Generalized Stylebook

The Tameri Guide for Writers stylebook offers a basic style guide to writing for general audiences. Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, you should adhere to a uniform style throughout your document. Our style guide is not the AP Stylebook; it is based on several style guides, including the AP Stylebook. We do tend to prefer the AP for mass market, general audience writing. When there are differences among style guides, we identify them. This style guide addresses issues for U.S. writers. Do not expect this guide to apply to other English-speaking audiences, though many rules should be similar.

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law is the writing bible of professional journalists and non-fiction authors. The AP Stylebook belongs on the desk of any writer working for magazines, newspapers, or online services. It should be well-worn, too, unless the writer trusts his or her memory too much. Because of its standing among mass market publications, we have found that many publishers like the AP Stylebook as a guide for creative writers.

There is an official AP Stylebook available online for a fee. We prefer printed copies, but there are advantages to an online edition, namely it is always up-to-date. Visit the AP Stylebook site:

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For additional information, our online guide to word usage deals with proper word choices for U.S. English. The AP Stylebook contains style and usage entries, as well as a media law reference. Only the most common style issues are addressed within the Tameri Guide website, with minimal explanation.

Newspaper and Magazine Editing

Most daily newspapers and magazines in America belong to the Associated Press. The original idea was to share stories among publications, allowing small newspapers to carry major stories. News, opinoion, and feature stories are distributed by the AP ( Member publications adhered to the style rules of the AP, allowing the shared content to be included in a publication with minimal changes.

The AP Stylebook cannot address every editing issue. According to the AP, the following books should be consulted whenever you have a word usage or grammar question:

  1. Associated Press Stylebook (,
  2. Webster’s New World College Dictionary
  3. The Word, by Rene Cappon
  4. The Chicago Manual of Style
  5. The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White

The list appears in order of preference. Consult the most recent AP guidelines before proceeding to other references. The other texts might not agree with the AP or each other, which is why the order of preference matters.

If you work for a larger publication or publisher, the organization might have guidelines that supersede the AP. For example, The New York Times uses “Mr.” within stories, unlike other newspapers. (Yes, The Times used “Mr. Hitler” throughout World War II.) Follow whatever rules your employer uses.

Students and Scholars: Do not assume AP style is appropriate for academic writing — it isn’t. Teachers and college professors will complain if you use AP style to supersede Chicago, MLA, or APA style.

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- A -

ABC - Use for all references to American Broadcasting Companies, which is legally plural. Clarify by using division names, such as ABC TV.

academic degrees - Use bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate. B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. should be used after a name when necessary, such as identifying a graduate in an alumni publication. Only capitalize when the degree “class” is joined with an academic discipline, such as Bachelor of Science in Engineering.

Kelly has completed her master’s degree. Her husband has a Master of Fine Arts in Drama. Her father is William Smythe, Ph.D.

academic departments - Use lowercase unless part of the department title is a proper noun. Be aware that some universities consider the name of departments to be proper nouns.

She works in the university’s English department.

The Department of English at the University of Washington is hosting an event.

Academy Awards - The Academy Awards and the statue name Oscar are trademarks.

acronyms - Do not use acronyms most of your readers would not instantly recognize.

Act - Capitalize when part of the name of legislation.

act number (play) - The AP calls for Arabic numerals only (Act 1, Scene 2), but most publications use Roman numerals.

actor / actress - Use of actress for women is acceptable at most publications.

accused - Avoid accused because it suggests someone has been judged guilty. For example, "accused robber Jane Doe," implies a level of guilt. Use alleged.

A.D. - Anno Domini. Precedes the year, unlike B.C., because the phrase is “In the Year of The Lord” 2003. Only use if some dates in an article might be B.C. or A.D. and clarification is required. A.D. is assumed. See B.C. Some publications use C.E. for Common Era instead of A.D. C.E. is mostly commonly used in science publications.

addresses - Use Ave., Blvd., and St. with numbered addresses. Spell out Avenue, Boulevard, and Street when using the name of a street without an address. All other descriptors, spell out: Court, Drive, Road, and others. Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth, but use figures and two letters for 10th and above. Abbreviate compass points when giving an address, but spell out if it is the name of a street, 123 N. Main St., 345 North Street.

123 Main St. is Main Street’s most famous address.

admit / admitted - Avoid and use said when possible. Admissions are legally determined by a court.

adopt, approve, enact, pass - Bills are passed. Laws are enacted. Constitutional Amendments, ordinances, regulations, and resolutions are adopted. Avoid using approved.

AFL-CIO - some publications use the acronym for all references, the AP preference. Others use the full union name on first reference, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

African-American - Not used by most publications, due to the international nature of media. See black. Individuals from the Caribbean and Belize do not consider themselves African.

ages - Only give when important to the story.

aka - All lowercase. This is an exception to most style and usage guides because aka is an acronym for also known as.

Alaska - Spell out. Because of the potential for confusion with Arkansas, Alabama, and Arizona, Alaska should never be abbreviated or indicated by the postal code (AK).

Allah - Style sources vary on this, but the AP prefers "God" unless the Arabic is being quoted.

allege / alleged - Use with care. All crimes are alleged, people are accused.

all right - The AP does not accept alright, though many usage guides do.

alumni / alumnus - Plural, singular. Both are the Latin masculine form. Alumnae, alumna are the feminine and are out of favor at some publications.

a.m. / p.m. - Chicago Manual allows AM and PM, in small caps, but as of the most recent edition, lowercase with periods is the preferred style when small caps are unavailable.

