Table of Contents• Getting Started• News Values• Commandments for Good Writing• Abstraction• Addresses• Abbreviations• Capitalization
Table of Contents (cont’d)• Numerals• Punctuation• Preferred Spelling• Time• Titles• Words
Qualities of a reporter• Engaged• Articulate
Engaged• Curious• Empathetic
Articulate• Write clear, correct sentences• Organize stories for drama
Changing journalism• Convergence – One organization operating a newspaper, radio station, television station and Web site. Reporters, photographers and editors prepare stories for all media. – Two or more organizations share stories and information. Each delivers stories by its traditional medium and by the Web.
New practices• Backpack journalists: reporters who carry computers, cameras and audio equipment and file stories for Web and other media from the field.• Community journalists: Volunteers or part- time workers who contribute stories or photographs. Often the content they create is intensely local.
Preparing paper copy• Top left of first page, write ... – Name – Date – Slug• Example – Joe Jones – Jan. 17 – Parking protests
• Start 1/3 of the way down the first page.• The slug should be one or two words that identify the story. It should be specific enough that an editor can distinguish your story from similar ones.• “Arrest” is not sufficiently distinctive. Many people may be arrested in one day.• “Harrison arrest” is more distinctive.
On subsequent paper pages• Indicate adds or additional pages. – Parking protests-add 1 – Parking protests-page 2• Indicate end of story. – ### (circled) – 30 (circled)
On all pages• Double or triple space.• Use one-inch margins.• Do NOT hyphenate words.• Use 12-point type.
In general• All assignments must be typed.• Write your assignments on a typewriter or computer. Don’t write your first draft in longhand.• Edit all of your copy.
Copy-editing symbols• See the inside front cover and pages 12-15 of Reporting for the Media for copy-editing symbols and illustrations of how they are used.• The symbols are conventions for marking changes and corrections in copy in a way that is clear and speeds the typesetting process.
Preparing electronic copy• Use Word, TextEdit or DOS Text word processing program.• Name the file using a one-word slug and your last name separated by an understrike (shift + hyphen). – Schoolfire_bender• Put your name, the date and the slug on the first three lines.
• Hit the return button two or three times before you start the body of your story.• Indent the first line of each paragraph five space.• Don’t double space between paragraphs.• Type ### or -30- at the end of your story.• If you submit your story by e-mail, put the slug and your name in the subject line.
Editing electronic copy• Copy written on a computer cannot be editing using the traditional copy-editing marks.• But electronic copy must be edited carefully.• Many news organizations use software that tracks who made what changes, like Microsoft Word’s “Track Changes” feature.
What is news?• What people talk about.• What editors say it is.• Something that wasn’t known yesterday.• What’s interesting and important to many people.
News values• Timeliness• Impact• Prominence• Proximity• Singularity• Conflict or Controversy• Other Characteristics
Timeliness• How recent are the events?• The more recent the events, the more newsworthy they are.• News organizations constantly update stories to emphasize the most recent important developments. They also follow what other organizations are reporting so they know what is new.
Impact• How many people will a story affect?• The more people affected, the more important the story.• A story about a citywide street- improvement plan will affect more people than a story about a jewelry store burglary.
Prominence• How well known are the people involved in the story?• Stories about famous people are more newsworthy than stories about unknowns.• When an ordinary person catches a cold, only friends and relatives care. When the president catches a cold, the stock market may fall.
Proximity• Events that happen close to home – where the newspaper or broadcast station is located – are more newsworthy than events elsewhere.• A traffic accident in your town is more newsworthy than a similar accident in another town 30 miles away.
Singularity• Events or situations that deviate from what is ordinarily expected are more newsworthy than stories about routine events.• When someone shoots and kills several students in a school, that is more newsworthy than the routine events in thousands of other schools that day.
Conflict• A story about a conflict between two legislators is more newsworthy than one about legislators who agree.• Sometimes news organizations have overemphasized conflict and overlooked the importance of cooperation.• The public journalism movement attempts to address that imbalance.
Other Characteristics• Factors affecting story selection: – Humor. – Focus on events. – The medium (broadcast vs. print; weeklies vs. dailies). – Size of the community. – Traditions and practices of the organization.
Types of news• Journalists talk of hard and soft news.• Hard news includes breaking stories of broad impact: crimes, wars, disasters, labor disputes, major legislation.• Soft news includes feature stories and human interest. Such stories are not linked to specific events and may be newsworthy anytime.
Public journalism• Public, or civic, journalism encourages readers and viewers to participate in public life.• Typically, practitioners of public journalism try to find out what citizens are interested in and then cover those issues.• Public journalists also try to show how problems can be solved.
News stories are…• Written in the third person.• Written in the past tense.• Free of the writer’s opinions.• Accurate.• Concise.• Complete.
Objectivity• News stories should report facts and the opinions of knowledgeable sources, not the opinions of reporters and editors.• While no person can be completely objective, journalists strive to be impartial in the way they gather and report the news.• Seeking multiple sources with different points of view enhances objectivity.
Accuracy• Readers and viewers expect accuracy and they are angry when news stories are not. – Confirm all dates, addresses, amounts and other specific facts. – Confirm the spellings of all names. – Don’t assume a statement that sounds accurate is accurate.
Some things news reports omit• Offensive details• Sensationalism• Rumors• Names of rape victims• Unnecessary racial identifications
Commandments for Good Writing
Tips from a professional• Bud Pagel, who was a reporter for the Miami Herald and the Omaha World- Herald and who taught news reporting and writing at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, created these 15 commandments for good writing.
Commandment 1• Thou shalt write understandably.• Compare the following passage and the one on the next slide. – Q. How would you recommend to treat that condition? – A. I would recommend immersion over an extended period of time in a total living environment which the elements of the living situation have been set up to have a therapeutic outcome in the defendant’s case possibly a projection on responsibility on to others and denial of responsibility with one aspect of it or failure to identify existing problems in a blind spot kind of way where we would have confrontations between staff and/or encounters between staff and the defendant in these instances in which those kinds of verbalizations or those kinds of situations came to pass. In other words, there would be immediate consequences for engaging in those kinds of behavior which were nonproductive.
