2 Tips for writing in plain English
3 Style guide A-Z
We all write in different ways. We use different words, and phrase things in different ways. However, there are some things we need to be consistent about. Most large organisations have house style guides and they’re designed make it easy for people to understand what’s being said and also to keep the reader interested and make people want to read it. NU is no different and as a contributor you can play your part.
The NU website and Nutsmag are put together by a team, including the contributors, who do the work because they love the music and culture associated with the scene. However, we have jobs and responsibilities and rely on you to submit your copy in the correct format to save us time and heartache when we’re putting it together.
- Keeping to a consistent style of writing makes sure everything we write is:
- Accurate clear and easy to read
- punctuated consistently and correctly
- describes certain things in the same way every time
- uses the same style for things such as numbers and dates, bullet points
- avoids common mistakes
- prevents legal issues and defamatory statements.
It is important that our messages reach people and that we write them in a way that is easy to understand: simple is best.
Not everyone who reads the information we write is going to be an expert, obsessive 1960s music freak like you and me. So think about making the site accessible to everyone. If you need to use ‘in’ words like, for example in soul music ‘crossover’ you should try to give it some context where this is possible.
This is a guide to how you should write and present information before sending it in. This guide is based on good practice and plain English. Everything we write should be informed by this guide so that people get the most from our website and Nutsmag; read it once then refer to it when needed.
To ensure any piece of written information produced by New Untouchables, such as a publication or marketing flyer, is ‘accessible’ to ALL audiences, specific guidelines must be followed. This includes the production of large-print format material.
These guidelines are:
- Use 12-point Arial text for normal writing
- Please do not mix text sizes or fonts
- Avoid using capitals, bold, italics or underlining unnecessarily
- Align text to the left-hand side of the page only, not justified
- Allow space between paragraphs to break up text
- Clear formatting before setting font (size and style), particularly if you have cut and pasted text, in other words make sure it’s all the same format before sending it in.
(essential information for contributors)
Clear, simple language is the best way to write plain English.
The title/headline and introductory paragraph should specify what the article is about, when the event took place, when record is released, etc. Tell people what you are referring to and set the scene.
Use as few words as possible. Every word you write should have a purpose.
Keep paragraphs short, between 30 and 50 words
Keep sentences concise and to the point – an average sentence length is 15 words.
One sentence should express one idea or cover one subject
Use sub-headings to act as ‘signposts’ and to break up large chunks of text
Try not to use abbreviations
Punctuation should be simple but accurate
Please include ‘further information’ contact details at the end of a piece, including email address, postal address, website, social media, etc. Make sure you have permission to reproduce these if they are personal addresses.
Style guide A-Z
Abbreviations and acronyms
When you write abbreviations (where a word is made shorter by leaving out some of the letters or by using only the first letters of each word) or acronyms (a series of letters which stand for the name of an organisation and can be pronounced as though they were a word), do not use full stops between the letters, that’s no longer necessary.
An example: UNCLE
It’s OK to use phrases associated with the scene, such as R&B. But try to give a short explanation for more obscure names: for example, “Immediate” becomes, “late 60s UK label, Immediate”.
When you use abbreviations or acronyms first write them out in full with the abbreviation or acronym afterwards. For example, New Untouchables (NUTS). You can then go on to use NUTS for example.
Addresses (web and email)
Try to write web and email addresses on one line and avoid line breaks when the text is laid out on a designed page or piece of literature.
Note that email does not include a hyphen after the ‘e’.
Use ampersands only as part of a recognised name or title. For example, Marks & Spencer or Rhythm & Blues.
When used correctly, apostrophes indicate possession (something belonging to someone or something) and in some cases abbreviation to show a word has been shortened, for example, it is, which becomes it’s.
The apostrophe goes after the person (or thing) that owns whatever the word describes. So if the word is singular the apostrophe goes before the ‘s’, and if the word is plural the apostrophe goes after it (except for words which are already plural, such as ‘children’ in this case, the apostrophe goes before the ‘s’ every time).
- The teddy boy’s toys (one ted)
• The teddy boys’ toys (more than one ted)
• The family’s house (one family, one house)
• Readers’ association (more than one reader)
• Children’s home (any number of children, children is always plural, singular is ‘child’)
• Mods’ hang out (several mods)
If a name ends with ‘s’ the rule is please add only an apostrophe. For example, ‘The Jones’ house had three bedrooms.’ Adding an extra ‘s’ – as in the Jones’ example – is generally regarded as superfluous these days, but is not wrong.
Avoid using bold in text.
Too many capitals can confuse the eye and make a document difficult to read.
- Regions don’t need capitals unless they are specific names – north London. But the North Pole is a place in its own right, as is Northern Ireland.
- Seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter, no capitals.
Do not use BLOCK CAPITALS LIKE THIS because it can be construed as SHOUTING and is difficult to read.
Each main word of the title needs a capital letter. However, small words do not need to be in capitals. Some examples:
- You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover
- Searching for the Young Soul Rebels
- Glory Boys
- Piper at the Gates of Dawn
This is important: you must not reproduce text or photographs without permission of the author as this can leave you, and New Untouchables, open to legal action for breach of copyright.
Use the following styles:
- on 1 August
- Friday 1 August 2013
- 10 to 13 August
- 1964 to 1967
- 1960s (no apostrophe)
- 21st century (unless it is at the start of the sentence, when you should write it out in words as Twenty-first century). If it refers to the period and a specific feature, such as 20th Century fashion, the ‘C’ can be in capitols. Never start a sentence with a number.