AM - Use only for radio stations (amplitude modulation).

Amendments to the Constitution - Always capitalized, as in First Amendment or Fifth Amendment. For the tenth and above, the AP accepts 10th Amendment, 11th Amendment, etc.

America / American - Use U.S. for government references. The AP suggests American for residents of the U.S. Academic style guides differ. The problem with American is “the Americas” refers to North, Central, and South America. Unfortunately, the official name of Mexico is the United States of Mexico (Los Estados Unidos de Mexico), so the U.S. designation is not unique. A handful of Mexican leaders have objected to the United States of America being “los Estados Unidos” in their press. No matter what choice is made, someone will be offended. American is accepted as common — and what else would you call a citizen of the United States of America? It's too late to rename the country…

American Civil Liberties Union - Spell out on first reference, then use ACLU.

ampersand (&) - Use & only when part of a legal name. Otherwise use and.

Amtrak - “American travel by track” is the slogan for the National Railroad Passenger Corp. Still, Amtrak is the known name, so use on all references.

anchorman / anchorwoman - We see no reason to avoid the neutral anchor, but do not use anchor in AP style.

AP, The Associated Press - Use AP on second reference, capitalize The on first.

April Fools’ Day - Possessive plural.

Arabic names - Transliteration is complex; use the most common English varient when known. Pronunciation varies by region, resulting in different English transliterations. al/el = the; ibn/bin = son of; abu = father.

Arctic - Capitalize only for the region around the magnetic North Pole.

Arizona - Avoid abbreviation when possible on first reference. Never use the postal code (AZ). In AP style, appreviate as Ariz.

Arkansas - Avoid abbreviation when possible on first reference. Never use the postal code (AR). In AP style, appreviate as Ark.

arrested - Use “arrested on a charge of…” and not “arrested for…” in AP style.

artworks - Lowercase movements such as impressionism or modernism, capitalize movements only when they appear in a title or name. Enclose titles of paintings in quotes. Capitalize the titles of sculptures, without quotes, in AP style.

ASCII- American Standard Code for Information Interchange, use ASCII on all references.

Asian-American - Avoid unless relevant to a story.

Asperger’s syndrome - AP style uses the approstrophe; other style guides do not. Also, some prefer capitalization of syndrome. On second reference, Asperger's, without syndrome, is preferred by AP. Science publications use AS.

assistant - Never abbreviated in AP style.

associated - Never abbreviated in AP style.

astronaut - Not used as a formal title in AP style, instead use the individual's military rank.

We met astronaut Capt. Jane Doe.

AstroTurf - Trademark for artificial grass, first used in the AstroDome.

Atomic Age - Began Dec. 2, 1942, at the University of Chicago. The Atomic Age did not start with the bombing of Hiroshima.

ATM - Never ATM machine, which is redundant.

author - AP discourages using author as a verb.

aviator - For men and women, but pilot is preferred. Yes, there are feminine forms, but they are not used in AP style.

ax - Never axe in AP style.

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baby boomer, boomer - Although lower case in AP style, many publications capitalize variations of Baby Boom and Boomers. We prefer the capitalization because the Baby Boom refers to a specific period following World War II.

baccalaureate - The AP preferred spelling.

bachelor of arts/science - Use the formal phrase or bachelor's degree. Avoid bachelor's unless it is clearly referring to the degree.

backward - AP style rejects backwards.

badminton - You cannot imagine all the spellings we’ve seen.

Band-Aid - Trademark, capitalize.

Baptist churches - Only the local meeting place is a church, unlike the Catholic Church. There are five major Baptist organizations, though none are considered the authority over churches. The Southern Baptist Convention, representing 12 million members; American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., 1.5 million members; the National Baptist Convention of America; National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc.; and Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc.

barbecue - Preferred spelling.

B.C. - Follows the year, unlike A.D. Although AP style permits B.C., most science publications prefer B.C.E. (before common era). See A.D.

Bible - Capitalized in AP style. Some style guides prefer specific names, such as Old Testament or New Testament. AP capitalizes Scripture when referring to Christian or Jewish books. Other style guides do not capitalize “scripture” referring to any religion’s texts.

Big Board, the - Allowed for second reference to the New York Stock Exchange, but NYSE is preferred by most publications.

Bill of Rights - The popular name for the first ten Amendments of the Constitution.

billions - Use figures, limiting to two decimal places. Example: 2 billion, 3.75 billion.

bit - Do not use binary digit.

black - Preferred to African-American since publications are now international. AP style assumes international readership. Some newspapers use African-American in local news, but black in international stories. Someone will object to either choice.

bloc - Always use for a coalition of people. Do not use block.

blog - Do not use Web log.

bologna - The deli meat. Use baloney for foolish talk or hyperbole.

bona-fide - Avoid in writing for general audiences.

Books on Tape - Trademark.

brand names - Capitalize according to any trademarks or legal names.

brand-new - Compound adjective.

Britain - Acceptable for Great Britain, which is the island. Includes the regions of England, Scotland, and Wales. Do not use in place of the United Kingdom, which includes Northern Ireland.

British - Preferred to Britons, never use Brits.

Broadway - Generally a New York City theater of 300 or more seats. Union contracts define what is Broadway, not a physical street address. The term off-Broadway refers to 100–299 seats, and off-off-Broadway are those theaters with fewer than 100 seats. Ninety-nine seats is a cut-off within union contracts for certain wage scales. “Off” is capitalized by the unions, but not by most publications.

Bronze Age - Specific period from 3500 to 1000 B.C., when bronze tools were common.