– To gramma and grampa,– My mommy is sick. My brother is sick. My other brother is sick. My daddy is a little sick. And I am sick.– Love, Michael
Commandment II• Thou shalt use short, simple declarative sentences.• Compare the passages on the next two slides.
– One resident, Trina Greenhouse of 9575 Holbrook Drive, suffered minor injury and was transported to Regional Medical Center after her eyes became exposed to fuel from the Cessna’s fuel tank, which smashed to the ground in front of her home.– The Cessna’s fuel tank crashed to the ground in front of Trina Greenhouse, 9575 Holbrook Drive. Greenhouse was standing on her porch when the crash occurred and was sprayed with fuel. She complained that fuel burned her eyes, and she was taken to the Regional Medical Center.
• UNICEF officials, who have found that 40,000 children die each day, mostly in developing countries, call the death toll "the greatest single stain on our civilization today," and are asking for an unprecedented world summit to save the lives of an estimated 100 million children in the next decade by, during each of the next 10 years, taking the money spent in a single day on the worlds military forces and reallocating that money to feed the hungry.• UNICEF officials say 40,000 children die of hunger each day, mostly in developing countries. They call the deaths "the greatest single stain on our civilization today." The officials estimate taking one day’s spending on the world’s militaries each year for 10 years and using it to feed children would save 100 million lives.
Commandment III• Thou shalt prefer the familiar word. – Preliminarily the concept appeared to permit attainment of all our criteria; but, when we cost it out, we have to question its economic viability. – REVISED: The proposed plan for downtown redevelopment looks good on paper, but it may cost too much.
• These two examples show what can happen if you use words you’re not familiar with: – Please accept my apologies for the deliquesce of this letter. • “Deliquesce” means to melt away; the writer probably meant “delinquency,” although “lateness” might have been better. – So what you have described as abuse in fact represents adaptness and proficiousness in the use of the act. (Testimony before the U.S. Senate on the FOIA.) • The speaker probably meant “adeptness” and “proficiency.”
Commandment IV• Thou shalt write short, one-thought paragraphs.• Compare the next two slides.
• Here’s one long paragraph that’s hard to read. – A disappointing report on retail sales pushed U.S. stock markets lower Wednesday morning. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 170 points, largely because the stocks in financial institutions were losing value. The market also responded to disappointing earnings reports from John Deere, which manufactures farm equipment, and Macy’s, the large retailer. The Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks lost 1.04 percent.
• Breaking it into shorter paragraphs and rearranging the information makes it more understandable. – A disappointing report on retail sales depressed U.S. stock markets Wednesday morning. – The large retailer Macy’s reported lower-than- expected earnings, as did John Deere, the maker of farm equipment. – Lower prices for stock in financial institutions pushed the Dow Jones industrial average down 170 points. The Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks lost 1.04 percent.
Commandment V• Thou shalt write concisely.• Stay away from “there is.”• Watch out for redundant modifiers (completely destroyed).
• Eliminate wordy phrases, like “at this point in time” instead of “now.”• Watch detour words like “involved” and “-ing” verbs. – WORDY: The officers proceeded to frisk the suspect. – BETTER: The officers frisked the suspect.
• Another example of wordy writing: – WORDY: There exists at the intersection a traffic condition which constitutes an intolerable, dangerous hazard to the health and safety of property and persons utilizing such intersection for pedestrian and vehicular movement. (31 words) – BETTER: The intersection is dangerous. (4 words)
Commandment VI• Thou shalt put action in your verbs.• Avoid adjectives and adverbs, which steal power from your writing. – NOT: The fast-moving cars went around the track quickly. – BETTER: The cars flashed around the track.
Commandment VII• Thou shalt be precise.• The placement of words can change the meaning of a sentence. In the following example, replace the first asterisk with “only,” then move “only” to the second asterisk, and so on. Notice how the meaning changes.• *I *kissed *her *on *the *cheek *tonight*.
Commandment VIII• Thou shalt use specifics rather than generalities. – How old is old? – How fat is fat? – How short is short? – How tall is tall? – WEAK: A period of unfavorable weather set in. – BETTER: It rained every day for a week.
Commandment IX• Thou shalt use concrete words instead of abstracts. – ABSTRACT: He showed satisfaction as he took possession of his well-earned reward. – CONCRETE: He grinned as he stuffed the $20 bill in his wallet.
Commandment X• Thou shalt write with logical progression.• The second and later paragraphs should develop the lead. Include background later.• Here’s a violation of logical progression: – Nebraska corralled the Colorado Buffaloes 75 to 3 Saturday at Memorial Stadium. – Tom Osborne was born in Hastings, Neb., in 1937.
Commandment XI• Thou shalt have an antecedent for each pronoun. – Breslin is on the list, he said, because he voted against a federal strip-mine bill. Breslin said he did that because it is a state, not a federal function.• What is the antecedent of “it” in the above example?• Pronouns must agree with their antecedents in number and gender.
Commandment XII• Thou shalt observe the nearness rule: Put modifiers near the word they modify. – WRONG: Pope Paul also forbade cardinals to bring in assistants, except for those gravely ill. – BETTER: Pope Paul also forbade cardinals, except for those gravely ill, to bring in assistants. – OR: Pope Paul also forbade cardinals to bring in assistants. He excepted cardinals who were gravely ill.
Commandment XIII• Thou shalt put statements into positive form. • Not honest = dishonest. • Not important = trifling, minor. • Did not remember = forgot. • Did not pay attention = ignored. • Did not have much confidence in = distrusted.
Commandment XIV• Thou shalt use transitional words to keep the reader informed of time, place and mood changes. – TIME: Sometimes, a decade ago, meanwhile…. – PLACE: Ahead, down the hall, in the middle of…. – MOOD: Yet, if, but, and, despite….
