A STYLE GUIDE FOR LOCAL LYNX
If applied properly, a style guide can become a valuable tool which eases readers’ understanding of Local Lynx while helping the finished product to be more consistent and simpler to produce. If over-applied, it may become a draconian restriction on writing style and creative freedom.
This document aims for the former rather than the latter, providing some simple rules that all contributors to the title should follow when writing copy. Each issue’s editor should also apply the same rules to submitted copy to ensure that the finished paper looks and reads like a consistent whole, rather than an assemblage of disparate bits.
To a large extent these rules are arbitrary. They are about style, as much as grammar and correct English. It doesn’t really matter if we choose to write dates, for example, as 1st January, January 1st, January 1 or 1 January, as long as we do it consistently in the same issue - let alone from line to line.
Times, Days and Seasons
The Lynx includes a lot of ‘what’s on’ information and dates, much of which require abbreviation. In general text, use Monday, Tuesday, etc. “The tree fell on Monday and by Tuesday the road was clear.” But when listing event details, abbreviate.
Too many full stops (or ‘full points’) look ugly on the page, so in commonly understood abbreviations, such as the days and the ordinals on the dates, below, leave them out.
Mon, Tue, Weds, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun Mo., Tues., Wed., Thur., … 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th…1, 2, 3, 4 … Mon 1st Aug 2013 Monday August 1 2013 7.30am, 6pm, 12 noon, midnight 7:30, 18:00, 6.00pm, 12pm, 12am, 24:00 1960s, 1970s, 1980s 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s
In general, spell out numbers from one to nine, but use figures for numbers from 10 and above. Numbers of 1 million and above, should be written thus, rather than in figures, on the first use, and then as 1m thereafter if the context is clear (ie. couldn’t be confused with 1 metre).
Use common fractions where they make sense. Half a bottle of wine is clearer than 0.5 of a bottle.
Telephone numbers should always include the area code and the number. Do not split the main part of the number in two. Use the abbreviations F and M for fax and (if necessary to distinguish a mobile phone number) mobile. International phone numbers follow a similar convention with the addition of an international dialling code, eg. +44 (0)1234 567891
One, two, three, four,… nine 1, 2, 3, 4,… 9 10, 11, 20, 66, 103 Ten, eleven, twenty, sixty-six, one hundred and three 1 million, 10 billion, 1m, 10bn1,000,000 10,000,000,000 A quarter the size 0.25 x the size, ¼ the size 01234 567891Tel: 01234 567 891, Tel: 567891, T. 567891
Weights and Measures
Many of our readers will happily switch between metric and imperial measures in daily life, and some less happily so. Our convention should be to use the measures that are most likely to be most easily understood. So for distance, use imperial (as all road signs should), but for weights use metric (as keenly enforced by trading standards officers). The exceptions to this general rule are where conversion would be silly: a 100 metre race vs a 109.36 yard race.
In quoted speech (“…and then I bought a pound of carrots…”), stay true to the source.
Unlike with the general use of numbers, above, one to nine should be represented by figures when indicating units of measurement.
Do not abbreviate where it may cause confusion (is 1m a metre or a mile?) and don’t spell out when the meaning is obvious (1kg is always 1 kilogram). Note that tons and tonnes are not the same.
Hectares seem now more commonly used than acres in agriculture and so should be used in this context. In an ideal world we would add the acreage in brackets afterwards, but that is probably creating too much work. Non-agricultural areas - 10 square miles (which is not the same as 10 miles square) - are better rendered in imperial measures.
In recipes, lead with metric measures but (ideally) include imperial in brackets afterwards.
5 miles, 5 tonnes, 5 feet five miles, five tonnes, five feet A 2 hectare field, 2ha A 4.9 acre field, 4,9a
Punctuation, Emphasis and Speech
Don’t rely on typography or exclamation marks to emphasise a point. Do not include bold type, italics, underlining or fully capitalised words in any Lynx copy.
I can think of no reason for an exclamation mark to appear in our pages. Don’t add spurious interest to a story or a headline thus!
As a rule, try to avoid too many dashes - they can make type difficult to read over a narrow column width as it’s not always easy to see where the clause ends - as commas will usually suffice. Short sentences are fine. And to be encouraged. There is nothing wrong with sentences beginning with ‘And’, in moderation.
Quotation marks can prove troublesome. In a headline use single quotation marks to delineate speech:
‘Great Victory’ hailed for Binham FC
But in body copy use double quotation marks:
“I thought it was a great victory for the team,” said manager Ron Knee.
If you are quoting a full sentence (as above), put the sentence punctuation within the quotation marks. If quoting a partial sentence (as below), put the punctuation outside the quotation marks:
Among other things, manager Ron Knee said it was a “great victory”.
Quoted speech is always in the past (though doesn’t have to be in the past tense). In other words, said, commented, confessed, enthused Ron Knee, not says, comments, confesses, enthuses.
Do not add colons and dashes (:- ) or bullet points (·) to copy. In fact, try to avoid creating lists in copy.
Use eg. and ie. punctuated thus.
Do not use ampersands (&) unless part of a company or other name, eg. Berry Bros & Rudd, Morecambe & Wise.
I was very excited by the fantastic cheese. I was VERY excited by the fantastic cheese! “… interesting comment,” said a spokesperson.“… interesting comment,” says a spokesperson. fish and chipsfish & chips
Names and Job Titles
In a more deferential age, job and professional titles were routinely capitalised and honorifics (Mr, Mrs, Dr, etc) always used in media reporting. Both practices are now uncommon.
Newspapers tend to use a person’s full name on first reference and then just the surname thereafter:
Arthur Brown was awarded first prize in the cabbage section. Brown said: “It was my special mixture….”
This seems rather cold in a community-based publication when writing about people who will generally be known to readers as friends and neighbours, so substitute first names:
Arthur Brown was awarded first prize in the cabbage section. Arthur said: “It was my special mixture….”
On the other hand, this seems over-familiar when describing someone unknown to readers, so revert to surnames:
…noted that John Smith was visiting the area for the first time. Smith said: “It’s flat here, isn’t it?”
Try to avoid capitalising job titles and designations in general copy. Marie Strong is councillor for our ward, not Councillor. Ian Whittle is our vicar, not Vicar. God is always God however.
managing director Managing Director chartered surveyor Chartered Surveyor
Arthur Brown, Arthur (if well known locally) Mr Arthur Brown, Mr Brown
Arthur Brown, Brown (if not known locally) Mr Arthur Brown, Mr Brown
councillor, vicar, chiropodist, doctorCouncillor, Vicar, Chiropodist, Doctor
Capitals and Acronyms
Only very few words merit capitals in written copy. Places, of course. And names. But little else.
The fete, the village hall, the police, the barn dance, the grand raffle, the fun day, the quiz, the surgery, workshop, fiesta and firework display should not be capitalised.
Do not be tempted to capitalise something to make it seem more important.
North, south, east and west, should only be capitalised if part of a recognised name or district, but not otherwise
The village fun day raised the magnificent total of £20 The Village Fun Day raised the North Norfolk north Norfolk the north of Norfolk The North of Norfolk
Many acronyms need no explanation, BBC for example. It would look odd to spell out British Broadcasting Corporation with each use. Less well known organisations should be spelt out in full on first use within a story, but used as an acronym thereafter. Do not include the acronym if the organisation is only mentioned once.
HMRC Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)
A computer disk is spelt with a k, but any other disc with a c.
A computer has programs, but television, theatres and football matches have programmes.
Etc. means you can’t be bothered to finish the sentence.
©Local Lynx 2015