Bros. - Use for Brothers if a company does so within its official name logo. Example: Warner Bros. Studios.

brunette - Use brown-haired. Many publications consider brunette to be sexist.

Bubble Wrap - Trademark.

Building - Never abbreviate in a proper noun name for a building. Example: The Empire State Building

bullpen - One word referring to where relief pitchers and catchers practice during a baseball game.

bull market - Lowercase in AP style. Defined as a 20 percent increase in a stock index.

bureau - Frequently misspelled, bureau should be capitalized in the name of any government agency.

burglary / larceny / robbery / theft - Be precise in journalism. Burglary is entering a building with the intent of theft. Larceny is the wrongful taking of property, often via a deceit. Robbery involves a threat or use of force. Theft is a larceny without a threat or deceit, yet not a burglary.

byte - Computer term for eight bits (binary digits). In the “ancient days” computers had seven-bit bytes. One byte stores one ASCII character, two bytes can store one basic multilingual Unicode character.

- C -

cactus / cactuses - No cacti in AP style.

Caesarean section - Capitalize.

Canada goose - Not a Canadian goose.

Canuck - Derogatory for French Canadian.

Caterpillar - Trademark for a brand of heavy-construction tractor.

Catholic - Use Roman Catholic Church, then Catholic Church in AP style.

CBS Inc. - Legal name of the former Columbia Broadcasting System.

cellophane - Not capitalized, now generic.

Celsius - Use in place of centigrade. See measurements

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Though best known as the CDC, the full name should be used on first reference. Use CDC on second reference.

Central America - Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Central Intelligence Agency - Use CIA on all references. Some publications prefer CIA on second reference.

century - Spell out in lowercase unless it is part of a proper name, such as 20th Century Fox.

chairman / chairwoman - Do not use chairperson or chair.

Channel - Capitalize when used with a number. Example: We watch Channel 47.

chat room - Two words in AP style when referring to Internet “chat” systems. Commonly chatroom in computer publications. Some publications now use chat. For example, she was busy chatting on Facebook.

Chemical Mace - Trademark. Mace is acceptable on all references.

Chevy - Use Chevrolet unless writing an automotive feature.

chief justice - Lowercase. The chief justice of the United States, not the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

child care - Two words in AP style.

China - Use for the People’s Republic of China. Taiwan is officially the Republic of China, but publications prefer Taiwan.

Chinese names - In Chinese names, the family name is first and followed by the given name. Use the family name on second reference. Example: Deng Xiaoping is of the Deng family. Most Chinese immigrants reverse the order to following Western tradition.

Christian Science - Use Church of Christ, Scientist, for the church name. Christian Science is the faith.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Notice “Latter-day” capitalization in the official name. Mormon Church is acceptable on second reference at most publications, LDS at others. AP prefers Mormon Church.

cities - Some cities are well-known and do not require state, province, or country identifiers.

Atlanta Houston Philadelphia
Baltimore Indianapolis Phoenix
Boston Las Vegas Pittsburgh
Chicago Los Angeles St. Louis
Cincinnati Miami Salt Lake City
Cleveland Milwaukee San Antonio
Dallas Minneapolis San Diego
Denver New Orleans San Francisco
Detroit New York (City) Seattle
Honolulu Oklahoma City Washington (D.C.)

Use Hollywood for stories originating in the Los Angeles area that relate to entertainment.

International cities used without a country name:

Beijing Monaco
Berlin Montreal
Djibouti Moscow
Geneva Ottawa
Gibraltar Panama City
Guatemala City Paris
Havana Quebec
Hong Kong Rome
Jerusalem San Marino
Kuwait Singapore
London Tokyo
Luxembourg Toronto
Macao Vatican City
Mexico City United Nations

United Nations refers to the building and events within the U.N.

City Council - Capitalize after a city name. Example: The Houston City Council meets today.

Civil War - Always capitalize when referencing the United States Civil War, lowercase for all other civil wars.

Clorox - Trademark.

cloture - To close debate, usually a vote to end discussion of a bill.

CME Group Inc - Includes the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade (CBT). Some financial publications refer to The Merc just as they do the Big Board when referring to the New York Stock Exchange.

Coca-Cola / Coke - Trademarks.

Co. / Cos. - Use in place of Company at the end of a business name.

c.o.d. - Not COD in AP style. We prefer COD in print, but most editors do not.

Cold War - Time period from 1948 through 1988.

collectors’ item - Plural possessive.

Columbia Broadcasting - See CBS

comedian - for men and women. Comic is preferred.

commander in chief - Lowercase with no hyphens in AP style.

Commonwealth, the - Was the British Commonwealth.

company names - Use their popular name, by checking the official website, or refer to Standard & Poor’s Register of Corporations. Do not use a comma before Inc. or Ltd. in AP style, even if the official name does so. Book editors prefer the comma before Inc.

Confederate States of America - Use the Confederacy.

Congress - Capitalize U.S. Congress. Refers to both House and Senate. Use Congress on second reference.

conservative - Define or avoid.

Conservative Judaism - A branch of Judaism.

Constitution - Capitalize U.S. Constitution. Use the Constitution on second reference.

Constitutional amendments - Capitalize Amendment when preceded by a number. Examples: First Amendment, 10th Amendment

Consumer Price Index - Capitalize as U.S. Consumer Price Index. Use CPI or the index on second reference.

copyeditor - Lowercase, not a formal job title.