Commandment XV• Thou shalt write to the central point.• Writing is a craft that requires discipline.• The most important discipline is identifying a clear central point for each piece and sticking to it.• Sentences, quotations, anecdotes that do not bear on the central point should be eliminated, no matter how interesting they may seem.• Writers who fail to stick to their central point are likely to lose their readers.
Abstract vs. Concrete Writing
All language is abstraction• Words are symbols that stand in for what one is discussing.• Some words are more abstract than others.• Abstraction makes reading more difficult.• Abstraction reduces the detail.
Example from George Orwell• Orwell offered the following sentence as an example of the foggy writing that afflicts political speech. – Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account.
Same idea from Ecclesiastes• Here’s the same idea from the Book of Ecclesiastes, but written in clearer, more concrete terms. – I returned, and I saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Ladder of Abstraction• Words may be ranked by their level of abstraction.• Each higher level of abstraction represents a step up the ladder.• As abstraction increases, detail is lost.• Abstract words may apply to a number of situations, some of which may be contradictory.
Example of abstraction ladder • animal • mammal • quadruped • cow • Holstein • “Bessie” • the thing itself
Make your writing more concrete• Specific, concrete words are easier to understand.• Concrete details, images add information.• Details make people, places, events more interesting.
Use concrete details• She is 5 feet tall and would weigh 100 pounds with rocks in her pockets. Her voice is so soft that it disappears in the squeak of the screen door and the hum of the air-conditioner. – Rick Bragg, The New York Times
Blend quotes and description• “I see them out there on the floor, having so much fun, and here I am,” she stretches out two long, tan arms as if holding a tray of drinks, “working. But then I think, ‘I’m making money and they’re spending it,’” Weston says, as a big smile spreads across her face, accentuating her high cheekbones.
Use anecdotes• "I remember them (prisoners) walking in columns," he said. He grew up seeing guards with machine guns and told a story of a prisoner who stepped out of line and was shot in the presence of children. He paused for a moment, then said, "These memories are quite vivid. You never forget them."
Use analogies• A confined aquifer is like a double-crust pie that has a top and bottom crust to protect the filling. The filling of a confined aquifer is a vein of permeable sand and gravel. Enclosing that filling are two layers of glacial till, or clay. The clay layers block absorption of surface water, leaving the water running through the layer of gravel and sand free of pollutants from the surface, state geologist Sally Weston said.
• An unconfined aquifer, however, is like a single-crust pie which has no top crust to protect the filling.• The city of Seward rests on a single-crust pie. The water-bearing layer of permeable sands and gravels sits above a thick layer of impermeable clay, Weston said. Wells can be drilled only so deep, and there is no layer of impermeable clay above the groundwater to seal out contaminants.
Addresses• Always use numerals for specific addresses. – 9 Morningside Circle – 325 Main St. – 9548 Oak St.
Directions• Abbreviate compass points used to indicate directional ends of a street or quadrants of a city in a numbered address. – 562 W. 43rd St.; 600 Holmes St. N.W.• Do not abbreviate if the numbered address is omitted. – She lives on South 33rd Street.
Streets• Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth when used as street names.• Use ordinal numerals for 10th and above.• Abbreviate St., Ave. and Blvd. only with a numbered address. – He lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. – He lives on Pennsylvania Avenue.• All similar words (alley, drive, road, terrace) are always spelled out.
Addresses in broadcast copy
In general• Use addresses only when they are specifically relevant to the story.• Spell out one through eleven. Use numerals for 12 and higher.• Hyphenate numbers read as two-digit groups: – 27-35 Oak Street.
Streets• Use words for streets named First through Eleventh.• Use numerals for streets 12th or higher.• Spell out all terms for streets – such as avenue, boulevard, circle, road, street, terrace – in all contexts.
Company• Abbreviate and capitalize company, corporation, incorporated, limited and brothers at the end of a company’s name. – Ford Motor Co., Gateway Inc., General Motors Corp., Warner Bros., Bright Signs Ltd.• Do not use a comma before the abbreviation.• Do not abbreviate or capitalize any of these words when used alone. – The company refused to pay overtime.
Degrees• Avoid abbreviating academic degrees.• Use phrases: – He has a doctorate in psychology. – She has a master’ s in economics.• Use apostrophes: bachelor’ s, master’ s, doctor’ s degree.• Use abbreviations – B.A., M.A., M.B.A., Ph.D. – only when other forms cumbersome.
Do not abbreviate• assistant • professor• association • superintendent• attorney • days of the week• building • Do not use an• district ampersand (&) in• government place of and in news stories.• president
Initials • Only a few organizations are so well know that they may be identified by their initials on first reference. – FBI, CIA, NASA, YMCA • For other organizations, use the full name on first reference. • On second reference, use abbreviations or acronyms only if they would be familiar to the reader. See AP Stylebook for guidance.
• A few other organizations are known only by their initials. A few examples are: – AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), – NCR Corp. (formerly National Cash Register Co.), – SAT (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test or Scholastic Assessment Test) and – 3M (formerly Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing).• Look up organization names in the Stylebook.
Junior/Senior• Abbreviate and capitalize junior or senior when used after a person’s name. – John Jones Jr.• Do not use commas to separate the name from Jr. or Sr.
mph/mpg• The abbreviation mph is acceptable on first reference for miles per hour.• The abbreviation mpg is acceptable only on second reference for miles per gallon.• Do not use periods in either abbreviation.
States• Abbreviate state names only when used with the name of a town, city or other subdivision. – Albany, N.Y. – Baton Rouge, La.• Always use periods with abbreviations of state names.• Use only AP abbreviations for states; never use Postal Service abbreviations.• Some state names are never abbreviated.
Titles • Abbreviate the following titles when used before a name: Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., the Rev., Sen. and certain military titles, such as Sgt., Capt. and Adm. (See AP Stylebook for all military titles.) – Gov. Smith announced $5 billion in budget cuts.
• Spell out all titles, except Dr., when used before a name in a direct quotation. – “Governor Smith promised budget cuts,” he said.• Spell out all titles when used alone without a name. – The senator promised he would check the status of the captain’s disability claim.
