Editorial Style Sheet

Style in an editorial sense is not necessarily about getting things right or wrong (though there are elements of that) — it is about recording a preference for various spelling, grammar and typographical conventions so that written and published communications are consistent. And, of course, there are always exceptions: posters, banners and other artwork may flout style recommendations and conventions for the sake of brevity or clarity in large type, but they should only depart from house style for a specific reason, not just laziness or ignorance.

abbreviations and contractions

Mr, Mrs, Dr — i.e. no terminating full point.

In formal writing, the full name of a given institution should be spelled out when used for the first time with the accepted abbreviation trailing in parentheses; the abbreviation can be used alone thereafter.

ABC [the]

Australia's National Broadcaster has seen a few changes of name over years, including the Australian Broadcasting Company and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Today, however, it is know as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

advice, advise

Advice is the noun, advise is the verb.
I have found the best way to give advice to children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it. (Harry S Truman)

affect, effect

Affect is a verb, and means to have an effect upon; do not confuse with the verb effect, which means to bring about, or the noun effect, which is a consequence or result.
The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect [verb] those around him positively. (Bob Marley)
Genius is the ability to put into effect [noun] what is on your mind. (F Scott Fitzgerald)
In tough times, we all hope for the knights in shining armour, or the cavalry, to show up and effect [verb] change. (Dean Devlin)


Not agreeance. (Yuck. Is it even a word?)

any more

Two words.

any time

Two words.


One word. And not anybody.

around, about

Using around for about in the sense of approximately is incorrect.

at about

Dinner is either at 8 p.m. or about 8 p.m.; it is not at about 8 p.m., which is meaningless.

bete noire

Not bete noir.


One word.


not barbeque


One word.

between you and me

Not between you and I.


Biweekly can mean twice a week, or once every two weeks. This can make for all kinds of confusion. Better to use fortnightly, or paraphrase to add clarity. Note, though, that the term fortnightly is not familiar to many American readers. If you must use biweekly, note the lack of a hyphen.

caddie, caddy

A caddie carries a golf bag; a caddy carries tea and biscuits.


Hyphenated and cap'd, unlike some older renderings of its script-style logo in which the c- in cola seems to be lower-case. The things that interest editors and proofreaders. eh? Oh, and Coke is also capitalised.


Use an en dash to indicate spans of number, measure or time: 10–25, 4 April–6 May. Note no spacing either side of en dash.

Spaced em dashes — like these — can be used for parenthetical clauses.


Prefer 24 July, 2017. Do not use -th as in 24th July or July 24th. Yuck.

different from

Not different to.

disinterested, uninterested

Disinterested means unbiased or impartial; uninterested means lack of interest or indifference. An umpire should be disinterested, but not uninterested.


Not disassociate


An ellipsis ( … ) is spaced either side and does not have an additional full point when used at the end of a sentence. (This latter form of the ellipsis, sometimes called the 'four-dot ellipsis', is ugly, creates unnecessary complexity, does nothing a regular ellipsis doesn't do, and should be discouraged.)


Use italics for emphasis, not bold type.

If the text is already set in italic type such as might be the case with a block quote, use roman type for emphasis.

end result

Saturdays boys live life with insults, Drink lots of beer and wait for half-time results ... (The Jam/Paul Weller)
No they don't; they might have waited for the half-time score, but a result is only ever a conclusion. You can't have a part result. Similarly, a full-time result or an end result is tautological.

enquire, inquire

Enquire and inquire (and their related enquiry and inquiry) are interchangeable: decide on one form and stick to it. Our house style is enquire and enquiry.

farther, further

Use farther for distance, further when indicating an addition or increment: a further question.


Not flyer.

for ever, forever

For ever [two words] means for eternity; forever means continually, as in 'He's forever in a muddle'.

got, gotten

Got is the past participle of the verb to give; there is no such word as gotten. That said, got is an ugly word and is often used unnecessarily: Janey's got a gun could be equally expressed as Janey has a gun without loss of meaning.


Not heighth.

hung, hanged

A picture is hung; a person (in countries that don't know any better) is hanged.