Corp. - Use in place of Corporation at the end of a business name.

court decisions - Use a hyphen to indicate the vote ratio. Example: It was a 6-3 court decision.

court-martial / courts-martial - Both are hyphenated. One person is brought before a court-martial, whereas two or more are courts-martialed.

court names - Capitalize all proper names of courts in the United States. Numbers are not spelled out. For example: The 4th District Court.

courtroom - one word.

County - Capitalize as part of a specific county. Example: Orange County.

coup d’etat - Use coup.

CT scan - Not CAT scan.

cyberspace - Term popularized by author William Gibson, cyberspace is the virtual community created by computer networks. Cyberspace generally refers to digital replacements for “real” objects and experiences.

czar - AP style, do not use tsar or other spellings.

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dad - Use father unless quoting. Likewise, use mother instead of mom.

dammit / damn it - AP prefers two words, but most magazines use dammit.

Dark Ages - A.D. 476 through the 10th century.

data - Plural. Example: The data are inconclusive.

database - One word. dBase is a trademark for a database system.

dates - Chicago style suggests European standard dates (6 June 2003) in publications. AP style calls for U.S. notation (June 6, 2003) in printed articles. Most newspapers use U.S. notation online and in print. AP style abbreviates the longer month names. See months.

daylight-saving time - Not savings time. Not hyphenated in time zones. Eastern Daylight Time.

days of the week - In a table, AP style calls for three letters without periods: Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat.

D-Day - June 6, 1944.

DDT - Always use for dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, a poison once used as an insecticide.

Deepfreeze - Trademark for a brand of home freezers.

Deep South - Limited to the states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

Democratic Party - Never use Democrat Party. The national body is the Democratic National Committee or DNC.

Department of Defense - May use Defense Department but not DOD.

Department of Energy - Use of DOE on second reference is AP style, but the Department of Education has complicated matters. Energy Department is better than DOE, avoiding confusion.

Department of Housing and Urban Development - Use HUD on second reference.

Depression - Capitalize for Great Depression.

Detective - Capitalize before a name if it is a formal rank.

dialogue - preferred to dialog in AP style.

Dictaphone - Trademark.

dimensions - In AP style, spell out the unit name. Do not use quotes or tick marks except in technical documentation. Ticks and quotes are not the same, quotes should never be used for measurements.

I am 5 feet 8 inches tall.

directions - Lowercase unless part of a name. Midpoints (north west) are not hyphenated.

disabled / handicapped - Avoid describing anyone as disabled or handicapped in AP style. Blind and deaf should only be used for a total loss of sight or hearing.

disc / disk - Use disc for all audio and video recordings; use disk for computer media.

diskette - Use for the 3.5 and 5.25 inch computer media.

Disposall - Trademark for a sink waste disposer.

district attorney - Capitalize when used as a title before a name; otherwise use lowercase. AP now accepts DA on second reference.

District of Columbia - Abbreviate as D.C. and use the district in lowercase for subsequent references.

Dixie cup - Trademark for disposable paper and plastic cups.

DNA - Preferred AP style.

doctor - Use Dr. in the first reference as a form of title for medical and other health-related professions. Include the specialty when possible. Do not use Dr. after the first reference.

double-click - Hyphenated in AP style.

dot-com - Preferred in AP style over, which implied “dot-dot-com” to some readers. Some newspapers and magazines use or dotcom. The “.com” is a reference to the commercial domains first registered by companies on the Internet. We dislike all of the dot-com uses, preferring to describe a company precisely.

doughnut - AP style, not donut unless part of a business name. Our experience is that donut is preferred in some regions, so some publications may differ from AP style.

Down syndrome - Not Down's syndrome.

Dr Pepper - Trademark does not include a period, do not use Dr. Pepper.

DSL - Digital subscriber line; DSL is acceptable for all uses.

duffel - Not duffle in AP style.

DUI / DWI - varies by state. Spell out on first reference then use the appropriate acronym for the state in which you are writing.

Dumpster - Trademark for a line of trash bins.

DVR - In most publications, DVR is acceptable in all reference for digital video recorder. Do not use TiVo, the trademarked term.

- E -

earth - Lowercase when referring soil, capitalize when using as the name of our planet.

East Coast - Do not use Eastern Seaboard.

Eastern Europe - Avoid. AP style dropped Eastern Bloc, Soviet Bloc, and Eastern Europe when the Cold War ended.

editor-in-chief - Hyphenated in AP style, an exception to other style guides and many dictionaries. Newspapers and magazines tend to adhere to a tradition of hyphenating the title. Capitalize before a name.

Election Day - Capitalized.

Electoral College - Capitalized, but elector and electoral votes are lowercase.

electrocardiogram - Use EKG on second reference.

email - changed in 2011 to the preferred AP style, though Email and e-mail are preferred by some publications. We prefer e-mail, but assume email will become standard. Some publications use EMail for headings and headlines.

emergency room - ER is acceptible on second reference.

Environmental Protection Agency - Use EPA on second reference.

Episcopal Church - Always use for the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. The official name is rather long for publications. The Episcopal Church is a part of the International Anglican Communion.

euro - The official currency of some European Union member nations. It is not the euro dollar, a common error.

European Union - Use EU on second reference. There are no periods in EU.

- F -

Facebook - Capitalized the F, not the b.

Fannie Mae - Use for Federal National Mortgage Association. Some publications use Fannie Mae on second reference, but AP style allows for use on first.

FAQ - Aan be used for frequency asked questions in all references.

farmers market - Not a possessive in AP style.

fax - Preferred to facsimile. Not a verb in AP style, use sent a fax. Does anyone still send faxes?