U.S./U.N.• United Nations and United States may be abbreviated as U.N. and U.S. when used as nouns or as adjectives. – The U.N. deployed its peacekeeping force Friday. – The president said U.S. policy would not change.• Use periods and no spaces in both abbreviations.
Abbreviations in broadcastcopy
Company• Whenever possible, use informal constructions rather than formal company names. – Ford executives unveiled plans for a new model….
• Do not abbreviate company or other words that are part of a corporate entity’s name.• Use commas before limited and incorporated. – The Smith Corporation, Limited, announced a loss for the fourth quarter.
Initials • Avoid using initials to refer to organizations, unless they are familiar to the listeners. • Use hyphens between initials. – C-I-A – F-B-I
• Do not use hyphens when the organization’s initials are pronounced as a word. – NASA
States• Do not abbreviate state names in body of a story or in a dateline.• Put a comma between the name of the city and the state and another comma after the name of the state unless it ends a sentence. – The tornado hit Galena, Kansas, and Joplin, Missouri.
Titles• Abbreviate Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Dr. when used before a name.• Do not abbreviate any other titles.
U-N/U-S• U-N and U-S are acceptable in all references for United Nations and United States and may be used as either nouns or adjectives.
In general• Do not capitalize words unnecessarily.• Use capital letters only as required by the rules summarized here or in the AP Stylebook.
Academic departments• Use lowercase except for proper nouns that are part of a department’s name. – the history department – the department of history – the English department – the department of English
Awards/events/holidays/wars• Capitalize awards. – Medal of Honor• Capitalize historic events and periods. – the San Francisco Earthquake; the Great Depression• Capitalize holidays. – Thanksgiving Day• Capitalize wars – The Civil War; World War II
Bible/God• Capitalize Bible, without quotation marks, to refer to the Old and New Testaments.• Quran is the preferred spelling for the Muslim holy book, and it, too, should be capitalized.• Capitalize God or Allah to refer to monotheistic deities; lowercase pronouns referring to the deity.
Buildings/Rooms• Capitalize the proper names of buildings, including the word building if that is part of the name. – Empire State Building• Capitalize the names of specifically designated rooms and the word room when it’s used with a number. – the Blue Room – Room 345
Capitol• Capitalize U.S. Capitol and the Capitol when referring to the building where Congress meets.• Capitalize Capitol when referring to the building where a specific state legislature meets. – the Indiana State Capitol
Congress• Capitalize U.S. Congress and Congress when referring to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.• Lower case congressional, unless it is part of a proper noun, such as the Congressional Record.• Capitalize legislature and similar terms when referring to specific state legislative bodies. – the Kansas Legislature
Constitution• Capitalize references to the U.S. Constitution, with or without the U.S. modifier.• Capitalize Bill of Rights and First Amendment (and all other amendments).• Lowercase the adjective constitutional.
Directions/Regions• Lowercase north, south, southwest, etc., when they indicate a compass direction. – Des Moines is north of Kansas City.• Capitalize such words when they indicate a region. – The storm hit Northeast states hardest.• Capitalize names of well known regions. – the Deep South; the East Side of Manhattan; Southern California.
Do not capitalize• administration • years in school• first lady (sophomore, junior,• first family etc.) • Also, lowercase the• government common-noun• presidential elements of proper• presidency names in plural• priest uses.• seasons (fall, winter, – Elm and Main streets etc.) – the Missouri and Mississippi rivers
Earth• Generally, lowercase earth. – She is a down-to-earth person.• Capitalize when it’s used as the proper name of the planet. – Mars is farther from the Sun than Earth.
Government• Capitalize city, county, state and federal when part of a proper name. – Crawford County Commission• Capitalize city council, city hall, police department, legislature and assembly when part of a proper name. – Boston City Council; Chicago Police Department; Florida Legislature
• Retain capitalization when the context makes clear the reference is to a specific body. – the City Council; the Police Department; the Legislature
Highways• Use these forms for highways identified by number. – U.S. Highway 1; U.S. Route 1; U.S. 1; Illinois 34, Illinois Route 34; state Route 34; Interstate 495; Interstate Highway 495.• On second reference, use I-495.• When a letter is appended to a highway number, capitalize it. – Route 1A
Military• Capitalize the names of U.S. armed forces. – U.S. Army – the Navy – Marine regulations• Lower case the forces of other nations. – the French army
Nationalities/Race• Capitalize proper names of nationalities, races and tribes. – French; Arab; Caucasian; Eskimo• Lowercase words such as black, white and mulatto.• Do not use colored; in the United States, the word is considered derogatory.• Do not identify people by race unless it is necessary to the story.
Plurals• To form the plurals of a number, add s with no apostrophe. – 1920s• To form plurals of a single letter, add ’ s. To form plurals of multiple letters, add only s. – Mind your p’s and q’s. – She knows her ABCs.
Political parties• Capitalize both the name of the party and the word party. – the Republican Party• Also capitalize Communist, Socialist, Libertarian when they refer to a specific party or party member.
• Lowercase references to a political philosophy – The Libertarian candidate received 348 votes. – The foundation advocates libertarian policies.• Use a D or an R and the abbreviation for the state to identify members of Congress. – Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., … – Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., …
• Use a D or an R and home town or district to identify members of state legislatures, city councils or other legislative bodies elected on a partisan basis. – State Sen. Joe Adams, R-Walnut, … – Councilwoman Alice Goode, D-3rd District, …
Proper nouns• Capitalize proper nouns, which uniquely identify persons, places or things. – Mary – Boston – the Columbia River• Lowercase common nouns when they stand alone. – the city – the river
Satan• Capitalize Satan, but lowercase devil and satanic.
Titles• Capitalize formal titles used immediately before a name. – Mayor Donna Rodgers• Lowercase titles used after the name or alone. – Donna Rogers, mayor of Walnut,….
• Lowercase words that are job descriptions rather than titles. – movie star Tom Hanks• Do not capitalize professor when used before a name. – He thanked professor Betty Falk for her advice.