-ise, -ize

It’s almost always -ise in Australian English, but check dictionary for rare exceptions.

American English goes with -ize, but there are lots of exceptions (far more than taking the -ise route); in Britian, the Oxford and Cambridge University presses prefer -ize, despite both their official dictionaries opting for -ise. As with many points of editorial style, consistency should be your aim.

ice cream

Two words.


Use italics for emphasis, cross-references, running asides and running notes. Unless a specific style dictates otherwise, italics can also be used for extended quotes of a paragraph or more in length.

See also entry on published works.


Not judgement with an -e.

justice of the peace

All lower case. The plural form is justices of the peace. Oddly, the plural abbreviation is JPs.


Knots is nautical miles an hour; the occasionally seen term knots per hour is unsightly and wrong.

La Jolla

La Jolla, California. Pronounced la hoya.

Labor, labour

Labor is used only in reference to the Australian Labor Party; labour refers to hard work, bodily toil. Note, though, that the British and New Zealand Labour Parties are spelt with the -u.


Blasé, without any enthusiasm. Not lacks-

lama, llama

The one-l lama, he's a priest,
The two-l llama, he's a beast,
And I will bet a silk pyjama there's no such thing as a three-l lllama.

(Ogden Nash)

Macintosh, McIntosh

The Macintosh is a computer made by Apple, but the McIntosh is a variety of apple.

mangoes, mangos

Both are correct; our house style is mangoes with an -e.

naught, nought

Naught means nothing, as in 'His efforts came to naught'. Nought signifies the figure zero. The game, incidentally, is noughts and crosses.


Spell out one through nine, then use numerals: two, five, 10, 15, 78, three million, 15 thousand. Use serial commas to separate multiples of thousands: We have 27,654 cartoons in the collection.


Obviate means to make unnecessary; often it is used to mean to reduce or make more acceptable, which is wrong.


Hyphenated and cap'd.

published works

Magazine and book titles take italic; chapter titles and articles take quotation marks: Chapter 2, ‘The long walk home’, in A Trip of a Lifetime

Album titles italic (Desire), song titles quotation marks (‘Hurricane’).


Not pygamas or pajamas (the last is the American spelling).


Note the double-n

quotation marks

Use single quotation marks in regular text denoting quotations or conversation, and double quotation marks when nested: ‘Did you hear that? She said, “Not in a million years.” I can’t quite believe it.’


Not renumerate.

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Times of day in even, half, and quarter hours are spelled out in text. When including o’clock, the number is spelled out:
  • Her day begins at four o’clock in the morning.
  • The meeting continued until half past two.
  • We’ll start again at ten thirty.
Space before a.m. or p.m.; use full points in a.m. and p.m.; do not use a colon between hours and minutes. The train leaves at 5.22 a.m. but you should be at the station by five o’clock.

titles, ranks and offices

Almost all titles (or more accurately, offices) are lowercase unless the full title and person is cited: prime minister and president in general writing, but the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, met with President Donald Trump to discuss new directions in Lego. (Note that the phrase ‘Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’ is a newspaper invention and there is no such office, officially speaking.)

Typically ranks are in lowercase, except when cited in direct speech: Said one sergeant to the other: ‘Good evening, Sergeant.’

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was/were (subjunctive)

Wrong: "If 6 Was 9." (Axis, The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Right: "If 6 Were 9."

Most commonly, were is simply the past tense of the verb was. But you may need to check if the verb is used in the subjunctive mood to ensure you don't replicate Jimi's mistake above.

What's the subjunctive?

A verb (in this case, was) is in the subjunctive if it expresses an action or state that is not real — that is, if it's hypothetical, wished for or conditional.

In the above example, 6 and 9 are numerals with specific values; one can never be, nor stand in for, the other. Consider the following:

I wish I was as good a guitarist as Jimi Hendrix.

That's never going to happen. As such it's a hypothetical statement, and should read I wish I were as good a guitarist as Jimi Hendrix.

word spacing

Do not use double character spacing at the end of sentences — single space only.

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