FBI - Use for all references to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Federal Aviation Administration - Use FAA on second reference.

Federal Communications Commission - Use FCC on second reference.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. - Use FDIC on second reference.

Federal Emergency Management Agency - Use FEMA on second reference.

Federal Housing Administration - Use FHA on second reference. The Administration used to be Authority but agency names change.

Federal Reserve Board - Publications vary, with some preferring the Federal Reserve or the Fed. AP recommends using the full name on first reference. Federal Reserve banks, such as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, can be referred to as the bank on second reference.

Federal Trade Commission - Use FTC on second reference.

FedEx - The offical name of the company is now FedEx Corp. Federal Express was the name.

Ferris wheel - Ferris was the inventor, so capitalize.

Fiberglas - Trademark, with one s in the name.

firefighter - Preferred to fireman.

first family - Lowercase, not an official title.

first lady - Lowercase, not an official title.

flier - Do not use flyer for a handbill in AP style. Some publications, however, do use flyer for documents and flier for anyone traveling by air.

floppy disk - Use diskette in AP style. Does anyone use these anymore?

Food and Drug Administration - Use FDA on second reference.

Ford Motor Co. - Use Ford on second reference, not FMC.

foreign words - Some publications prefer italized type for uncommon foreign words.

Formica - Trademark for a brand of plastic-resin used on counters and in flooring.

Fourth Estate - English term for the press, a reference to the Three Estates: Clergy, Nobility, the Citizens.

Fourth of July - Capitalized and spelled out. Some publications prefer Independence Day.

fractions - Spell out and use hyphens. For example: two-thirds, three-fourths, etc.

Free World - Use Western World or the West if appropriate. Only use Free World when quoting someone.

Frigidaire - Trademark.

Frisbee - Trademark.

FTP - File Transfer Protocol on first reference in AP style, but many publications accept FTP for all references.

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Gallup Poll - Trademarked name for the service, capitalize both.

gay - Preferred to homosexual in AP style. We prefer homosexual, but that’s rare, now.

G-8, G-20 - Use hyphens on the second reference for Group of Eight or Group of Twenty. The G-8 refers to the major industrialized nations of the world. The G-8 meet annually before a full meeting of the G-20, the nations with the 20 largest world economies.

General Assembly - Use U.N. General Assembly on first reference. General Assembly is acceptable on second reference.

General Electric Co. - Use GE on second reference.

General Motors Corp. - Use GM on second reference.

General Services Administration - Use GSA on second reference.

Geneva Conventions - Plural in AP style, referring to all Geneva treaties on warfare.

GI - No periods in AP style. The plural is GIs.

GIF - Acceptable for all references to Graphic Interchange Format image files.

Ginnie Mae - Acceptable for references for the Government National Mortgage Association.

Girl Scout Cookies - Trademark, capitalize Cookies.

Global Positioning System - Use GPS on all references.

Google - Trademark, avoid using as a verb.

GOP - Some publications use GOP on second reference to the Republican Party, others use Republican. AP style accepts either. Avoid using Grand Old Party.

Gov. - Use for Governor before a name.

Government Accountability Office - originally the General Accounting Office, GAO is acceptable on all references. The GAO is a congressional agency charged with auditing federal programs. The GAO is not an executive agency.

grand jury - Lowercase.

Great Britain - Use Britain.

Great Lakes - Capitalize.

Great Plains - Capitalize.

gross national product - Use GNP on second reference.

Gulf Coast - Capitalize.

- H -

habeas corpus - A legal writ requiring an accused person be presented to the court, ensuring the accused is in custody and receiving legal counsel. AP suggests defining in any article.

Hague, The - City in the Netherlands, capitalize The.

Halley’s comet - Lowercase comet.

hangar - Airplane storage, not a hanger.

Hanukkah - AP style for the Jewish holiday.

Harris Poll - Trademark of Louis Harris & Associates.

H-bomb - Use hydrogen bomb except went quoting someone.

headquarters - Not a verb in AP style, use with headquarters in. However, we notice headquartered becoming common. For companies, mention the city of the headquarters on second reference. Example: The Fresno, Calif., company manufactures raisin trays.

health care - Two words in AP style, but one word in many publications.

hemisphere - Lowercase except when referring to a specific geographical location, for example, Northern Hemisphere.

hertz - When using the unit of measure (cycles/second) do not abbreviate in AP style. Technical publications use the abbreviation Hz.

Hewlett-Packard Co. - Technical publications use HP. AP accepts HP on second reference.

high-definition - Avoid unless describing an official standard or a product complying with a standard. High-definition television meets a federal broadcast standard.

highway names - Use numerals, even for named highways. You may use the name or common acronym on second reference. Examples: U.S. Highway 101, U.S. Route 1, California’s state Highway 99.

Smith was driving north on U.S. Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. The PCH is a California Scenic Route.

Hispanic - Not an ethnic description, refers to any Spanish-speaking culture. Be specific when possible.

HIV - No periods.

Holy See - Headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, in Vatican City.

Holy Week - Capitalize, use for the week before Easter in stories in religion.

home page - Two words in AP style, but many technical publications use homepage (one word). Use website unless referring to a precise address including the home page.

We visited the website.

host - Avoid as a verb in AP style. We see no problem with using host as a noun or verb.

House of Commons - Use Commons or the Commons on second reference.

House of Lords - Use the Lords on second reference.

House of Representatives - Use U.S. House of Representatives on first reference, the House on second reference. Do not use Congress for the House.