Capitalization for broadcastcopy
In general• Capitalization rules for broadcast copy are nearly identical to those for print copy.• See the AP Stylebook and the AP Broadcast News Handbook for more specifics.
Government• Always refer to governmental bodies by the name that is most familiar to the audience.• Capitalize full proper names, and hyphenate U-S when that’s part of the name. – U-S Defense Department
In general• Spell out all cardinal numbers below 10 and ordinal numbers below 10th.• Use numerals for cardinal numbers 10 and above and ordinals 10th and above.• Spell out all numbers, except for calendar years, that start a sentence.• Avoid starting sentences with numbers or years.
Ages• Use numerals for all ages, even those less than 10.• Hyphenate ages expressed as adjectives before a noun. – a 5-year-old boy – The boy is 5.
Cents• Spell out the word cents and lowercase and use numerals. – 5 cents• Use the dollar sign and decimals for amounts larger than a dollar. – $1.01
Decades/centuries• Use Arabic figures for decades. Use an apostrophe to indicate omitted numbers. Show plurals by adding an s without an apostrophe at the end. – 1920s; the ’30s• Lowercase century and spell out numbers less than 10. – the first century; the 21st century
Dollars• Lowercase dollars. Use figures and the $ sign for all except casual references or amounts without a figure. – The book cost $4. – The economy is as sound as dollar.• For amounts of $1 million or more use numerals and up to two decimal places. – He is worth $4.35 million. – She proposed a $400 million budget.
Election returns/vote tabulations• For election returns, use the word to (not a hyphen) to separate different totals. – Smith won re-election by a vote of 2,356 to 2,118.
• For election results that involve fewer than 1,000 votes on each side, use a hyphen. – Smith won re-election by a vote of 235-211.• Spell out numbers below 10 in other phrases. – the five-vote majority
Fractions• Spell out amounts less than one, using hyphens between the words. – one-half – four-fifths• For precise amounts larger than one, convert to decimals, whenever practical, and use numerals. – 1.25 inches
Measurements/dimensions• Use figures for amounts and spell out feet, inches, yards, etc. Hyphenate adjectival forms used before a noun. – He is 5 feet 6 inches tall. – The 5-foot-6 man…. – The rug is 9 feet by 12 feet. – The 9-by-12-foot rug….
Million/billion • Do not go beyond two decimal places. – 7.51 million people – $2.6 billion budget • Use decimals, not fractions. – 1.5 million, NOT 1½ million
• Do not drop the word million or billion from ranges. – The project will cost $2 billion to $3 billion. (NOT $2 to $3 billion, unless that’s what you mean.)
Number• Use No. as the abbreviation for number when used with a figure to indicate position or rank. – the No. 1 candidate – the No. 3 post
Odds• Use figures and a hyphen for betting odds. – The odds were 5-4. – He won despite the 3-2 odds against him.
Percentages• Use figures for all amounts, even those less than 10. – 1 percent – 17 percent• Always spell out the word percent; never use the % symbol.• For amounts less than 1 percent, use a zero and a decimal point. – The cost of living rose 0.6 percent.
Ratios• Use figures and a hyphen for ratios. – The ratio was 2-to-1. – The 2-to-1 ratio…. – The 2-1 ratio….
Scores• Use figures for all scores with hyphens between the winning and losing scores. – The Reds defeated the Cubs 4-1. – The Giants posted a 35-27 victory over the Jets. – Woods had a 5 on the last hole but finished with a 2-under-par score.
Temperatures• Use figures for all temperatures, except zero, and spell out degrees. – The high Wednesday was 5 degrees.• Use the word minus, not a hyphen, to indicate temperatures below zero. – The overnight low was minus 10 degrees.
Weights• Use figures for all weights. Spell out pounds and ounces. – The police seized 2 pounds of marijuana and 13 ounces of cocaine.
Numerals for broadcast copy
In general• Spell out one through eleven. Use numerals for 12 through 999.• For numbers above 999, use words or combinations of numerals and words. – Nearly two-thousand students attended the lecture. – Authorities estimated 12-thousand homes were damaged by the storm.
• Use hyphens to combine numerals and the words hundred or thousand. – The hurricane damaged nearly 12 hundred homes and 200 businesses.• Hyphens are not needed with the words (m) million, (b) billion or (t) trillion, but always use the letter in parentheses to confirm the unit. – The comet will travel seven (m) million miles. – The government estimates 234 (m) million vehicles are on the roads in the U-S.
• Use the same rules for ordinals. Spell out first through eleventh. Use numerals and st, nd, rd or th for larger numbers. – first; third; tenth – 12th; 21st; 32nd; 43rd; 77th
Ages• Follow the general rule of spelling out numbers less than 12. – the five-year-old girl… – The boy is eleven. – The suspect is 36 years old.• Do not follow a person’s name with the age set off with commas. – WRONG: Smith, 26, has two children. – RIGHT: Smith is 26. He has two children.
Betting odds• Use figures, hyphens and the word to. – 3-to-2 odds – the odds were 3-to-2• Spell out the numbers when a sentence starts with odds. – Three-to-two were the odds on success.
Cents• Always spell out cents. Spell out amounts less than 12. – five cents – 25 cents
Decimal units• Spell out decimal amounts and the word point. Use oh in place of zero. – five-point-three – point-oh-six• Use decimal values only when directly relevant to the story. Convert to fractions when possible. – three-point-five – BETTER: three and a-half.
Dimensions• Spell out such words as feet, inches, yards, meters, etc.• Spell out numbers less than 12. Use commas to separate units of measure. Hyphenate adjectival forms – He is five feet, six inches tall. – The five-foot-six man… – We took a 150-mile trip.