Any organisation or body should always be referred to as a single entity.
- New Untouchables is…’
- ‘The government has…’
- ‘The group does…’
The only normal exception is when referring to a sports team, such as: “Rangers FC are in the third division.”
These have no place in well-written text unless you want to express surprise, shock or anger. For example, ‘Wow!’ or ‘Fab!’ Only use one exclamation mark, more than one is meaningless.
Use only Arial 12-point text single spacing for all documents submitted for use in the New Untouchables website.
Leave one blank space after a full stop. If a full stop and a new sentence would be more appropriate don’t use a comma. Don’t use full stops after abbreviations (BA, Mr).
Headings and titles
The reader sees the heading first. A heading should be short but explain what text will come after it. Headings and subheadings have a capital letter for the first word only. For example, ‘How to tell if a record is a bootleg’.
Hyphens make words easier to read. For example, ‘co-operate’, ‘co-ordinator’, ‘by-election’. As words become commonly used, they tend to lose their hyphen. The following should not have a hyphen, and should be written as one word:
Use a hyphen to link two items which are equally important, where the hyphen replaces the word ‘and’. For example, ‘The Smith-Brown marriage’. A hyphen should not be used to break a sentence, in those cases use an en-dash.
Use ‘in other words’ instead.
- ise or -ize
For words ending in ‘ise’ or ‘ize’ always use the British ending – ‘ise’ – instead of the American – ‘ize’. For example, ‘organise’.
Images should have a purpose and should not just be there to decorate your writing. The Communications and Web teams have suitable images for publications or the website. Any images that are used should have permissions cleared where appropriate and adhere to BCC accessibility guidelines (see section 5).
All images should be saved for screen resolution at 72dpi at 600×400 landscpe only – this long and thin, simply grab one of the templates and name the files properly please. Please do not distort images to fit, you may need to crop them using a resizing software available for free online.
You should avoid using italics as much as possible unless to highlight direct quotes.
Do not assume that people reading our publications or documents understand the jargon used by people who are deeply immersed in mod and 60s culture and social history
Numbers from one to nine are written as words. Numbers from 10 onwards should be written in figures. We use figures for the numbers one to nine for page numbers and money. Other guidelines for numbers:
If there is a number at the start of a sentence, write it as a word. For example: ‘Twenty people were waiting to see the band at first’.
Use punctuation that is grammatically correct. Use only as much as you need to make your meaning clear. Do not double up punctuation. For example, do not put a dash after a colon or a colon after a question mark.
Use a colon before quotes, and put quotation marks around the speech or writing you are quoting.
Pete said: “I think The Who is going to be really popular.”
If there is a paragraph break in a quotation, do not add the closing quotation marks at the end of the paragraph. Start the next paragraph with quotation marks. Only add the closing quotation marks when the whole quote ends.
Steve said: “I think the Small Faces is going to be a really popular band. We have all the ingredients in place for a real rave up.
“We just need a keyboard player the same size as the rest of us.”
If the name of the speaker comes in the middle of the quote, the quote can be presented in one paragraph with the colon prior to the second part of the quote.
“I think the Small Faces is going to be a really popular band,” said Steve. “We just need to get a keyboard player our size.”
When introducing someone into a quote, it is acceptable before the quote starts to either put the person’s name first, then title. You can use italics for quotes if you wish to make it clear what they are.
Seasons are lower case: spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Use British spelling, not American. This includes using ‘s’ in words like ‘organisation’, ‘authorise’ and so on. Make sure your spell checker is set to English UK.
When writing a feature or lengthy news story for a publication, always include a short introductory paragraph that serves as a ‘teaser’ to what the article is about and should be no more than 30 words.
Use subheadings to help direct people to the right section of the page and to break the page down into more manageable chunks. Use a capital letter for the first word only, using the same rules as for headings.
Always write telephone numbers like this (using spaces for clarity):
‘01296 387 884’
For 08 numbers write it like this:
‘0845 370 8090’
For London-based numbers, write it like this:
020 7921 1212
Write mobile numbers like this:
Use ‘am’ and ‘pm’, not ‘o’clock’
Do not use unnecessary zeros.
or example, write ‘9am’ not ‘9.00am’
Do not use spaces between the number and ‘am’; do not use full stops between the letters
Do not use the 24-hour clock. Instead of ‘1830 hours’ use ‘6.30pm’
Use ‘noon’ for midday
When writing text for a publication where the copy deadline is usually a few weeks before publication date, do not put the date of a past event in the first paragraph as it will look like ‘old news’ – try to include it a little later on; however, it is okay to do so when referring to an event coming up.
Underlining makes text difficult to read so please avoid.
Use www at the start of web addresses. This helps to clarify to the reader.
The website and Nutsmag must be accessible to everyone who uses it. It is harder to read from a screen than it is from a printed page. People read differently on the web. They scan content, relying on headings and subheadings to guide them. They want quick results and are only a click away from leaving the page or even the site.
When writing content for the Nutsmag website:
- keep it short
- use easy to understand words
- use short sentences
- use headings
- use bullet lists
- tell people what to do
- avoid jargon and acronyms
- use ‘us’ and ‘we’ instead of ‘Nutsmag’
That’s all folks, happy writing!