HTML - Officially, it is HyperText Markup Language. Use HTML on all references unless explaining how to create Web pages.

Humvee - Trademark.

- I -

IBM - Use for International Business Machines.

ICBM / ICBMs - Use for intercontinental ballistic missile. Never use ICBM missiles, which is redundant.

ice age - Lowercase, as there have been several ice ages.

i.e. - Avoid in AP style because it is too often confused with e.g. Most publications accept i.e. and e.g. as long as they are used correctly.

IED - Use improved explosive device on first reference.

illegal - Use to indicate a violation of law or, within a sports story, a rules violation. Make sure the action was proved illegal and not a claim of illegal.

illegal immigrant - Preferred AP style preferred. Avoid illegal alien or undocumented worker.

impact - AP style allows in place of effect, though effect is preferred. We dislike impact being used for anything other than a physical crushing action.

impostor - Preferred in AP style, not imposter.

IM - Use instant message or text message.

impeach - To officially accuse, not synonomous with removal from office. Impeachment is the legal process.

Inc. - Use for Incorporated at the end of a business name. Do not use a comma before Inc., even if the official business name includes the comma.

index / indexes - No indices in AP style, but many publications prefer indices.

initial public offering - Use IPO on second reference.

initials - For AP style, use periods and no spaces when an individual is known by initials instead of names. For example: C.S. Lewis. Other styles insist on using spaces between the initials. We like the spaces.

Internal Revenue Service - Use IRS on second reference.

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development - Use World Bank.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters - Use Teamsters union or the Teamsters.

International Court of Justice - Judicial organ of the United Nations, based in The Hague. Use world court, lowercase, on second reference.

International Criminal Police Organization - Use Interpol.

International Monetary Fund - Use IMF on second reference.

Internet - Capitalize in AP style. Internetwork is no longer used.

intranet - Lowercase. A network within an organization.

IOU - Capitalize, no periods, in AP style.

IP address - Always acceptable for Internet Protocol address in AP style.

IQ - Acceptable on all references in AP style. No periods.

Irish Republican Army - Use IRA on second reference. Do not confuse with the Real IRA. Also, the political party Sinn Fein is not technically part of the IRA.

Islam - The faith of followers of Mohammed, considered a prophet and referred to as The Prophet within the faith. The following are AP style Anglicized spellings:

Muslim - Follower of the Islamic religion.

Quran - Religious text of Islam, a recitation of the poetry of Mohammed. Some newspapers use Qu’ran or Koran. The AP suggested Koran until about 2000, but now uses Quran.

Sunni - Largest Muslim sect. The fundamental Sunni “sub-sect” are the Wahhabi Muslims, based in Saudi Arabia.

Shiite - A minority Muslim sect, and the only with defined religious leaders, in theory.

caliph - Shiite spiritual leader. There were caliphs in Islam, but Sunnis only recognize descendents of Mohammed as clerics.

Grand Mufti - Sunni authority on the Quran and Islamic Law.

Sheik - Clergyman or nobleman.

Ayatollah - Shiite clergyman.

Hojatoleslam - Shiite standing below Ayatollah.

Mullah - Low-level clergy.

Imam - Prayer leader at a mosque.

IT - Information technology should be used, unless IT refers to a company department. Business stories may use IT when appropriate.

Ivy League - The Ivy League schools are Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Univ. of Pennsylvania, and Yale.

- J -

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Jacuzzi - Trademark.

Jane’s Aircraft - Acceptable for referrences Jane's All The World’s Aircraft.

Java - Capitalize when referring to the programming language.

JavaScript - Preferred to the official name ECMAScript.

Jaycees - Members of the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce. Not JCs.

jeep / Jeep - Lowercase for the military general purpose vehicle, capitalize the trademarked brand of civilian trucks and off-road vehicles.

Jehovah’s Witnesses - Church managed by three corporations: Watch Tower and Tract Society of Pennsylvania; Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc.; and the International Bible Students Association. Members do not engage in political campaigns, pledges of allegiance, nor carry weapons. They believe the Bible is the only true law for mankind.

Jell-O - Trademark.

Jew - For both men and women. Never use Jewess. Jewish is a description of heritage, as much as a religion. Children born to Jewish mothers are considered Jewish, even if they do not practice Judaism. Ethnic Jews are a Semitic people, as are most natives and descendents of the Arabian Peninsula. However, the region is historically marked by tribalism and religious clans.

Jewish congregations - The Jewish religion is based on the Torah, ancient scriptures tracing the lineage of mankind. Jewish laws can be found in the Biblical Book of Leviticus. Muslim and Jewish religious laws are similar and share some history.

Orthodox - Literal adherents to the Judaic Laws. These Jews tend to be traditionalists. In Israel, Orthodox Jews are excused from some military service, but not civil service.

Conservative - The majority of Jews in the world are Conservative, meaning they adhere to most of the laws, but not the older traditions.

Reform - Reform Jews regard scripture as lessons, not necessarily literal and unchanging. Reform Jews are sometimes called “culturally Jewish.” In America, Reform congregations are growing.

jihad - Preferred spelling for AP style. Roughly translates as the struggle and not holy war.

John F. Kennedy Space Center - Use Kennedy Space Center. Located in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Johns Hopkins University - No apostrophes.

Joint Chiefs of Staff - Use Joint Chiefs on second reference.

JPEG - Preferred acronym for joint photographic experts group. JPEG is acceptable on all reference.