Dollars• Always spell out dollars and place the word after the amount. Never use $. Use words for amounts less than 12. – five dollars; 500-thousand dollars• Use commas to separate units – five dollars, ten cents – 135-thousand, 312 dollars
• For large amounts, round and use a more than or almost construction. – WRONG: five million, 187-thousand, 600 dollars – RIGHT: more than five million dollars• Avoid decimal constructions for amounts in the millions or billions. – WRONG: three-point-two billion dollars – RIGHT: three billion, 200 million dollars
• Informalize monetary amounts when possible. – two and a-half dollars – two-50 – NOT two dollars, 50 cents• Explain large amounts in terms people can understand, such as ratios or per- capita amounts.
Election returns• Use numbers sparingly, and use percentages rather than raw totals. – Smith received 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent for Jones• Always try to simplify. – WRONG: Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford 40 million, 827-thousand, 292 to 39 million, 146- thousand, 157 in 1976. – RIGHT: Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford by nearly one-point-seven million votes out of nearly 81 million cast in the 1976 election.
Highway designations• Spell out such words as highway, route and interstate. Capitalize when they are part of the highway’s name.• Use words for highway numbers less than 12. – U-S Highway 50; state Route Seven; Interstate 495 (I-495 acceptable on second reference)
• When a letter is appended, capitalize and hyphenate it. – Route One-A
Percentages• Spell out percent and numbers less than 12. – eleven percent – seven and a-half percent• Repeat percent with each figure unless the sentence is too cumbersome. – The mayor wants to spend eight percent more on police while cutting the fire department by three. – BETTER: The mayor wants to spend eight percent more on police while cutting the fire department by three percent.
Ratios• Use hyphens and the word to. – It was a 75-to-one shot. – The bill passed the Senate by a two-to-one margin.• Use ratio or margin where there might be confusion between a ratio and an actual figure.
Room numbers• Capitalize room and spell out numbers below 12. Capitalize numbers that are spelled out. – Room Eight – Room 213
Scores• Use figures only (an exception to the general rule) and use to with hyphens. – The Cardinals beat the Diamondbacks 3- to-2. – The final score was Boston 6, Chicago 3.• When reporting only one team’s score, however, spell out amounts less than 12. – The Marlins scored seven runs in the eighth inning to beat the Royals.
Temperatures• Spell out numbers less than 12. Use the word minus, not a hyphen, for temperatures below zero, and spell out degrees. – The high today was 65 degrees. – The overnight low was minus five degrees.
Comma/ages• Use commas to separate a person’s age from his or her name. – Artie Shaw, 94, died Wednesday.
Comma/state names• Use commas to separate the name of a state from the name of a city. Use commas before and after the state name unless it ends the sentence. – The bus traveled from Cairo, Ill., to Knoxville, Tenn.
Comma/hometowns• Use commas to set off a person’s hometown when it is placed in apposition to the name. – Mary Richards, Minneapolis, and Maude Findlay, Tuckahoe, N.Y., attended the ceremony.
• The better practice is to replace the commas with an of phrase. – Mary Richards of Minneapolis and Maude Findlay of Tuckahoe, N.Y., attended the ceremony.
Comma/quotations• Use a comma after the attribution to introduce a one-sentence quotation. – She said, “The city has overspent its budget.”• When the attribution follows the quotation, replace the period at the end of the quotation with a comma. – “The city has overspent its budget,” she said.
• Use commas before and after attribution that is in the middle of a quotation. – “Before the start of the war,” the senator said, “the United States should have planned to fight insurgents.”• Always place commas and periods inside quotation marks.
• Use commas to set off attribution at the end or in the middle of an indirect quotation. – The war plans were inadequate, he said. – The time has come, the president said, to engage in direct negotiations.• Do not use a comma with indirect or partial quotations that start with the attribution. – Tucker said the plane was low on fuel.
Comma/series• Use commas to separate elements in a series. Do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series. – The players’ jerseys are purple, yellow and white.
Comma/appositives• An appositive is a word or expression placed beside another in order to explain or elaborate on the other word or expression.• Appositives should have commas before and after them, unless they come at the end of a sentence. – Bill Smith, the leadoff batter, struck out. – The letter came from Jane Mitchell, the state treasurer.
Colon/lists• The most frequent use of the colon is at the end of a sentence to introduce a list, tabulation or text. – There were three considerations: expense, time and feasibility.
Colon/quotations• Use a colon after the attribution to introduce a quotation of more than one sentence. – The prosecutor said: “The gunman showed no mercy. He shot both victims as they begged for their lives.”
Possessives• For common or proper nouns, singular or plural, that do not end in s, add an apostrophe and an s.• For singular common nouns that end in s, add an apostrophe and an s, unless the next word begins with an s.• Singular common or proper nouns that end in ce, z or x, add an apostrophe and an s.
• For singular proper nouns that end in s, add only an apostrophe.• For plural common or proper nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe.• See Appendix C of “Reporting for the Media” for more rules and examples.
Semicolon• Use semicolons to separate elements in a series where one or more of the elements has internal punctuation. – He leaves three daughters, Jane Smith of Wichita, Kan., Mary Smith of Denver and Susan Kingsbury of Boston; a son, John Smith of Chicago; and a sister, Martha Warren of Omaha, Neb.• Note that a semicolon is used before the final element in the series.
Punctuation for broadcastcopy
In general• Punctuation should help a newscaster understand and read a story.• Most of the rules for punctuating print copy apply to broadcast copy
Comma/ages and hometowns• Do not use commas to set off ages and hometowns from names. Instead, put ages and hometowns in separate sentences. – The governor has appointed James Burns to lead the Economic Development Department. He is a 48-year-old banker from Pleasanton.
Commas/quotations• Avoid direct quotations in stories. Use paraphrases or tape instead.• Where a direct quotation is central to a story, punctuate it as for print, but use a phrase that would make clear to listeners the words are those of the source, not of the reporter. – In the president’s words, “He can run, but he can’t hide.”
Hours and minutes• Use figures except for noon and midnight. Do not put a 12 before noon or midnight. Use a.m. or p.m. (lowercase with periods) after any times other than noon or midnight. – 11:45 a.m.; 1:30 p.m.
