentences. Spell out or rewrite. In constructions such as “the no. 1 album,” do it as shown and always use numerals. Don’t forget to use commas to mark orders of magnitude.

OK

Okay and O.K. are not OK.

parentheses

Usually, punctuation goes outside (like this). Punctuation goes inside if the parenthetical remark is a complete, standalone sentence. (This is a good example.) If the parenthetical remark falls within a sentence but takes different punctuation than the main sentence, punctuate appropriately inside (You mean like this?). Cap internally only if the parenthetical remark is a complete sentence.

percent

Write it out. Use the numbers rules to decide whether to write out the number.

possessives

Use an apostrophe followed by an S for singular nouns (common and proper) in all occurrences, including those that end with S, X, Y, and Z. So: “the waitress’s” and “Dickens’s.”

prefixes

Always use hyphens to make new words using pre-, post-, anti-, multi-, and pro-. Generally do not hyphenate shorter prefixes, such as co-, un-, and bi-, as well as micro-, but check these in the dictionary. If not listed there, hyphenate. When adding a prefix to a proper noun, use the hyphen and retain the noun’s capitalization.

prima donna

no italics

protege

no accents

protester

not protestor

publisher information

Use only in the most technical of situations, when referring to a list of books or discussing publishers themselves. If it can’t be worked into the sentence, the publisher and year of publication should be used in parentheses. Like this (Random House, 1999). Number of pages and city of publication are not necessary.

punctuation

Follow normal rules, paying close attention to punctuation around quotation marks. Periods, commas always go inside. Semicolons and colons always outside. Question marks and exclamation points change depending on usage. Do not combine two end marks next to a quotation mark. The correct format is, “I would love to move back to New York City!” Leslie cried.

al Qaeda

capitalized like this

quotation marks

Use double quotes. To mark quotes inside quotes, use single. To mark quotes inside quotes inside quotes, use double. Just make sure to wrap them all up in the right order at the end. Don’t worry about using thin spaces between them when they start to stack up.

Syntax-preserving punctuation falls inside quotation marks, with very few exceptions (mainly literary criticism).

  • He seemed to say, “What is this?”
  • She bore such foolishness with a gentle “It takes all kinds” or “Bless your heart.”
  • Calling her son’s announcement that he would marry the kitchen wench “precipitous” and “inappropriate,” the duchess began to plot the poor girl’s demise.
  • She described the last five months of Spider-Man rehearsals as “snake-bit.”

quotes

If using a direct quotation, please be absolutely certain that you are quoting it correctly. Use citations and ellipses as needed to maintain the integrity of what you’re quoting.

racial terminology

This has come up in several specific instances throughout this guide. Ultimately, racial language should only be used if it is particularly relevant. Please use caution whenever using words like “immigrant,” “tribe,” “ethnic,” and the like. Many internal factions in the Balkans, Africa, etc., prefer to be called ethnic groups or ethnic communities rather than “tribes,” which has a primitive connotation. Also be wary of using words like “black” or “Asian” as nouns. “Black people” is preferable to “blacks” and “an Asian man” is preferable to “an Asian.”

regional descriptions

Capitalize US regions (South, Midwest, Pacific Northwest, etc.). Residents of those regions are southern, midwestern, southerners, midwesterners, etc. Outside the US, capitalize West and Western, East and Eastern when referring to them in the context of the so-called Western world. Otherwise, compass points are generally lowercase.

résumé

A brief summary of one’s professional history. Use accents since it will totally get confused with resume, as in “to begin after interruption.”

saint

Capitalize and abbreviate when referring to a particular saint or Catholic or Episcopalian church or parish by name: “St. John’s.” Lowercase and spell out in general references: “She is a real saint.” For geographic locations, check Columbia Encyclopedia.

Scotch

As in whisky. Or tape.

Sept. 11

set-up

7-Eleven

7-Up

sexuality

The words gay, homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, and so forth are all adjectives. Incorrect: “Stan is a homosexual.” Correct: “Stan is homosexual.” Lesbian is different, though, as it was originally a noun that was later adopted as an adjective. Use it as a noun. Gay should generally not be used as a noun except for effect or, when plural, as part of an official name (PFLAG: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Wherever possible, say “gay men” instead of “gays.”

ships

Italicize the names of ships. Also, use constructions such as “USS” and “HMS” when necessary.

Smithsonian Institution

Not Institute.

soiree

no accents

spaghetti western/spaghetti nightmare

The greatest film genre(s) of all time do not need capitalization.

state names

abbreviate when used after a city name. Consider whether the city’s size or notoriety makes the state name unnecessary (as in Chicago, Las Vegas), and, inversely, whether it should be identified with its state (Springfield, Athens). When listing a city with its state, abbreviate all states as follows except for the eight noted below. “When I lived in Springfield, Ill., I was lonely.”