Judge - Capitalize as a title before a name.

judicial branch - Lowercase.

junior / senior - Abbreviate as Jr. and Sr. at the end of a name, without a comma.

- K -

K - Unit of computer memory, kilobyte, equal to 1024 bytes. The value 64K is equal to 65,536 bytes. Notice there is no space between the value and K.

K-9 - Hyphenate. K-9 is the law enforcement designation for canine unit.

Kansas City - Specify Kansas City, Kan., or Kansas City, Mo., on first reference.

kerosene - Generic, formerly a trademark.

Key lime - Capitalize the Key. The Key lime is found in the Florida Keys.

KGB - Acronym for the Soviet Union’s Committee for State Security.

kid / kids - Use child and children.

kilohertz - With a value, use kHz on second reference. Example: 580 kHz.

kiloton - An explosive force equal to 1,000 U.S. tons of TNT.

kilowatt-hour - Use kwh with the value. Example: 500 kwh.

kindergarten - Often misspelled.

Kitty Litter - Trademark. Use cat litter for the generic.

Kleenex - Trademark. Use facial tissue for the generic.

Kmart - No hyphen and lowercase m.

Knesset - Israeli parliament.

knot - Nautical miles per hour. see measurements.

Kool-Aid - Trademark.

Koran - Former AP style, until 2000. see Islam

Korean names - The family name is first. Many western immigrants reverse this.

Kriss Kringle - Not Kris.

Ku Klux Klan - Use KKK on second reference.

Kuomintang - Chinese Nationalist political party. Do not follow with party.

- L -

Labor Party - Not Labour. AP prefers the Americanized spelling, but other publications retain the British spelling. Our preference is to retain the British spelling for a British organization.

LAN - Acceptable for all references.

Land Rover - Trademark.

lanolin - Generic, formerly a trademark.

larceny - Stealing via a deceit or fraud. See burglary for details.

latex - Generic term.

Latino - Many publications avoid using Latino. See Hispanic.

latitude / longitude - Use numerals but spell out minutes and degrees.

Laundromat - Trademark for a coin-operated laundry.

lay / lie - Lay is an action, lie is a state of resting. see Word Usage

leftist / left-wing - Avoid and use specific terms instead.

Levi’s - Trademark.

liberal - Define or avoid.

lieutenant - Abbreviate as Lt. in titles.

Lt. Gov. - Use for lieutenant governor before a name.

Life Savers - Trademark for a brand of candy.

lifestyle - One word in AP style.

light-year - Hyphenated in AP style. Lightyear is acceptable in some publications.

linoleum - Generic, formerly a trademark.

Linotype - Trademark. Old-fashioned hot-lead type was set on Linotype machines. (Famous Linotype fonts are sold for computers.)

Little League - Capitalize. The official organization is Little League Baseball.

Lloyds Bank International Ltd. - International bank with headquarters in London. This is not the same as Lloyd’s of London, the insurance company.

Lloyd’s of London - insurance underwriters, known as “names,” with headquarters in London.

Lockheed Martin Corp. - Lockheed is acceptable on second reference in AP style.

Lutheran churches - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Use of Lutheran Church is acceptable. Clergy are ministers, a pastor is a minister leading a congregation. Use the Rev. before a minister name on first reference.

Lycra - Trademark.

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center - Use Johnson Space Center.

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Mace - Trademark for Chemical Mace.

Mach - Capitalize for the speed of sound. Mach is 750 mph at sea level, approximately 660 mph at 30,000 feet. Examples: Mach 1, Mach 2

Mafia - Use only for the Italian secret society, not as a synonym for all organized crime.

Magna Carta - preferred AP style, not Magna Charta.

mailman - Use letter carrier.

Majority Leader - Capitalize before the name of a legislator.

man (suffix) - It is best to use –person when possible, or be gender-specific. Congresswoman and chairwoman are accepted at some publications, for example, instead of congressperson or chair. The generic references to positions and titles should always be gender-neutral.

mankind - Use humanity or people unless quoting. (Technically, both alternatives originate as references to male citizens. Modern political correctness wins in this case, since logic dictates all three words are equally sexist.)

Traditionally, many writers have used man and words derived from it to designate any or all of the human race regardless of sex. In fact, this is the oldest use of the word. In Old English the principal sense of man was “a human,” and the words wer and wyf (or wœpman and wifman) were used to refer to “a male human” and “a female human” respectively.
American Heritage Dictionary, Copyright © 2000

manslaughter - A homicide without premeditation. see homicide.

Marines - Use the U.S. Marine Corps on first reference. Do not use USMC. Never describe a Marine as a “soldier.”

Martin Luther King Jr. - Retain Jr. (without the comma) in all references to the civil rights movement’s leader.

Marxist - Avoid unless a person or group self-identifies as Marxist.

Mason-Dixon Line - Capitalize. The Mason-Dixon Line runs along the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Masonite - Trademark.

Mass - Capitalize the religious ceremony name.

MC / emcee - Use master of ceremonies unless quoting. Use MC in quotes.

M.D. - Use physician or surgeon. Some newspapers allow Dr. before a name on first reference.

measurements - The following weights and measures are for reference use.