• If the time is on the hour, do not use a colon and zeros after it. – 10 a.m.; 4 p.m.• Avoid redundancies like 9 a.m. this morning.
Days• Use day of the week (Monday, Tuesday).• Use today, this morning, tonight, etc., for day of publication.• Never use yesterday and tomorrow except in direct quotations and phrases that do not refer to a specific day. – Examples • The City Council voted Tuesday…. • The council meets tonight at 8 p.m.
Days/dates• Use Monday, Tuesday, etc., for days of the week within seven days of the day of publication. • The council postponed the issue until Tuesday.• Use month and date for days more than seven days before or after the day of publication. • The council postponed the issue until July 9.• Avoid redundancies like last Tuesday or next Tuesday.
Months• Capitalize the names of months in all uses.• When a month is used with a specific date, use these abbreviations: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec. Never abbreviate March, April, May, June or July. – Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month. – Her birthday is June 9.
• When a phrase uses only month and year, do not set off the year with commas. – January 1978 was the coldest month on record.• When a phrase uses month, date and year, use commas to set off the year. – Feb. 14, 2010, is the target date.• Do not use st, nd, rd or th after the Arabic numeral in a date.
Time in broadcast copy
In general• Exact time of day is rarely necessary to a story. Use it only to give the audience a better picture of the scene (such as whether a disaster occurred when people were sleeping or at work) or when it is critical, such as when a scheduled event will occur.
Hours and minutes• Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. Designate morning and afternoon with a-m and p-m (hyphenated with no periods). – The council meets at 10 a-m. – The kickoff is at 7:35 p-m.
Time zones• Sometimes it is necessary to identify time zones, as in stories that occur in one time zone but might affect or interest people in other zones.• Capitalize the full names of time zones: Central Standard Time; Eastern Daylight Time.
• Capitalize only the region when using the short form: Mountain time, Pacific time.• Capitalize and hyphenate abbreviations for time zones: E-D-T; C-S-T.
Dates• Never abbreviate the names of months.• Spell out and capitalize ordinal numbers of dates for the first through the eleventh. Use numerals with st, nd, rd or th for other dates. – February Third – October 26th• Use commas to separate year from month and day. – November 22nd, 1963, ….
Days• Use today, this morning, tonight, yesterday and tomorrow, as appropriate.• In references to days within seven days of the broadcast, use the day of the week without last or next. The verb tense tells listeners whether the event has happened or will happen. – The mayor spoke Tuesday. – The mayor will speak Tuesday.
In general• Formal titles preceding a name are capitalized and, when appropriate, abbreviated. – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger• Titles placed after a name are lowercase, spelled out and set off with commas. – Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, ….
• Lowercase titles that stand alone. – The general refused to surrender.• Do not repeat the title the second time you use a person’s name.• Some titles are never abbreviated. – sheriff – mayor – president – superintendent
Boy/girl• The terms boy and girl are applicable to people under the age of 18.• Use man and woman for people over 18.
Compositions• Capitalize the principal words in the titles of books, movies, operas, plays, poems, songs, television programs, lectures, speeches and works of art.• Put quotation marks around the names of all such works. – Tom Clancy wrote “The Hunt for Red October.”• Do not underline or italicize titles.
Congressman/congresswoman• Use congressman and congresswoman only in reference to specific members of the U.S. House of Representatives. – Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi• Use representative if the gender is unknown or when referring to more than one House member.• Abbreviate representative before a name. – Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.; Republican Reps. John Boehner and Roy Blunt
Courtesy titles• In general, do not use courtesy titles – Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms. – on first reference. Instead, use first name, middle initial and last name. A woman’s or man’s marital status should not be mentioned unless pertinent to the story. – Robert B. Parker; Helen Hunt
• For married women, the preferred form is to use her own first name and middle initial and the last name she uses, either her husband’s or her birth name. Use Mrs. if she requests it or her own first name cannot be determined. – Michelle L. Obama – NOT Mrs. Barack Obama
• On second reference, use only the last name of a man or woman, unless courtesy titles are needed to distinguish two people with the same last name.• On first reference to couples, use both first names. – Louise and Marvin Jones
Initials• In general, use middle initials to identify specific individuals. Middle initials are helpful in such things as casualty lists and stories identifying people accused of crime. – Howard K. Smith• Use periods and no space when a person uses only initials instead of a name. – O.J. Simpson
• Do not use a single initial (O. Simpson) unless that is the person’s preference or the first name cannot be learned.
Magazines• Capitalize magazine titles but do not place them in quotes or italics.• Lowercase magazine, unless it is part of the publication’s formal title. – Newsweek magazine
Newspapers• Capitalize the in a newspaper’s name if that is the way the publication prefers to be known. (Check the newspaper’s flag for whether the is part of the paper’s name.) – Johnson won the race for governor, The New York Times declared. – Johnson won the race for governor, the Chicago Sun-Times declared.
• If the state in which the newspaper is published is needed but is not part of the official name, use parentheses. – Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star• Do not underline, italicize or use quotation marks for the names of newspapers.
Reference works• Capitalize, but do not use quotation marks around the proper names of books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. – The Statistical Abstract of the United States• The rule also applies to almanacs, dictionaries, handbooks and encyclopedias.
Reverend• When using the title Rev. before a name, precede it with the word the. – The Rev. Franklin Graham
Titles in Broadcast Copy
In general• Capitalize only formal titles used before a name.• Minimize the use of long formal titles. Where possible, use shorter versions. – WRONG: Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson…. – BETTER: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson….
• When even a shortened title is too long, place it in a separate sentence following the name. – Stephen Rademaker described the proposal. He is the assistant secretary of state for arms control.
Courtesy titles• The basic rule is readability. Use the clearest construction.• Generally, do not use courtesy titles on first references.• Do not use courtesy titles in other references, except as needed to distinguish among people with the same last name.
Initials • Avoid using middle initials whenever possible. – WRONG: Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Junior said …. – BETTER: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said ….