Ala., Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Kan. , Ky., La., Mass., Md., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., NC, ND, NH, NJ, NM, NY, Neb., Nev. , Okla., Ore., Pa., RI, SC, SD, Tenn., Va., Vt., W.Va., Wash., Wis., Wyo.

These eight states are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah.

storytelling

sudoku

Swiss cheese

symphonies

and concertos, are referred to by name or number. With the name, such as Pastoral, italicize. With the number, just capitalize: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

T-shirt

not t-shirt

Taliban

is plural: The Taliban ruled Afghanistan.

tchotchke

plural is tchotchkes

temperatures

Just say “45 degrees” (no degree symbol, thanks) and specify Fahrenheit or Celsius if it’s otherwise unclear.

Ten Commandments

text insertions

In quotes, use brackets. For lengthy or explanatory insertions, consider an “—ed.” signature. When noting something taking place, such as laughter, the insertion should be lowercased and without punctuation, as a part of the sentence that follows, not the sentence that is ending. Ex.: “Where was this country going? The ineffable question that Russians have been asking themselves for centuries. [laughs] That’s what got me into this in the first place.” Also: “AG: [sniffs] There are war junkies; I mean, I know them.”

third world

”Developing countries” is preferable.

tidal wave/tsunami

A tsunami is a giant wave specifically created by an underwater earthquake. A tidal wave is, uh, a tidal wave.

thoughts and interior speech

can either be italicized or take quotation marks, but maintain consistency throughout the piece.

till

not ‘til

Time

2 a.m., 11 p.m., 10:30 p.m., 1:30 a.m., noon, midnight. If specificity is not required, use numeral style: “We were out past three.”

time frame

titles, article

Follow Chicago’s rules on headline-style capitalization. In a nutshell, the first and last words are always capped, as are all other major words (nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives), regardless of length. A, an, the, and, but, or, to, as, and nor are lowercased unless they’re the first or last words, and prepositions shorter than four letters are lowercased unless they’re performing as part of a verb, like “Rosecrans Drops Off the Planet.” One other bit of advice from Chicago: “If you are not sure what grammatical function a word is performing (or even if you are), try reading the title aloud: If you would stress the word, capitalize it; if not, lowercase it.” Within articles, if referring to another article, the same capitalization rules should apply.

titles, composition

See composition titles.

titles, jobs, and nobility

A job title such as chief executive or judge should be capitalized when it is given before a name. After a name, separate from a name, or when set off with commas (as in “The magazine’s photographer, Geoff…”), use lowercase. Titles of nobility are only used with the person’s name, not in reference to that person’s duties: Queen Elizabeth is the queen of England, and Pope Benedict is the first pope of the new millennium. Rarely, titles are capped even when used generally: the Dalai Lama, the Imperial Wizard of the KKK. This doesn’t happen often; look it up if you have a question.

titles of works

Italicize and capitalize books, book-length poems, magazines, newspapers, plays, TV shows, and movies:

  • The Great Gatsby, Paradise Lost, Time magazine, the New York Times, Lost
  • Do not cap or italicize “the” or “magazine” in running text
  • Specify TV show seasons as “season four of Lost

Capitalize and put quotation marks around titles of articles and essays: “This is New York”

Capitalize video games and trademarked board games: Donkey Kong, Monopoly

Lowercase ordinary games and card games: checkers, poker

Capitalize but do not italicize websites:

  • Slate, The Morning News, Gawker
  • Do not use “.com” unless clarity requires

tweets

When referencing (as opposed to simply embedding) tweets, include the full handle of the user and, if necessary for context, the time and whether the tweet was in response to an earlier comment from a different user.

Ukraine

not “the Ukraine”

umlaut

Any proper names spelled with an umlaut should be left as such, or clarified with the individual. Other words containing umlauts can generally be broken down into ae, oe, or ue.

vis-a-vis

no accent

vulgarity

Just be consistent, and use good judgment.

Walmart

wars

In reverse order, America has participated in the: Iraq War, war in Afghanistan, Gulf War, Vietnam War, Korean War, World War II, World War I (first World War and the Great War, in period pieces for 1918-1941), Spanish-American War, Civil War, War of 1812, Revolutionary War.

web

lowercased

website

one word, lowercased. Acceptable to use “site” as a variant after the first mention, as long as it remains clear that an online environment is being described.

while

not whilst

wine

Wines named for the region from which they came are left lowercased. You drink burgundy from Burgundy. Otherwise, names based on the grape varieties are capped, like Chardonnay and Syrah.

World Trade Center

all caps, but “twin towers” is not

years

1845, 2001-05, the ’40s. Ages: spell out fortysomething, twenties.

zip code

not ZIP code