Measure US/Imperial Metric
acre 43,560 sq ft
4,840 sq yd
4,047 sq m
0.4047 hectares
are 1,076.4 sq ft 100 sq m
hectare (ha) 2.471 acres  
square centimeters (sq cm)   0.1550 sq in
square inches (sq in)   6.452 sq cm
square feet (sq ft)   929 sq cm
square kilometers (sq km)   0.3861 sq m
square meters (sq m) 10.76 sq ft  
square miles (sq m)   2.590 sq km
square yards (sq yd)   0.8361 sq m
Lengths & Distances
centimeter (cm) 0.40 in 0.01 m
10 mm
foot (ft) 1/3 yd 30.48 cm
fathom   1.829 m
inch (in)   2.54 cm
kilometer (km) 0.6213 mi  
mile [statute] (mi)   1.609 km
meter (m) 1.094 yd  
nautical mile 6076.10 ft 1.852 km
rod (rd)   5.029 m
yard (yd)   0.9144 m
Celsius (C) F=((9/5)×C)+32 Freezing = 0 C
Boiling = 100 C
Fahrenheit (F) Freezing = 32 F
Boiling = 212 F
Kelvin F=((9/5)×(K-273.15))+32 C=K-273.15
barrel 31.5 gal
Oil: 42 U.S. gal
35 Imperial gal
cups, U.S.   0.2366 L
gallon, U.S. (gal) 128 oz 3.785 L
gallon, Imperial 1.2 U.S. gal
277.42 cu in
4.5 L
liter (L) 4.227 cups
1.057 qt
0.2642 gal
milliliter (ml/mL) 0.03381 fl oz  
ounce, fluid (fl oz) 1.8 cu in
2 tablespoons
6 teaspoons
30 ml
pints, U.S.   0.4732 L
quart, dry 67.20 cu in  
quart, fluid 57.75 cu in 29.57 ml
bushel 4 pecks
32 dry qt
35.2 L
carat 3 grains 200 mg
grain 1/7000th lb  
gram (g) 0.03527 oz  
kilogram (kg) 2.205 lb  
metric ton 1.102 tons 1,000 kg
milligram (mg)   .001 g
once (oz)   28.35 g
pound (lb)   0.4536 kg
stone 14 lb 6.35 kg
ton, British (long ton) 2,240 lb  
ton, U.S. (short ton) 2,000 lb 0.9072 met ton

Medfly - Capitalized in AP style, but we have no idea why because most dictionaries do not.

media - Plural, though some publications now treat media as singular.

Medicaid - U.S. federal-state program to provide basic health care for the needy and disabled.

Medicare - Name for both the U.S. and Canadian federal health insurance programs. Eligibility for the U.S. system is linked to Social Security.

menswear - One word.

megahertz - Use the abbreviation MHz after numbers.

megaton - An explosive force equal to 1 million tons of TNT.

Mercedes-Benz - Trademark.

Mercurochrome - Trademark for a brand of antiseptic.

merry-go-round - Hyphenated.

meridians - Use numerals and ordinal notation. Example: 31st meridian.

messiah - Lowercase unless quoting a religious passage.

Methodist churches - The primary denomination is the United Methodist Church. Governed by the General Conference, which meets every four years. Three predominantly black organizations are: African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishops oversee districts. Clergy are ministers and a pastor is a minister who leads a congregation. Use the Rev. or Bishop before a name on first reference. Specify the parent church when relevant.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. - Use MGM.

Mexico - Officially, the United Mexican States (Estados Unidos Mexicanos). Mexico is acceptable on all references in AP style.

Middle Ages - The period in European or “Western” history A.D. 476 to A.D. 1450.

Middle Atlantic - The states of New York and New Jersey. Some publications prefer Mid-Atlantic.

Middle East - Preferred to Mideast in AP style. Used for the Arabian Peninsula and northeastern Africa.

middle initials - Use on first reference if the individual uses his or her initials. A name should appear as the person commonly uses it.

MiG - The lowercase i means “and” in the name of the Russian aircraft design team Mikoyan and Gurevich.

miles per gallon - Use mpg on second reference.

miles per hour - Use mph.

military rank - Abbreviate when used as a title before a name. Use the following abbreviations, in the appropriate combinations, for rank titles:

Rank Abbrev. Rank Abbrev.
Admiral Adm. Lt. Junior Grade Lt. j.g.
Brigadier Brig. Major Maj.
Captain Capt. Private Pvt.
Colonel Col. Pvt. 1st Class Pfc.
Commander Cmdr. Sergeant Sgt.
Corporal Cpl. Specialist Spc.
General Gen. Technical Sgt. Tech. Sgt.
Lieutenant Lt.    

millions - Use figures, limiting to two decimal places. Example: 2 million, 3.75 million

mimeograph - Generic, formally a trademark. Use copy.

Mohammed - See Islam

mom - Use mother, unless quoting. Likewise, use father instead of dad.

months - Abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. in “full” dates and in datelines. Do not abbreviate months when they stand alone. In tables, use three letters for every month and no periods.

moon - Generic term, use lowercase.

Mormon Church - Allowed in AP style. see Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

moslem - Use muslim. see Islam

Mother’s Day - Singular possessive.

Mr. / Mrs. / Ms. - Among major newspapers, only the New York Times uses courtesy titles. AP style uses last names only.

murder - A premeditated homicide. see homicide

Murphy’s law - Capitalize Murphy — a real person.

Muzak - Trademark for a continuous music service.

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Our guide to word usage is based on the Associated Press Stylebook, which is the primary style guide for reporters and editors at daily newspapers and many periodicals. The AP is not the Modern Language Association, nor does the AP adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style so many graduate students have struggled to master. Never assume the style of a publication, publisher, or university. Always ask for the name of the current standard to save yourself rewrites or rejection.


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Writer: C. S. Wyatt
Updated: 08-Mar-2017
Editor: S. D. Schnelbach