• Use initials when they are integral to the person’s name or when the person’s name is used in a casualty list or a story about a crime. – Police have arrested Stephen W. Johnson on charges of selling cocaine.• If a person is known by his or her initials, use both first and middle, not just the first. – O.J. Simpson, NOT O. Simpson.
Legislative titles • Do not abbreviate legislative titles. – Senator Harry Reid; Congressman Roy Blunt; Representative Nancy Pelosi • Use party affiliation only when it is relevant to the story. Do not abbreviate it. – Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine….
• Do not use legislative titles on second reference.• Readily recognized organizational titles may be used. Some examples are Speaker of the House, House Majority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, etc. They should be capitalized when used before a name.
• Other common legislative titles are city councilman, city councilwoman, assemblyman, assemblywoman, delegate, alderman. Capitalize such words used before a name. – Councilwoman Sylvia Locke – Alderman Tom Nguyen
Reverend• Always use the before Reverend.• Never abbreviate Reverend. – … the Reverend Franklin Graham….• Do not use the Reverend on second reference.
A• Affect, effect – Generally, affect is a verb; effect is a noun.• Afterward, afterwards – Use afterward. The same applies for backward, forward and toward.• All right – Never alright.• Allude, elude – You allude to or mention a book; you elude or escape a pursuer.
• Annual – Never use first with it; it can’t be an annual event if it’s the first time.• Averse, adverse – If you do not like something, you are averse to it. Adverse is an adjective meaning unfavorable.
B• Block, bloc – A bloc is a coalition of people or groups with the same purpose or goal. Do not call it a block, which has some 40 dictionary definitions.
C• Compose, comprise – Comprise means to include or embrace. The parts compose the whole, while the whole comprises the parts. Never use comprise in a passive construction.
D• Demolish, destroy – They both mean to do away with completely. Something cannot be partially destroyed, and it is redundant to say something was completely destroyed.• Different from – Things and people are different from one another, not different than.
• Drown – Do not say someone was drowned unless someone held that person’s head underwater. Just say the victim drowned.• Due to, owning to, because of – The last is preferred. – WRONG: The game was canceled due to rain. – STILTED: Owing to rain, the game was canceled. – RIGHT: The game was canceled because of rain.
E• Either – It means one or the other, not both. – WRONG: The goal posts are at either end of the field. – RIGHT: The goal posts are at each end of the field.
F• Funeral service – A redundant expression. A funeral is a service
H• Head up – People do not head up committees or other bodies. They head them.
I • Imply, infer – The speaker implies; the hearer infers. • In advance of, prior to – Use before. It sounds more natural. • Injuries – They are suffered, not sustained or received. • Irregardless. A double negative; use regardless.
• Innocent/not guilty – Use innocent to avoid inadvertently dropping the not from not guilty.• Its, it’s – Its is the possessive form. It’ s is the contraction for it is.
L• Lay, lie – Lay is an action verb; lie is a state of being.• Less, fewer – If you can separate items in the quantities being compared, use fewer. If not, use less.• Like, as – Use like when comparing nouns or pronouns. Use as when comparing phrases or clauses that contain verbs.
M• Marshall, marshal – Generally, the first is used only as a proper noun, Susan Marshall. The second is the form for the title (fire marshal) or the verb (to marshal one’ s forces).• Mass – It is celebrated, not said. Capitalize when referring to the ceremony, but lowercase adjectives that precede it (high Mass).
• Medal, meddle – A medal is a small, flat piece of metal given as an award. Meddle means to involve oneself in someone else’s affairs.• Mean, average, median – Mean and average both refer to the sum of all components divided by the number of components. The median is the number that has as many components above it as below it.
N• Nouns – Resist the trend toward using nouns as verbs. Words such as author, host and headquarters are nouns. Do not use them as verbs.• Nouns (collective) – Nouns that denote a unit take singular verbs and pronouns: company, family, jury, team. When used in the sense of two people, couple takes plural verbs and pronouns.
O• Over, more than – Over refers to spatial relationships: The plane flew over the city. More than is used with figures: More than 1,000 fans attended the game.
P• Parallel construction – Thoughts in a series should take the same grammatical form, such as noun phrases, verb phrases or prepositional phrases.• Peddle, pedal – When selling something you peddle it. You pedal a bicycle.• Person, people – Use person when speaking of an individual Use people in all plural constructions.
• Principal, principle – The first, dominant or leading thing is a principal. A guiding rule or basic truth is a principle.
R• Raised, reared – Only humans may be reared. Any living thing may be raised.• Realtor – The term real estate agent is preferred. Use Realtor (capitalized) only if the person is a member of the National Association of Realtors.• Redundancies – Avoid such redundant expressions as Easter Sunday, close down, Jewish rabbi and is currently.
• Refute – The word connotes success in an argument and almost always implies an editorial judgment.• Reluctant, reticent – Someone who does not want to act is reluctant; someone who does not want to speak is reticent.
S• Say, said – The most serviceable words for journalists are forms of to say. Let sources say things rather than declare, admit or point out. Never let them grin, smile or frown a quote.• Slang – Avoid slang. Usually a slang term is on the way out by the time it appears in print.
T• Temperatures – They get higher or lower; they do not get warmer or colder.• That, which – That clauses tend to restrict or define another word or phrase. Which clauses add subsidiary information. – Sharpen the lawnmower that is in the garage. – Sharpen the lawnmower, which is in the garage.
U• Under way, not underway. It’s better to avoid under way completely. Say started instead.• Unique. Unique means one of a kind. Something cannot be unique unless there is nothing else like it in the world.
• Up. Do not use up as a verb. – WRONG: The company upped the price of gas. – RIGHT: The company raised the price of gas.
W• Who, whom. Use whom to refer to someone who is the object of an action. Use who to refer to someone who is the actor. – RIGHT: A 19-year-old woman, to whom the room was rented, left the window open. – RIGHT: A 19-year-old woman, who rented the room, left the window open.
• Words to avoid. Do not use kids, ladies (as a synonym for women), gentlemen (as a synonym for men), cop or entitled (when you mean titled) in news stories.